Reading a new book is a satisfying feeling isn’t it? That feeling of new words seeping through you as you turn each page afresh. My favourite thing about picking up a new book is the weight, smell and obviously the contents.
When I was approached to read a brand spanking new book to feature I couldn’t quite believe it. A book that no one else that I knew had read? Lovely. Just lovely. ‘Homegirl’ by Ryder Collins is the book in question. So, with it being recently published and read by myself, I think it is a good opportunity to get the author spilling the beans on this book!
Nicola Manuel: I feel quite honoured to be able to conduct an interview with you, having just read your new novel ‘Homegirl’. How long have you been writing for?
Ryder Collins: Thanks, Nicola! I feel honoured to be interviewed. I’ve been writing since I was a wee one. I started out writing poetry in 6th grade. My first poem was this long ass poem about a woman who dies of unrequited love under a willow tree. Just ghastly, but I was so proud…
NM: ‘Homegirl’ is quite a remarkable story following a girl’s life through her crazy friends and doings. What was your main reason for giving your characters names such as Punkboy, Shadow and Homegirl?
RC: I got the idea for a character named Homegirl and a character named Meta. They were just glimpses at first & then I started putting them together in my mind and having them interact. The chapter with the Facebook status updates was actually the first thing I wrote for the novel. Homegirl needed boyfriends so it only made sense that their names would be similar. Shadow well, he’s a shady motherfucker; you wouldn’t want to know his name anyway.
NM: Who is your target audience for this book and why?
RC: Everyone, and especially people who are heavily bored. Everyone cos people need art that’s different or disturbing or disruptive. They need to see stories that aren’t bougie, that don’t follow the traditional narrative arc, that show a different perspective, that don’t end in a neat epiphany. Oh, that was the lesson or, oh, that was what it all meant. Cos life isn’t like that – there’s no oh, right, it’s supposed to be this way and this way only. Life is fucking messy. If you subscribe to only one narrative throughout your life, you will end up bitterly unsexed married with kids that hate you & the cycle’ll just repeat itself…
People who are heavy bored cos the society around them is so oppressive. I was living in the Deep South of the US when I wrote Homegirl! It’s my reaction to people who think “bad words” will send them to hell and that the body, especially a woman’s body, is dirty and that women don’t like the sexings or at least should pretend they don’t or else they’re “sluts.” Fuck that. Homegirl! May be kind of a dark book, but it’s also a celebration of a different kind of life.
NM: You have quite a unique writing style, from using language that most authors would be quite terrified of, to the use of shortened down words. This written style is quite strikingly brought to readers right from the first line
“It’s not that she was at a crossroads in her life, cos she wasn’t. Not really.”
To some of your further descriptions in the book, which people are just going to have to read to find out. Why did you choose to write in this manner? Do you think it will get a positive response from your readers?
RC: In some way, I think I was deeply inspired by Berryman’s Dream Songs. The narrator of Homegirl! could be my version of Mr. Bones . A “cyberface,” if you will. So much dialogue takes place on the Internet / smart phones today & a lot of it is anonymous and how can you tell what is true and what isn’t & there’s definitely a way of “speaking” that is much different than actual face to face speech.
The “blue” language comes from the Noir side of the novel, and from a tradition of transgressive art –Miller, Nin, Bukowski, Genet, Vian. It’s not shocking just to be shocking; it’s using words like “fuck” to make people think about what is and what isn’t considered acceptable and why.
NM: What do you tend to search for within a book that you placed within your own?
RC: A sense of some kind of meaning-making. Not truth with a capital “T” cos mama’s too postmodern for that bullshit but something that makes me feel a little bit better about the waves of existential crises that keep hitting & hitting…
That & any kind of reference to bathtub gins.
NM: Starting a book must be a pretty daunting but exciting task. Where did the idea for this novel appear from and how did you defeat writer’s block? Do you have any words of advice for people who are keen in the idea of writing?
RC: I’m not trying to brag here, but I never hit a writer’s block while I was writing Homegirl! I wrote the novel in about three months. I ate it; I slept it; I ran with it on my treadmill. That may seem like a blessing, but now I’m looking for that feeling in my new novel & I can’t seem to find it anywhere…
Words of advice: Love the fuck out of what you do. Be proud of your writing. Grow a thick skin cos there are so many peoples in the world who think they know what art is and isn’t. As long as a book makes me feel something – in my gut, in my brain, in the small of my back, in my inner ear even, I think it’s art, but there are those who’ll differ. Don’t listen to the naysayers & don’t listen to that inner voice inside that whispers (or maybe even screams), you can’t do it. Mama hates to sound like a motivational speaker but mama believes in the power of stories so tell yourself the story that you can write and that you will write & that you can write a book & your book will be the awesome.
NM: Describe your experience of thinking, writing and publishing ‘Homegirl’ and why people out there should read your book.
RC: Like I said, when I was writing Homegirl!, I was living, breathing, sleeping, drinking eating, running, snorting these ideas. Publishing Homegirl! was like that Ray LaMontagne song, “You Are the Best Thing” with the best thing being that feeling that yes, someone else gets it & someone else gets it so much they want to publish it. Publishing Homegirl! was also extremely sad – it was euphoric & sad – it was Dionysian – it was a Bacchanalian memorial service. I had to say good-bye to these characters that’d had taken up all my thoughts & made living in a small town in the Deep South liveable, even enjoyable.
People should not read my book if they think there should be a moral in every book. They should also not read my book if they think words are vulgar and are offended more by cuss words than by the murder & greed of the “industrialized nations.” They shouldn’t read my book if they think women don’t or shouldn’t like sex. They should read my book if they’ve ever drunk wrestled or thought about drunk wrestling. Hopefully, parts of my book will feel like those waves of desire but my book’s a noir so ride those parts while you can…
NM: Where is our lovely audience able to get your novel from and for what price?
RC: Homegirl! is available from Amazon (£12.74 or $13.99 for the paperback and £4.33 or $6.50 for the ebook). I believe my publishers are also working with SCB Distributors in the States and Turnaround in the UK… You can check out the awesome publishers (& other awesome books!) at http://www.honestpublishing.com/
As they say at the end of every book my kind editors at Honest publish, please support the small presses. Mama’ll go so far as to say what she says to all the old men at the dive bars who try to kiss her at closing time, please stop & go home & read… you don’t have to buy my book but you can’t stay here.
Okay, I totally made that up. I’ve never said that to the old men hitting on me at close. I’ve been too busy sucking face with a Punkboy or a Richboy to even notice any others…
Time for those quick round questions…
Punkboy or Richboy? Punkboy, most def
Night time or day time? Highball time
Hand written or computer typed? Computer
Book or eBook? Both
Sweet or sour? Salty
You heard her loud and clear. What an interview! So for some shock, humour and a narrative that is sure to touch upon some feelings be sure to read Homegirl.