Ask the Author: Kristin Garth
What would you like readers to know about you?
Wow, well, for a writer of short poetry, mostly sonnets, I can be really long-winded, so that’s a dangerous question and also an example of my answer: I am complex –– a womanchild which is what this book’s about. I’m smart, cunning and a survivor but I’m also a woman carrying a Barbie tote, wearing braids and kneesocks. You can break my heart as easily as you could when I was sixteen.
I spent five years stripping when I was 25 to 30 years old, which is what my book Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir is about. It was my coming of age story – leaving a home and culture of abuse and puritanism and embracing the world of neon and the body. I used the weapon that had been used against me all my life (my body), to set myself free. And in that way, I think of myself at that time as a bit of a superhero.
What is Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir about for those who haven’t read it?
Well, only the people who’ve blurbed it have read it and I’ve included a picture of a couple of those so you can see what people have had to say.
It’s just been made available for preorder today, and you can order it at https://kristingarth.com/candy-cigarette-womanchild-noir-2/ (there’s options for standard, signed and annotated copies, and all copies come with a complimentary microchapbook of supplementary poems I wrote entitled Glitter & Guillotines.)
Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir is about how a very sheltered girl (in some ways) becomes a stripper in the Deep South in pigtails, schoolgirl uniforms, kneesocks, cheerleader outfits. It tells you everything how I found out about this world of stripping, how I was recruited there, what it was like doing the work, dating, living in small town. It also shows the last terrible day and what cemented me leaving that profession.
The coolest part about the story is that it also incorporates my love of film noir. I always thought of myself doing the job of a stripper as a sort of femme fatale character. The book uses the languages and tropes of film noir like “peeler” (meaning stripper), “sugar daddies” and “private dicks” (kind of obvious explanations) to section these poems in themes. I write prose poems to introduce each theme, which was an interesting writing exercise/break from sonnet writing. It was out of my comfort zone, and I think you should always do things like that sometimes to grow.
What was your favorite scene or part of Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir to write?
Wow, that’s a hard question. This was a book I was so looking forward to writing because it was such a colorful, fascinating time of my life. I’m a pretty reclusive person, but on the occasion that I would go to parties in my life and such, people who would find out that I did this job always wore a certain curious expression that I’d come to recognize. I’d know they were usually waiting to get a moment alone with me to ask me about this time in my life. What it was like. It was usually women who asked – perhaps they felt more comfortable. I think many women who have not engaged in a form of sex work are very curious about what it would be like.
I guess I would say the “Peeler” section was very powerful to write because it’s about peeling away abuse and layers of things that men – that people had done to me. Writing I realized that is what I was doing. It’s really about getting to the essence of exactly who I am.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
I have such love for a diverse array of authors, and I write a diverse array of material. So my advice to people is to read a lot of different kinds of work. I’ve always been attracted to authors who examine darkness in their works. As a child I started with Nancy Drew, Poe, Agatha Christie novels and anything about the Salem Witch Trials. Wuthering Heights was the first literary novel I read very young – probably too young to really comprehend the emotions though I loved it. Older, I love women who write about darkness, sexuality and — Joyce Carol Oates, Caroline Kepnes, Virginia Woolf, Flannery O’Connor, Erica Jong, Mary Gaitskill, Gillian Flynn, Sylvia Plath, Anais Nin and I love Nabakov. Lolita is one of my favorite books of all time, and I related to her character’s pain –- even as it is mostly unacknowledged by the pedophile with the “fancy prose style.” I also confess to reading lots of true crime and suspense. I think all of these elements influence my work.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to publish a book?
This is a controversial opinion, and not applicable to everyone, but I believe in it – carve out some time every day to work on your book. It doesn’t have to be a tremendous amount of time but I know that I need consistency for my ideas to flow. Organize your book with a message or theme in mind so that the order of your poems and their presentation is as much a message as the poems itself. Read lots of great writers and look at how they do these things and get inspired, yes, but make it your own way.
That’s my ultimate advice: be yourself. There is only one you. If you attempt to recreate a book or piece that is already in existence, well you are competing with a published author. Why would anyone need your book? Discover what it is about you and your story that is unique and find a way to highlight that uniqueness in every way you can in the writing, organization and the marketing.
Prepare for the hard fact that you’re going to have to most likely promote yourself. Most publishers expect this, and unless you are lucky enough to be just effortlessly popular, which is a very rare quality, you will have to sell your book. Build yourself up because it’s a hard process for those of us who are thin-skinned. Publishing requires armor. As you build your book, build up yourself, work on your speaking and reading skills. Learn how to take compliments and also criticism. You will get both. Writing, pitching and marketing a book can be painful and overwhelming in moments but also the most magical moments of your life.