with Tara Vanflower
July 1, 2006
You all probably know our good friend Tara Vanflower who used to be in Lycia since I have done a ton of interviews with her over the past ten years. Lately she has been doing a lot of fiction writing (including her first novel Violent Violet as well as some recent comic collaborations) & has a new musical project called Black Happy Day. Here is the interview.
QRD – With your fiction writing, do you run into a problem with your friends not being able to disassociate your characters from you?
Tara – YES! Everyone seems to look for things in the stories as though I’m writing about myself. I’ve had people tell me they can see me saying certain things, and that makes sense to a degree, but I do not want people making the assumption that I’m writing about myself and/or my life. I don’t like it because it makes me feel very self-conscious. Obviously since I am the one writing these stories parts of me and things from my life will bleed into them, but they are NOT autobiographical.
QRD – What do you think are the weaknesses & strengths for communicating your ideas through music versus prose?
Tara – Well, since I’m not trained in either one I think my weaknesses are always stemming from my lack of technical knowledge, though some may find that a strength too. Music is always a bit of an uncontrollable thing, whereas I have absolute control over what I write, so that can be a bit more rewarding in some ways. They’re both so different but essentially stem from similar enough places that I see them as almost interchangeable.
QRD – How do you know if a story idea belongs in a song format, short story format, or novel format?
Tara – I just do. They’re different. When I work on music I work specifically on music so that’s the way the words come. When I write a story, the story itself determines which direction it’s going to go in whether it will be long or short. I have used poems I’ve written as lyrics a number of times. I guess the way I work is sort of random, so it all just depends on what feels right at any given time.
QRD – Several times you’ve quit day jobs to pursue your artistic endeavors. Do you think working on your art in spurts works better than slow & steady?
Tara – Well, no, I think it would be better to be in the position to devote more time to working on music and writing, but it’s not an option at this point. I’ve heard other people say that working fulltime on writing becomes destructive to creativity, but these people have probably never worked twelve-hour days third shift in a factory with mandatory overtime for months on end.
QRD – How’s the response been to your first novel?
Tara – Almost non-existent. Those who have read it all say very positive things. I really like the characters I’m writing about, so I think that could potentially show in the time I take developing them. I just wish the fucking thing would sell more.
QRD – How many times did you read & re-write Violent Violet?
Tara – Oh lord, there’s no way for me to even answer this question. I’ve read it twice since it’s been released alone. God only knows how many times I read it while working on it. I didn’t do what I hear a lot of people do where they’ll re-write vast portions of their books. I did make alterations and add small segments here and there, but I didn’t do any massive re-writing.
QRD – What have you learned since your book was published that you would change if you were doing it now?
Tara – I’ve learned to be a bit more patient with the whole process. The first go around I didn’t wait on the editing and I regret it now. You think you’ve caught everything and then you read something after not having read it for a while and all your errors are like giant red flags. I also am more realistic about how poorly stuff will sell!
QRD – Your second novel is already written & uses a lot of the same characters. Does it finish their story or just continue it?
Tara – It’s a continuation. Honestly, I love these characters so much and there’s so much going on with them I don’t realistically see myself ever not writing about them in some way. There are enough different characters in the stories, and sub-characters, and people talked about, that I could just write about them forever.
QRD – You’ve started writing some comics (for lack of a better term). How did this come about, what do they look like, how do you change your writing for collaboration, & when will we see them?
Tara – Well, I have no idea when you’ll see them because we haven’t found a publisher yet. But the first one is based on a character named Ilya who is mentioned in my first book and makes an appearance in the second. It’s a selection of short stories from her life. They’re almost more like illustrated stories than a comic book. If people are interested they can see samples at our website. Daniele Serra and I just decided to try to work together and this is how it came out!
QRD – Do you write your stories out long hand or directly into the computer?
Tara – Directly into the computer. It would be too taxing on my hand to write this stuff out long hand. I don’t have that kind of time to write and then type stuff later. Besides, it would be annoying.
QRD – What medium (television, film, music, poetry, novels) that you absorbed as a kid do you think has had the most effect on your writing style?
Tara – I think it’s everything! Every single facet of life! I think I’m more influenced by actual life than any form of art though. I try not to let things like that influence what I create; but of course, watching things like Lost in Space etc when you’re little becomes a part of you and thus it would influence you in some way, shape, or form.
QRD – What’s something you’ve intentionally done to hone your talents?
Tara – I’ve read other certain authors’ books to study how they technically structure things. I’ve read things on grammar. As for music I just ask Mike (VanPortfleet of Lycia) questions and learn from what he shows me. I don’t believe it’s ever a good idea to try to do things intentionally. I think too much “honing” can suck the creativity out of something. You can over think things. I’d rather read/hear something with some mistakes and have it be a good story or a good song than hear/read something pristine and have it be sterile. I find this is the case with a lot of bands I hear. Technically they’ve got the chops, but there’s no passion. And I hate to read something where it’s obvious the author is pushing an agenda or trying to be too clever to prove how smart and cool they are. It all boils down to whether or not people are going to be affected and if you’ve expressed yourself to the best of your ability. So have I done anything really intentional to hone my skills? Just the actual creating mostly.
QRD – With Black Happy Day, you’re working with Timothy Renner who lives across the country. Does it have a big effect on your recording that he’s not physically there to talk to about things?
Tara – I don’t think it does actually. We work pretty seamlessly. We come from the same angle, so it makes working this way really easy. We had no problems collaborating, as we pretty much knew what we wanted. He did his thing, and I did mine. I enjoy working with him immensely.
QRD – You covered your own song “Whore” for Black Happy Day, did it feel weird revisiting it? How is the new version an improvement over the original?
Tara – It didn’t feel weird at all, it felt natural and comfortable. I’ve sang that song around the house, in the car, etc., ever since it was originally written, only I sing it with a more loungey feel than the original. I think both ways are appropriate.
QRD – I know you’re already planning a second BHD record. How’s it going to be different than the first?
Tara – Well, I think it’s one of those things where we’ll just have to wait and see as it develops. We’re planning to do traditional gospel songs on the next album, but as far as the actual way in which we do them I haven’t got a clue yet.
QRD – Are you planning another solo record soon?
Tara – Not as of this moment. I’ve got too many other things going on. I will eventually, I just don’t have any current plans. I’ll have to wait to be inspired again.
QRD – What’s the best & worst thing about dealing with Silber Records?
Tara – The best thing is that I love Brian John Mitchell like a brother. I trust those guys completely and I know they’re honest and I also know they’re not manipulators. They don’t in any way try to force their artistic vision onto their bands and I respect that. The worst thing is that those guys don’t make enough money for what they’re doing.
QRD – I know there’s a lot you don’t miss about touring & playing live, what is there that you do miss?
Tara – I miss the camaraderie of riding around in the van and speaking your own language that others just aren’t privy to. motherfuckingbloodsuckingsuperfuckingpig. I miss that the most. All the silly stuff that happens. I also miss seeing different places, having experiences in truck stops and Denny’s and back stage, and I miss meeting people. I miss those shows where everything clicks and you’re connected with yourself and the audience and the music.
QRD – If you did a live solo show again, what would be happening on stage?
Tara – Well, I would want to do something that would be visually interesting. I haven’t put a lot of thought into it because at this point it’s moot, but I think I would like to have some other musicians making noise with me, if not then I would have something strange like hot chicks dancing on stage dressed like flowers or something. Inflatable easter bunnies everywhere. Bubbles. You know, the typical Tara fare.
QRD – Is your pink guitar getting any action lately?
Tara – I gave the pink guitar to a friend when we moved to Arizona. So he’s still keeping watch over it for me. I hope he does play it every so often.
QRD – Anything else?
Tara – As always, I just want to thank
those who are good friends to me and who are interested in the various
projects I’m working on.