Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Interview with H.O. Tanager, author of Autograph Penis

Autograph Penis Book Banner

Autograph PenisTitle: Autograph Penis
Author: H.O. Tanager
Publisher: H.O. Tanager
Pages: 282
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle

 Performance artist H. O. Tanager holds high hopes for her cross-country trip to Boston: to see great art, to eat delicious food... and to incite mayhem. But once the journey actually begins, it’s all she can do to hold on for the ride. Surrounded by brilliant, intimidating, and sometimes delicious-smelling colleagues, Tanager’s precarious hold on her ambition and desire threatens to unravel in the face of laryngitis, an angry God, and the unexpected death of a friend. Will her team’s independent spirit and wit buoy Tanager though the pitfalls, heartache - and yes, mayhem - as hundreds of artists strive to be the best that ever was, the best that’s ever been?

 For More Information:
  Autograph Penis is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble. 
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.    

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

Truly, being kind to my children and connecting with my husband. I do a lot of things for myself – writing, performing, even my work as a psychologist is essentially because I like being one and working on problems as a team with people! But being kind and loving with my family is where it is at.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

Hmm. I guess my upbringing taught me how much more fun it is to be smart, if you’re not worried about sounding that way.

When and why did you begin writing?

Well, I’ve been competing in poetry slams for 15 years, so I’ve been writing a fairly long time in an incredibly niche discipline! Slam poems are usually limited to three minutes in length – about 450 words from the mouth of a mere mortal, though some poets can squeeze in more than 600 words. It’s a really fun discipline for me, because you always get immediate feedback from the audience response as well as the slam judges.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I was a big reader when I was a child… and I thought I was very “deep.” Voila!             

When did you first know you could be a writer? 

I first knew it when I was in elementary school, and then I un-knew it in college, and then I re-knew it when I went to my first poetry slam and thought, “I could do that.”

What inspires you to write and why?

Oddity. Collisions between worlds. Outrage… that I can express through oddity!

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

Anything satirical. There is a lot of structure in satire.

What inspired you to write your first book?

This book, “Autograph Penis,” is my first book! When you look at the nonfiction works about poetry slam, you can find lots of how-to books, histories, and news articles written by outsiders… but nothing about what it is really like to be a slam poet. Nobody tries the way slam poets try – it’s all on the line, every time. And at the same time, it’s a tiny world. I wanted to share that world with a wider audience.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

Chronologically: Dr. Seuss was my first favorite author. Fox in Socks rocks.
Weird Al Yankovic. “Smells Like Nirvana” is still a touchstone for me, that video was spot-on. Instead of making nonsense lyrics to go with “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the lyrics were a commentary about what it was like to listen to the original. Perfection.
Jamie DeWolf is the reason I became a performance poet – his work is fearless, loud, and beyond savagely funny.
In terms of longer works, I read almost exclusively textbooks and biography, partly because I’m interested, and partly because it’s hard to find fiction that has enough humor to keep me engaged with simultaneously enough craft to make me thrill. My favorite fiction series of all time is Harry Potter – I’ve read it quite a few times to myself and twice all the way through to my two boys. I’ve also really, really enjoyed the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. You’ll notice it’s my only mention that isn’t strongly humor-based – and that’s how engaging I’ve found her unique premise and heroine to be.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

Knowing your purpose with every piece, so that you can tell if you are meeting your goals in terms of craft and storytelling.

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?

I learned how important outside enthusiasm is for me to keep going – it’s like the gas in the tank. My editor, Melissa Newman-Evans, really understood this project, and being able to share that vision with her is what made this book happen.

Do you intend to make writing a career?

If you mean my primary career, absolutely not! I’m a psychologist – imagine if your shrink would rather be doing something else… It’s not even ethical! Plus I love problem-solving with clients. They keep me really honest in how I look at myself and the world. And it’s still narrative work, at the core.

Have you developed a specific writing style?

I’m not sure! If I have, I hope to keep evolving in new ways.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? 
Satire. Satire is the lens through which painful truths can be accepted as true, and you will laugh in the bargain. And all you need is a little juxtaposition, maybe a voice, and something that makes your head kind of explode to inspire you.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?

How awesome I am?

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

My narcissism?

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

“I always wanted to be someone, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” – Lily Tomlin.

This is probably the first quote I ever loved. So wise! And so describing of my experience, possibly a universal experience, of wanting to be great but having no idea of what that might really be like.

H.O. Tanager

H. O. Tanager is an author, adventurer, and provocateur who divides her time amongst her passions: family, satirical performance pieces, and convincingly wearing slacks. She’s achieved so many things, she finds achievements boring. What she does like is surprise, and people who work hard, juxtaposition, and repurposing forms for her own amusement.

For More Information

Visit H.O.’s website. Connect with H.O. on Facebook and Twitter.

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