Interview with Serena Toxicat, author of “Evangeline and the Drama Wheel”
This interview is being included in the 2013 Women in Horror Interview Series. Every February, Women in Horror Recognition Month (WiHM) assists underrepresented female genre artists in gaining opportunities, exposure, and education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews, and online support. You can find out more about WiHM here:
Serena Toxicat slinks across the dimensions as (alternately and simultaneously) a writer and translator, a singer and dancer, an actor and model, a painter and tattoo collector, a domestic violence peer counselor, group leader for people living with mental illnesses, cat socializer, and NLP life coach. She’s an experienced psychic reader and energy healer who was ordained a priestess in the Fellowship of Isis.
SF-born and bred, Serena is a world explorer who lived almost 8 years in Paris and recently traveled to Egypt, where she recorded vocals in the King’s Chamber of Khufu for her latest Protea album, Going Forth By Night.
She has been published in anthologies and magazines, and written award winning plays and poems in English and French. Her parallel recording projects are Starchasm and Catbox Theory, and she regularly collaborates with musicians worldwide.
Q. When did you start writing?
A. I was a junior in high school when I won my first award for poetry. I think that’s when I started, since my teacher asked me, in a sensitive manner, if I’d plagiarized it. Combing my memory here… This suggests that I hadn’t put much thought into writing, at least into my own, higher level, creative writing, before 11th grade. Although I’d always loved books and done well in my English classes, I was more focused on painting in my earlier childhood. A family friend had given me an acrylic set, which never stopped fascinating me. When I wasn’t using it I was staring at the tubes all lined up in various states of diminution.
Q. What inspires you to write?
A. Emotionally charged situations, drama mistaken for love, human cauldrons of chaos, traumas, manic episodes… I’m trying to recall happier inspirations. Euphoria doesn’t count. I’d like to defeat the cliche that happiness is not conducive to art. Maybe joy is and it’s contentedness that isn’t. My cats certainly inspire me, and they’re always good for a smile!
Q. Evangeline and the Drama Wheel is prose with a distinctly poetic feel – do you think that your background as a poet and lyricist impacted your writing of the novella? if so, how?
A. I had just left a touring band when I started that book, so lyrics must have been embedded in my mind, heart and hand. It wasn’t a conscious thing but it would have been rather unlikely that music and lyrics had not impacted it, especially since it’s a novella based on the tour in question! I was always aware of a musicality in words, and enjoy working and playing within that atmosphere. There was a time I did three open mics a week and lots of poetry features. My first play, which I wrote at 17, was in verse.
Q. The story, with its inter-species hybrids, contains many elements of science-fiction, in addition to elements of dark fantasy. Are you a fan of either genre? How would you place your story genre-wise?
A. To me, it’s a children’s book with mostly adult readers. Yes, I’m a fan of both, and I’m not embarrassed to say I was a Trekker. Never went to the cons or anything but I watched the series. SG1 was my next space passion. I remember being really touched when Octavia Butler died. An image of a sci-fi book is coming up. I must have been in first grade, or maybe a little older. Hardcover, thin volume, blue and white cover… Clearly the seed was there. Must be my Aquarius sun. “You Will Go to the Moon” was one of my favorite books as a child. Meeting Terry Pratchett was amusing. My friend and I brought our jungle hybrid cats on leashes to the auditorium in honor of one of his feline characters. My cat and I approached Terry for a chat and an autograph. It was a long catwalk through rows of card table chairs. Poor devil backed up as if we’d plotted to drop a lethal hairball on him! Years later I spotted some Pratchett novels in a public market in Cairo. Small world, sentient multiverse, or just good marketing? I’ve always felt part cat.
Q. Although women are still a relative rarity in horror, we’re seeing an increase in female writers in fantasy over the past decade: but mostly Young Adult writers such as J.K. Rowling. Have you experienced any particular difficulty associated with being a female author?
A. I have noticed that when I say I’ve written a novella and other works I get some patronizing responses. I have to wonder, would this happen to a dude? It’s hard to know what attitudes would rear up in the larger book world. Is this a mere microcosm of the mainstream arena? I do feel geekdom is still seen as a guy thing.
Q. Do you think it is getting easier for
women to write in traditionally male genres? And related – do you think we are more traditionally easily assigned to a YA genre.
A. I think it is, but you always hear about or experience such things taking a backward turn, about women moving ahead, then reverting, or being cast back, into the more predictable matrix. It’s like the chiropractic phenomenon of retracing. I do think women and YA tend to be linked in the minds of the masses. The association was there before Rowling and it’s the same now. That reminds me, isn’t there a movie based on Judy Blume’s “Tiger Eyes”?
(Editor’s Note: A movie adaptation of Judy Blume’s “Tiger Eyes” debuted at the Monclair Film Festival in May 2012: http://www.nj.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2012/05/judy_blumes_tiger_eyes.html)
Q. Is there anything else you would like the readers to know about you and your writing before we end?
A. Many authors say books write themselves when they need to come out. I think they’re right. I know Evangeline had to happen. I wonder what my brain and body would have done had the novella not found its way to freedom.
Toxicat’s novella, Evangeline and the Drama Wheel, currently resides at www.lulu.com/content/1153339, and her poetry book, Paper Wings, at www.lulu.com/product/paperback/paper-wings/6412668.
Evangeline has plans to move to Isis House, deTraci Regula’s publishing company. In the meantime, you can use this coupon (which is also good for Sumiko Saulson’s books on Lulu, if you are feeling like going on a major Lulu shopping spree).
The Mars Mission:
In the middle of this interview, something ASTOUNDing happened. NASA’s Mars rover “Curiosity” landed. It was my belief that the Lulu coupon was issued at that time in response to the rover landing (so everyone could celebrate by purchasing independent science-fiction, or even non-fiction, perhaps) but then I looked, and there was no indication that was why: still, that’s my story, and I am sticking to it.
Here is a story link:
Last but not least, Serena and I will be Haunting Laurel Bookstore on October 30th, and the details are HERE: