writers and characters who reject the mainstream
In this Q&A corner, Lia Rees speaks to authors with a difference. They approach the world from an unusual perspective, and create characters who push social boundaries. But what drives these bold spirits? Are they rebels or just misfits? In the third of the series, Jenny Blenk – a contributor to the Writerpunk Press anthology, Merely This And Nothing More – talks about embracing the dark side.
What makes you different?
I have a decidedly dark personality; not mean or bitter, but dark. Black is my favorite color, I collect dead things and feathers, and some of my favorite authors are Poe and Lovecraft. There’s something so interesting about those dark places in the human psyche that fascinate me, instead of making a person want to look away, which is how many of the people around me seem to feel about those areas of interest.
When did you first know you were different?
I actually “came out” as Goth to my mom when I was around 15. I printed out articles and everything, I was so afraid she’d think I was demonic or evil or, even worse, going through “a phase.” She didn’t; she’s been really open-minded about it ever since. She may not necessarily like or understand why I am the way I am, but she doesn’t fight it either. I’m really grateful for that.
How do you define “normal”?
I don’t think there’s really a *true* normal, so I prefer the term “normative.” It means fitting within certain societal standards for presentation, personality, preferences, etc. Nobody’s truly “normal,” but if you fit into the most popular or common parts of society you’re normative.
How does your non-mainstream view/lifestyle affect your writing?
It makes it a lot easier to create interesting characters, since being a little odd is something that comes naturally. That combined with nonlinear thinking can result in some plot twists that are really unique and unexpected – even for the author! Sometimes even I don’t know where the end of a story is headed until everything suddenly falls into place, or I realize something about my characters that I hadn’t known up until that point.
What problems does your uniqueness cause to your writing?
Since it’s easier for me to suspend my disbelief than it can be for other people, sometimes my writing gets a little bit too tenuously strung together. It’s hard to adopt that sense of magical realism that authors like Haruki Murakami are so good at producing. Thankfully good editors and writing groups are around to keep you grounded, make sure your creative side doesn’t float off without taking your audience with it.
Do you keep aspects of yourself “in the closet”?
For sure! I’m a great big Goth; most of my wardrobe is either black or purple, and my apartment is primarily decorated with plants and animal bones. But when I go to work, not a lot of that shows through. I still have piercings and colored hair, and now and then some gothy jewelry, but other than that there is an expected societal norm that I still have to project if I want to stay employed.
Do you wish you were more like everyone else?
Not really; I used to. It’s taken me a long time – years, actually – to be okay and even happy with who I am. And some days it’s still hard. But finally being able to embrace what makes me truly happy is so worth those few hard days.
Are there any other observations you want to make?
Once you find “your people,” the ones who are maybe not exactly like you but the same kind of “different,” you know you’re home.
What’s your name?
What’s the title of your book?
Contributor to “Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk” (anthology by Writerpunk Press)