Bookslut's Indie Heartthrob Interview Series
By: JOHN ZUARINO
A weekly interview series where someone involved in the small press (be it writer, editor, slush slave, etc.) is thrown into the spotlight, grilled over the state of the independents and sundry other items, and quickly made to return from whence they came after having graced us all with their presence. This week: Cristy C. Road
Cristy C. Road's newest novel, Bad Habits: A Love Story , speaks with a mind not unlike Lynda Barry's in a world recalling that of Maggie and Hopey. Through a Brooklyn immersed in sex, drugs, and violence Road weaves her story between words and abrasive-yet-stunning illustrations ranging from the literal tugging at the heartstrings to recharging a robotic pelvis. She sets her story in words that flow the way words were always meant to flow in a brief description of Brooklyn:
...like Brooklyn, the human heart is divided into several humble portals, each with a function, relevance, history, and culture distinct to its region. Every developmental blow cripples the antiquity of its boroughs, and every imperfect experience cripples the wellbeing of every corner of the heart. But the city doesn't stop, and the human heart trudges with clandestine motivation.
I spoke to Cristy this week about the reason, method, and motivation behind her latest work among other things.
How have your roots at Greenzine impacted your work today?
I wrote Greenzine for about ten years (age 14-23), and it ultimately built the foundation for everything I do. All of my creative projects have really just popped out of me, organically, one after the other. The whole process was pretty gradual--I began writing just about Green Day and how they saved my life. How the "sellout" dichotomy always felt a bit classist to me. It seemed like such an economic privilege to say success was evil, so I had to gripe about it. Eventually, I started writing about other punk rock bands, as I delve much more into the subculture- outside of Green Day. That experience led to writing about my personal views on sex, gender, racism, and such things that were beginning to completely destroy my worldview. Fortunately, the punk scene provided a platform where I felt comfortable writing about these things. Before I knew it, I decided the fifteenth issue of my zine should be a novel, due to its long content and subject matter.
It was about being latina, punk rock, female, and queer while growing up in Miami in the 90s. I wanted to attempt to reach out beyond the confines of indepdendent zine culture by putting it out in book format, and that lead to where I am now- putting out Bad Habits .
Bad Habits calls to mind Lynda Barry's illustrated novel Cruddy . Has this inspired your work at all? If not, what has?
I loved Cruddy ! It actually was the only illustrated novel I had ever seen that wasnt strictly in comic-book format. Although, through my early years, the stuff that really affected me and pushed me to create anything was a hybrid of my favorite song writers (like Billie Joe from Green Day and Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill), John Kricfalusi (Ren and Stimpy, Spumco), Jaime Hernandez ( Love and Rockets , Locas ), Eric Drooker's art, and a lot of writing that is pretty stylistically different than mine: Toni Morisson, Dorothy Allison, Tom Robbins.
In writing Bad Habits , how did you manage the illustration and writing aspects? Did one instruct the other, or were they more complementary processes?
I tend to write first, always. I write all day, everywhere I go; but drawing is more of a planned process. Once I had a concrete story, I started art, but of course that wasn't so structured. I definitely had spurts of ideas for art, made it, and re-wrote certain parts of the book in order to fit the new image. So it's not the most stable process, but I've learned I can't work any other way. I tried the whole storyboard thing. It was a nightmare!
How do you think your writing has changed between working on Indestructible and Bad Habits ?
I basically started reading a lot more fiction (and English grammar books); and this inspired me to focus on my writing differently than I had in the past. I never really took English classes in high school seriously, and growing up, I wrote in both English and Spanish (my first language). I focused on English, obviously, living in America and all--I just didnt really know what I was doing, which I believe is the best way to learn! (Dabbling in appealing, yet alien terrain) I had always written in a more poetic/song format: many, many fragments and useless sentences that look hella good on their own. With Bad Habits , I wanted to stray from that.
Another thing I learned between the two projects was how to tell a story, thus displaying a theory as opposed to writing out the theory with little explanation on the time/place/characters. I felt I had to do everything differently in order to be better at this, since i was no longer writing short pieces for zines (and Indestructible was very much like that, except on a consistent subject, so in chronological order it made sense as a novel). Basically, as I grow I ramble and over-analyze a lot more, so I sorta had to learn SOME structure. What started as a short story that was going to be 100 percent illustrations (with occasional text bubbles) turned into Bad Habits ... It's 'cause I'm a Gemini. And we don't shut up. It's all good change. I even learned how to use semi-colons! I don't just use them 'cause they look cool!
You worked on a series of illustrated novels based on Esther Bell 's upcoming Flaming Heterosexual Female . Can you tell me about the film and how you got involved?
Oh, Esther and I met through mutual friends when we both lived out in Philly, when she began working on the script. Unfortunately, we've stopped working on that right now! Getting a movie out is hard work that I can't even imagine, so the novels are being put off for a while until plans for the movie itself solidify. Tragic.
If you were asked to write and illustrate a Sarah Palin biography, how would it look and where would you start?
I would start by making sure it's written through a truthful and objective lens as opposed to those of her tyrannical allies. Then, I would make sure I have the freedom to illustrate her agenda through my own lens; thus exposing the inhuman effects her politics would have on society. The lighting in such drawings would be dark and grim. The story will conclude with a classy full color piece showing her severed head inside of a giant condom, encircled by a montage. This montage will illustrate the outcomes (STD's, pregnancies by way of abuse, dead polar bears) of some of her proposed VP policies. Basically, before engaging in such a project, I will ensure the author ties her TRADITIONAL VALUES to such unfortunate circumstances such as GENOCIDE, BLINDNESS, and complete and utter POWERLESSNESS; specifically among the minds/bodies of American women.
I will also make sure to remove that over the top contour from the illustrations of her face. Homegirl needs some assistance at the MAC counter at the mall, dear god.