So once upon a time I was roaming the Twitterverse and I ran into this delightfully strange woman named Red Tash. She seemed like somebody I’d like. Now I know that not only is she insanely awesome and cooler than I’ll ever be, but she’s talented to boot. She’s launching her extremely enjoyable book titled Troll or Derby ( which I reviewed here) and I’m thrilled that she let me interview her. She’s seriously inspiring. I find myself wanting to skate around on my wood floors, now. On the the interview!
MY: Hey, Red! Thanks so much for coming over for an interview! I really enjoyed reading Troll or Derby. Can you tell me how it came about?
RT: Troll Or Derby was my “rebound” book. I’d just taken a break from a very serious relationship with This Brilliant Darkness and I was ready to write something fun. This Brilliant Darkness is very heavy, full of meaning and importance (to me, personally, at least), and I remember thinking to myself “Wouldn’t it be fun to write something about the fae? Something that’s not intended to make the world a better place or change the hearts of readers forever?” I wanted it to be completely different from anything else on the market for teens/adults, so originally I had the Troll throwing packages at UPS and the teen protagonist as a crackhead high school drop-out trying to get a job there.
I’m extremely pleased I changed my mind about those story ideas. And also glad my ambition amped itself down about 20 notches for this series. I still love the characters and story line from my first book (and am actively at work on the sequel), but it’s like having two boyfriends, honestly. One’s the hot guy you have a fling with at your summer job, the other is the guy whose mind challenges you and makes you smarter. Troll Or Derby is definitely the sexy time fella.
MY: You obviously have some roller derby experience. Tell us a little about your derby life.
RT: Oh, my. Is it possible to tell just a little about roller derby? I’ll try.
I started playing roller derby because I had no other choice. I was quite literally compelled. I learned of my local team, Derby City Rollergirls, and wanted to write a story about them for the local newspaper where I freelanced on the regular. One thing led to another, and Kimmy Crippler said to me in a message via Myspace (remember that relic?) “You should just try out for the team.” Something to that effect, anyway. I was all like “I’m old, I have three kids, I’m out of shape, I’m not in my 20s like you all are,” but my heart just kept leading me back. I clicked around on the team’s Myspace profiles, and found one of the players at the time was 40 years old. That’s when I said to myself “Hey! If this lady can do it, why am I sitting here like a lump?” That lady was a skater named Mamalicious and she was, in fact, in better shape than many women half her age, because she worked quite hard at it, so major props to her.
Roller derby was NOT easy. It is an extreme sport and should be an Olympic one. It is a grueling physical challenge for women who do work out regularly, but for me, a naturally well-padded “motherly-built” type, it was kind of like waking up one day and deciding I was the next Tony Hawk or Shaun White. I definitely was NOT.
However, I loved skating. Despite being wobbly on my skates and blubbery, I practiced at least nine hours a week, I attended workshops, I traveled to RollerCon and bouted as part of TeamMILF with some of the finest athletes in the sport (we were defeated by the Birth Control Betties, sadly). I would have liked to have had more bout experience, but that wasn’t available to me during my stint with the team. I had to settle for getting my butt handed to me by younger, tougher players on the regular as part of scrimmage, then doing my part as support staff at bouts, on the web, doing PR, and other less glamorous tasks.
I’ll never forget the joy of playing, though. I dream about roller derby, frequently. Every time I do, I wake up disappointed that I’m not in my skates and pads, sweaty and gross and elated. But, hey—now I have Deb to share those experiences with, don’t I?
Oh, for the record, my skate name is Tyra Durden, after Fight Club’s Tyler Durden. Each skate name in roller derby is unique. Once registered, no one else can have it. So that’s pretty special.
MY: That is all kinds of cool! In my heart of hearts, I think I’m a derby girl. You have my respect! So my favorite thing about Troll or Derby is that it turns everything we think we know about the fae on its ear. Why did you choose to portray them as carnivorous bloodsuckers who rule the derby world?
RT: Well, I think the fae have always been represented as carnivorous bloodsuckers in one corner of the world or the other. We can thank Walt Disney and other artists for the sweet glossification of fairies in pop culture. Cicely Mary Barker was another artist who enjoyed the sweet, whimsical side of fairy life. I used to use this very image on my biz cards & invoices when I was The Tax Fairy.
And, I’ll be honest, I still love that romantic side of fairy life. Watch the Spiderwick Chronicles with me, and I’ll back up and replay the part where the old lady and her flower fairies carry on.
But read a little more deeply into the legends of the fae, and you begin to see patterns emerge about what happens when you cross them. Not to mention, there all along among them are the nastier types.
I decided to cross fairies and trolls and have hybrids because “Why not?” Maybe not the best reason, but I enjoy the problems it makes, politically, when everyone’s related in some regard and still has to choose “sides.” I could give you some BS answer about how it’s a statement on the changing face of our multi-cultural society in the long-whitebread Heartland, but, honestly, I just liked tangling things up and this is how it landed. Other fairy books focus on Seelie and Unseelie courts, on seasons, on the weather, and that’s okay, I guess. I like reading those stories but I don’t plan to go there with mine. It’s trolls and fairies and roller derby for me, I reckon. We’ll see how it plays out by the time I’m done with Troll Or Park and Troll Or Trash.
MY: Troll or Trash? I already love it! And I love Harlow. Where did his character come from?
RT: Thank you. I love him, too.
You’re the first person to ask me about him, so forgive me if I ramble! I originally just conceived of a troll, and that troll ended up splitting into the characters of drug-dealing dastardly Dave and likable loner Harlow. Because Deb is queer, I knew it was not going to be practical for Harlow to fall in love with her. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him back. How could you not love Harlow? He follows his gut, which is almost always right, even if his memory is impaired at times. At the same time, he’s street smart from his many years of homelessness, but embedded in him is a deep well of compassion, the kind that only comes from being loved deeply by someone, and having experienced the loss of that love. Harlow is a survivor, a strategist, a hyper-vigilant practiced kicker of ass, but on top of that, he’s an artist, and that part surprised me.
When I was writing Troll Or Derby and describing Harlow’s appearance and mannerisms, Harlow started poking me about a character in This Brilliant Darkness. “Hey. Hey, lady. You know that street singer with the blonde dreads, messing up the lyrics and playing the fool for Christine Grace? That was me, lady. That was me wearing my glamour.” And I realized, then, that Harlow woulda been a rock star if he hadn’t been hiding out in the county dump on the fringe for so long. And maybe he still will be, you know? He’s got a great voice & incredible stage presence.
MY: This book was absolutely a blast. It was brimming with sarcasm and quirk. Is this representative of all of your work, or this Troll or Derby in particular?
RT: I would say there is sarcasm in all my work—I can’t seem to turn off the “satire” switch, but at the same time, I fall deeply in love with my characters, so it’s impossible for me to treat them shabbily, which I think is a necessary ingredient for true satire or parody. (Take for instance MAD magazine. Love that rag, couldn’t possibly be that mean to my characters, even the bad guys.) And despite the fact I know sarcasm is this big psychological mask for the inner hurt child inside–blah blah blah–it’s funny. And I like giving people the funny.
Quirk? Yes. No getting around that. The Wizard Takes a Fitness Class is a short story about a wizard whose nemesis is very similar to Richard Simmons in nature, and they have a Sweatin’ To the Oldies dance off. When all was said and done and I hit the “publish” button, I realized that story was actually one about regret, especially within the context of close, personal relationships, and the long-term ramifications of decisions we make to shut out the people we love. So, yeah. I guess you could say I am quirky as hell. I don’t do “normal,” not in fiction, anyway.
I will eventually publish some non-fiction stuff under my real name, and it will probably be quirky, too, but not in the way my fiction is. Have you ever seen the SNL skit where they mock Zooey Deschannel? I confess, not only does that crack me up, but when I watch it I feel a little embarrassed, because I’m about one ukelele short of being a stereotypical quirky girl, myself. I hope I don’t come off like such a polka dot goofball, though. Please tell me I don’t. I’ll be over here sculpting a sad clown out of discarded plastic toys and hot glue, while I wait for you to make up your mind.
MY: You know that your quirk is one of the reasons I dig you so much. So if you gave me a roller derby name, what would it be?
RT: Oh, good question. I skated with a Mercedes once. Her skate name was Sadistic Sadie and she is infamous now. She was also unquestionably the best athelete I’ve ever had the privilege of playing with & I still can’t believe my luck. Hrm.
I’ve been thinking about this question all morning, actually!
Choosing a derby name is a pretty personal thing, but if you were to allow me the privilege of picking it for you, I think something like Shockablocka Sadie would be cool, because it ties into the Shock Totem thing, and it threatens what you’re going to do to the opposing team when you glide through the pack. I have a feeling you’d be a jammer, lady. I checked the international name registry and it’s available. (That’s a great place for fooling around and losing hours of your life.)
MY: A Jammer? Really? (Did my voice just squeak when I said that?) That would be amazing. You’re roller derby story is really inspiring. It gives me something to think about. Thanks! It was great chatting with you, Red. This is your time to shine, lady. Tell us where to find you, where to check out your work, etc. Hook us up!
RT: Oh, thank you VERY much for having me. Here are all my links. Readers should definitely get in touch.
PAPERBACK available via CreateSpace. Through 7/13/12, $2 from each CreateSpace sale will be donated to March 2 Recovery, a local not-for-profit rebuilding the communities torn apart by the March 2nd F4 tornados in my area.
I am also offering an awesome prize pack of roller derby fairy goodies to celebrate the book launch. Those who’ve read the book should look over the prizes carefully—they’re going to love them! Details about that prize, a Goodreads giveaway, and everything else Troll Or Derby-related can be found here: http://redtash.com/TrollOrDerby
Thanks again for having me! It is a thrill!