Michelle Tea on Sister Spit, tit-ins and how to deal with Mercury retrograde
How is it different writing online versus writing books?
I guess the most obvious, immediate difference is that you know you're writing for a very immediate audience. There's a way when you're writing books that even though you hope that that book will be published there's always that possibility that it won't, or that it will take a million years to get published. And so you're kind of just concentrating on the story and you're not necessarily thinking of the audience. But I'm really aware of my audience when I'm blogging because, you know, it's gonna go out there and people are gonna read it immediately. And I really like the audience that has kind of made themselves known as readers for this blog. I think they're so cool and I really enjoy writing for them. So that's really different. The immediacy, you know. It's not really edited. That's kind of scary, but I'm a really impatient person and I hate editing, to my detriment definitely sometimes. It just goes up there with a lot of typos [laughs]. I just learned this week that I actually have been using the word "nonplussed" incorrectly my whole life, so I'm learning a lot also from it [laughs].
Most of your writing is really personal. How do the people in your life react to that? Do they like being written about?
Some people have. A lot of people have not. When I was younger and I was a lot more kind of hurt by life and hurt by a lot of the experience I had with people and I didn't really care about how they felt about it. I had a certain amount of bravado when I was younger and I'm grateful for it, because I wouldn't have been able to write what I wrote in the way that I wrote if I had been very concerned. But at this point in my life it's a lot harder. I definitely feel really sensitive toward the people around me and I don't want people to be uncomfortable or have their lives made difficult as a result of my writing. I was working on this really long, involved, strange, experimental kind of memoir and one of the focal points in it was an eight-year relationship I was in. And my ex just couldn't handle it at all. So I had to figure out what I was gonna do, because it was a major part of the book, and the pros of just putting it out there regardless were really smothered by the cons of just having this thing in my life where I'm gonna have to just know that this person's pissed all the time and have to interact with them about it. So what I did was I went into the book and I just took that relationship out of the book, which was about 250 pages, and it's making the book even more experimental but I'm sort of embracing it as this opportunity to write about the difficulties and strangeness of writing memoir. So we'll see what happens with it.
As far as my blog, my girlfriend Dashiell, who I write about in the blog, she's really amazing and I really check in with her all the time. It's much more important to me that she feels comfortable and she feels good about what I'm writing than that I write it. So I really check in with her to make sure that her anonymity or her comfort doesn't feel very compromised. So right now she really likes it and I really like writing about us. Historically it's always been easier for me to write about difficult relationships so it's a real treat to be so in love with someone so wonderful and feel inspired to write about it.
The memoir you were talking about writing, is that Come, Armageddon, Come?
Yeah, although now I've changed it back to its original title at the urging of Ariel Schrag, who I respect and love, and it's now called Black Wave. And now it'll be out probably in 2014 on Sister Spit Books.
You also have a young adult fantasy book, A Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, coming out on McSweeney's. How is the process of writing fantasy different than memoir?
In some ways it's harder, in some ways it's easier. The good thing about memoir in a way is the story is already there for you. You're not really creating the story, your job is to sort of tell the story in a way that's really artful and creative. But with this you still have to be artful and creative but you also have to come up with everything from the ground up. So that's really challenging, but it's also really freeing to just be able to indulge my imagination in a way that I have never done before and I feel really inspired to do that right now. It's a relief, really, to not be writing about myself. Also, that urge and desire is still there, but I have to temper it because I don't always love the results of having a ton of work about myself out in the world. I'm also writing another young adult book called Little Faggot that's about a little faggot who runs away from his home in Phoenix, Arizona and has an adventure rather than killing himself. And then I will return to the weird memoir. But even this memoir Black Wave, I've fictionalized it so much. I mean, it's occurring in the '90s, but it's a '90s when the world is actually ending. So there's a lot of fictions in it that kind of temper the whole writing about myself thing that can feel complicated at this point.