It’s exciting to see our schedule for 2011 coming together. Last month we announced the arrival of the amazing Penny Goring. Today it’s our privilege to say that the fantabulous Sarah E Melville, author of the beyond brilliant Beautiful Things that Happen to Ugly People and Ponyzine, will be letting us publish the forthcoming This is Paulie.
It is impossible for to explain quite who or what Paulie is. Sarah intimates he may be her alter ego. But he says the same about her. Depending which Paulie you speak to. You could follow Sarah and Paulie separately on twitter. But we thought it would be easier to interview the pair of them.
1. Who am I talking to right now?
Paulie: You’re talking to me, pops.
Sarah: I’m here too.
2. Clearly Paulie loves the limelight but does it bother Sarah that This Is Paulie is so popular? Would she rather be known for her historical fiction?
S: This is me laughing because you said This is Paulie was popular.
P: This is me wishing I could punch you.
S: But I know what you mean — if you put it in perspective, I suppose that This is Paulie, and Paulie himself, are more popular than my historical fiction.
P: I think people could pay more attention to me. But, like . . . not with that book. Don’t read the book, it’s fucking creepy; follow me on twitter and TALK TO ME, BITCH.
S: Right now I’m very, very okay with Paulie being more popular than my older stuff. First off, because my older stuff is
S: (thanks) and it would be really awful if it were online and . . . people knew about it. So —
P: Seriously — it’s just massive amounts of shit, it’s like super —
S: They got it. You can be done now.
P: Yeah, and you can let me answer this question.
S: Okay, go ahead.
P: Okay, Right, right — ahem: I think it’s much better, for readers at least, to have a novel like This is Paulie than that depressing, really dark historical fiction she does. I mean, it’s just . . . it’s all so . . . sad, and it doesn’t do much good for the heart. I, however, do lots of good for everyone all the time, so you’re going to personally get more out of This is Paulie than you would, say, Silencer, which’ll just leave you depressed and empty and. . . you’d talk funny afterwards, cause it’s what? The . . . eighteenth century?
S: Yeah, around 1760-70.
P: Yeah, so you’ll end up with all this weird sentence structure in your head and saying stuff like, I dunno, what do they say a lot in that story?
S: I dunno. The main character doesn’t talk much.
P: There we go, guys. “I dunno shit about my own novel”. What an idiot!
S: But you’ve got it, Paulie — I am happier right now with something with so much heart going out into the world with my — our — names on it. Not that I don’t love my historical fiction. Technically, it’s written much better–
P: Or “written at all”.
S: Yeah, This is Paulie is about 98% dialogue, so there’s not much . . . proper writing.
P: Or paragraphs.
P: It’s like you turned on a tape recorder in my brain and just . . . really, really creepily, without my consent recorded a shitload of conversations I had with Rachel. And some of those conversations are none of your business. I mean, it’s my life, not some free-for-all. This isn’t the Truman Show! Goddamit!
3. I get the impression a lot of the Paulie material bothers you as a writer. How do you cope with that? And have you seen the movie Magic?
P: Bothers her? Bothers her? WHAT ABOUT ME?
S: They already know you don’t like it.
P: Goddamit let me just have my fit!
S: Okay. Do it somewhere else, though, we’re trying to be interviewed right now.
S: Some of the material bothers me, yes, but it’s only when I start writing about other (real) people and the relationships I have and have had with them. In short, this means “Young Puritans” and “Air” are uncomfortable, in parts.
Then again. . . most of it worries me. I withhold some Paulie fiction because the lines start blurring too much; it might indeed be fiction, but it’s too difficult for the reader to tell anymore — if that’s obviously Paulie or if it really is me. Like, I think it’s common knowledge that I don’t get wasted every weekend like he does–
P: It’s not every weekend! Why do you think I drink so much?
S: Because you do.
P: Yeah . . . well . . . but I don’t get wasted.
S: Whatever you say.
So there are some things that are painfully obvious as fiction, and I’m okay with writing about that and letting people see it. But there are things I don’t want people knowing about me, or inferring about me. It actually bothers me quite a bit that people think the Sex Scene Anthology I participated in is a “look into the author’s psyche”. That’s what I don’t like, and that’s why I withhold some of the Paulie fiction.
So there are some things that are painfully obvious as fiction, and I’m okay with writing about that and letting people see it. But there are things I don’t want people knowing about me, or inferring about me. It actually bothers me quite a bit that people think the Sex Scene Anthology I participated in is a “look into the author’s psyche”. That’s what I don’t like, and that’s why I withhold some of the Paulie fiction. That’s how I cope, I suppose.
I’ve never seen the film Magic.
P: Me neither.
4. Go on, get the Gorillaz stream of consciousness thing out of your system
S: Man, you don’t need SOC when you’ve got the cool shoeshine and the zombie-hip hop and all the man research! I mean, just, wherever you go, get the cool, get the cool shoeshine.
Tazar the yoot!
5. Of the members of Year Zero, you have one of the biggest and broadest fanbases. Something about your work – both the art and the writing – grabs people immediately. If you were to go to a mirror could you tell me on a scale of zero to crimson roughly how much you’re blushing right now?
S: When I read this, I was like “What?” and then I just kind of stared at it and read it again and was like, “What?”, and I just don’t believe you.
If I did believe you, I’d be blushing a lot. But I don’t. You’re still buttering me up for something, what I don’t know, but maybe you should give up now.
P: Yeah, I don’t like your writing all that much. It doesn’t grab me at all.
S: But I will say this: I’m not telepathic. If you don’t comment on a piece, I won’t know you liked it. I take no comments as “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” and my soul will be slightly crushed and I will contemplate taking that piece down. I’ve done it before.
P: Ooh, you’re making threats now! Sassy! I like it. Take that story ddoooooowwwwwwwn . . . town.
S: I don’t think that means what you think it means.
P: What? Inconceivable!
S: Ha, good one.
P: Yeah, I thought so.
6. Tell us a bit about Charlotte Fantino and those fantastic corsets. What’s the first thing you want to do to people when they say steampunk to you?
S: CF is an Etsy store I started last August to sell vintage clothing. I do a good amount of thrifting, so I run across great pieces all the time, and while I like doing the vintage thing, I take much more joy in making corsets. I’ve been a costumer since about fourteen or fifteen, so it was kind of natural just to start making corsets to sell online. I happen to have a fantastic grandmother who gave me a ton of fabric pieces, so I use these vintage silks and satins and velvets and damasks to make the corsets. I just go shopping in my closet and come out with a vision and a vague plan. The pattern I’m currently working with was taken from an actual antique corset, so the shape is as authentic as you can get.
I should say that I don’t hate steampunk, I just don’t understand it. I’m very proud of being an authentic costumer, taking as many pains as my patience will allow for authenticity, so I’ll really only be bothered if someone ascribes me with the label of a steampunk costumer. I don’t know why, but I’m a costume purist (which is why I can’t watch many historical films) and I don’t understand why in the world anyone would want to reinvent something already so beautiful or perfect. It’s almost an insult, really, taking a time period and reinventing it. Who do you think you are? You think you have better ideas?
And, really, I don’t think they do. It’s very sad, for me, to see so much work going into mucking up those beautiful Victorian silhouettes.
Then again, if it makes people happy — well, that’s all right. Just don’t tell me I’m steampunk. I don’t like it.
P: Oh, what? Yeah, ha — yeah, thanks I am pretty awesome. Oh, what? Awww, you’re too kind! Oh, go on! Go on!
S: What are you doing?
P: This question is boring.
7. Ponyzine and Beautiful Things That Happen to Ugly People seamlessly blended words and images. Does it bother you as a writer that people are so fond of your art?
S: Again, I don’t know if people are fond of my art. I got very, very little feedback from Ponyzine, so I don’t think it was all that successful. And I still don’t get much feedback from Beautiful Things. I ship them off into the abyss, it would seem. They just kind of . . . float away, never to be heard of again.
Having flourished as an artist at a young age, I was constantly marauded by “Oh, so you’re going to be an artist when you grow up!” and, as a very stubborn child, I made my mind up not to be an artist. I don’t like it when people think they know me, or when they make assumptions about what I want to be or do.
So I think I know how beautiful people feel when they get hit with the “You should try modelling” thing. Because, it’s like, yes, I am good at art, and I do write, but do you really think that’s all I have to offer? I’m much more than that, and there’s a large part of me that wants to set all the creative nonsense aside and pursue my passion for languages. You probably didn’t know that I have a fierce interest in the Scandinavian influences in English language pre-Norman invasion, or that I want to become an expert on Old Icelandic.
P: I’m an expert on Old Icelandic.
P: Totally. [incomprehensible garble that sounds like it was taken from Sigur Rós]
S: Wow, I’m, like, so impressed right now.
P: Aren’t you, though?
S: What does that mean?
P: It means “Dan, I thought you were interviewing both of us, not just the Devil woman”
S: Aww, I have a nick-name!
P: You do. Lots, actually. That’s just the only, uh, family friendly one.
S: You make me feel so warm and fuzzy inside!
8. Do you think you know yourself yet just how many Paulies there are, or do you think new ones will keep emerging for the rest of your life?
S: I’m pretty sure there are only going to be the three, mainly because they’re sort of broad categories. Beautiful Things Paulie is this . . . “good”, Lawrencian sort of thing, who is a pure soul, and Modern Paulie is, well . . .
P: ME! That’s me! I’m the cool one!
S: And then the Ponyboy is the . . . just the disturbing one that comes out of me when I’m depressed. So they’re kind of “good”, middle-ground, and “bad” — and I mean those terms in respect to my own morals and beliefs.
I suspect that one of the Paulies will morph if I ever marry and have children, but I don’t think completely new versions will ever appear.
9. What is it about Britain?
S: Part of it is the accent. Or — accents.
P: Fuck yes! There’s something we agree on. Accents are hot. Although my favourite is Irish. Dear god do I like Irish girls. I have, like, a permanent boner (in my heart) for Marcella O’Connor. (Mr. O’Connor, please don’t beat me up. I probably won’t survive it.)
But seriously, have you heard her? It’s like, fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu–
S: But it’s also the culture. American culture is, well, we don’t have one, so it’s nice to know that there is somewhere with some actual history.
S: And being as into words as I am, the place names are endlessly fascinating. But — it’s just all of it. I like everything. Especially the humour. We love us some Blackadder and Boosh and Extras, don’t we?
P: Mhhmmm. Give us some Boosh and we’re in heaven.
S: Oh, but that’s just because you have the hots for Noel Fielding.
P: . . . yeah. I know, I know, I said in an earlier interview that I wasn’t into guys, but I am. I, uh, I go both ways. But I like women more.
S: And I like England.
P: And men?
S: Oh, yeah, them too. Sometimes.
P: So there you have it, kids. Wait, what was this question about?
P: Hm. Okay. Well, thanks for interviewing us. I guess. Don’t read that book, though.
S: Read the book!
P: I’m going to kick you in the teeth.
S: Bring it.