Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Author Interview with Natalie McCollum (Chatting With Buckeyes Series)

 Please help me welcome fellow Buckeye Natalie McCollum to A Buckeye Girl Reads. She is the author of Angels to Ashes from Punkin House Publishing.

A love story told as a horror story and a horror story told as a love story, Ashes to Angels is as raw and edgy as the hipster characters whose blended voices color much of the ink like a literary tattoo.Auryn, an angel, cuts off her wings - with scissors - in an ill-advised deal made with her demon twin sister looking for bail out of hell. Auryn falls out of the sky to earth, where she falls for Asher, failed artist. This is the story of the evolution and dissolution - a vicarious nuclear catastrophe - of their bizarre relationship: angel falls for atheist, poet steals from his own Muse, mortal rapes a supernatural, immortal commits suicide.As a paranormal dark romance, it makes subversive comment in poetic meditation on the impossibilities of love, the most lethal threat to human existence.

What makes Ashes to Angels different from the other angel books that are out there today?  Ashes is different from other angel books because the word "angel" is highly interpretive.  Popular culture has conditioned us with a very cliched image of a Christmas pageant angel with a halo and wings.  This is not that angel.  The angel protagonist in Ashes is a supernatural being who did indeed have wings, but think more along the lines of fairy or pixie.  Think of King Arthur and Celtic mythology, not Western religions.  This angel is very alternative and counter culture -- she has an 80's punk/90's grunge style of dressing, she cut off her wings; she is a "fallen" angel.  But she also has vampire/demon heritage, and therein is another difference from typical angel literature:  her twin sister is a demon with whom she makes a deal to exchange her wings for passage to the mortal world of earth.  One girl falls; the other flies.

On the blurb it says that this is a Horror story told as a love story and a love story told as a horror story. Can you explain that to us? How would you categorize it? Or can it be categorized?
 I've always broadly categorized it as experimental because it encompasses several genres -- literary, romance, psychological, fantasy -- and also because it subverts traditional concepts, such as pairing the academic with the underground, Shakespeare with rock 'n' roll, fine art with graffiti.  Characterizing it as a horror story told as a love story and vice versa is just another way of saying that.  That line also sums up a major theme in the book:  love is a big risk, and like walking along a precipice, you are probably more likely to fall off the edge to your death because that's how vulnerable a position you are allowing yourself to be in when it comes to another person.  So we're all masochists on some level because we're all seeking out this horror, we're all looking for love and willing to subject ourselves to the pain that comes with it.

 Do you have a favorite scene in the book? If so, what is it?
  My favorite scene is in a chapter titled "Canal St.:  The Balcony Scene."  It's a throwback to the famous other in Romeo & Juliet, but this is not a love scene; on the contrary, it's a surreal assisted suicide attempt.  One of the things the book does is take classic "high art" and juxtapose it with a twisted, deviant version.  Poe, Auryn's demon twin sister, tempts her with her forsaken wings to jump off a railroad bridge on Christmas Eve.  Asher just happens to drunkenly stumble out of a nearby bar and sees her hit pavement.  He picks her up and takes her to the hospital while cursing in Radiohead lyrics a witchy, cackling Poe still perched high above him on the bridge.

What do you like most and least about your hero and heroine? 
 The hero and heroine, Asher and Auryn, are free spirits lacking enough of a social conscience to be tied down by the status quo.  I think most writers live vicariously through their characters to some extent because as creator you can bestow on them the qualities, appearances, and lifestyles you would like to have.  That's why people read fiction or watch movies:  to realize their fantasies, if only for a couple of hours.  On the other hand, A & A are very reckless and irresponsible.  Asher is like most guys, capable of being a jerk and more interested in sex than love.  By the same token, Auryn is the typical innocent romantic who confuses sex with love.  Sometimes I think she is too much of a "good girl" which only feeds into those pop culture connotations of "angel" that the book attempts to subvert.

Do you have anything else in the works that you can tell us about? 
I do have the very premature fragments of a second novel brewing in the back of my mind.  The initial concept hit me last December, four months after Ashes was released.  The ideas have been evolving over the course of this year, and I'm starting to make notes and research them.  I have the two main characters taking shape, coming into focus.  As I found with my first novel, for me the process is a very evolutionary one that builds in layers until I have a solid piece of work.  And, I only write when inspiration hits; I never force art.  So I have to let the muses set the pace.

Where can we find you on the web?
Currently I am most active on Facebook -- www.facebook.com/natalie.mccollum.  I also have an author blog where you can find "Natalie Off the Page":  nataliemccollum.blogspot.com.  And you can "Like" Ashes to Angels on Facebook! 

Ohio Questions

What is your favorite season in Ohio?
Fall is absolutely my favorite season.  I wish it were fall year round.  The low 70's temps are perfect, but that cooling crispness in the air is refreshing and energizing after a sweltering midwestern summer.  And I love the colors, the leaves, the change of clothes -- long cozy socks, knit hats, scarves, hoodies.

Do you have a favorite Ohio Food? If so what is it? (Like Cassanos pizza, Mike Sells Potato Chips, etc.) 
 Ironically, this is the hardest question!  I'm having trouble coming up with a uniquely Ohio food...I've only lived here most of my life!  There are just some favorite coffee spots and Haha Pizza in Yellow Springs.

Where is your favorite place to go in Ohio?
Speaking of, my favorite place is Yellow Springs.  I also wrote a lot of the novel there.  The collective free spirit is very liberating and therapeutic for a stressed-out city girl.  And yeah, I'm a bit of a hippie.

 Since it's football season, I have to ask: Bengals, Browns, Ohio State or none of the above?
 None; I don't care; I hate football.
What's you favorite C city-Columbus, Cincinnati or Cleveland? 
Cincinnati.  I think it has a lot of art and culture.  There are hip, artsy neighborhoods with cafes, pubs, indie theaters, and galleries...just unique, hole-in-the-wall places with a lot of atmosphere perfect for writing inspiration.  I also like the hilly river landscape.  I actually forget sometimes how rocky it is compared to Dayton.