Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna!

So today is the first official WOMEN WHO ROCK WEDNESDAY! Every Wednesday I’m planning to shine the spotlight on a female writer, musician, artist, designer, film maker, actress, or all-around awesome lady that rocks my world. Whenever I can, I will interview my featured Woman Who Rocks and do a giveaway. The main goal of this is to get the word out about kick-ass women and their projects because unfortunately women still aren’t getting all the credit they deserve in this world and, as my first guest speaks to and I’ve been getting into a lot of conversations about lately, women are not always supportive of other women. The Mean Girl/Catty Woman mentality is so destructive and I’m so sick of it, but instead of just complaining, I want to do something to counteract it by celebrating my fellow rockin’ ladies!

My first WWR (Woman Who Rocks, of course. WWR is the new BFF, people. Start using it as often as possible so even the tabloids pick it up and start labeling women as WWRs instead of calling them out for being fat or having cellulite!) is the fabulous Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna, easily one of the most rockin’ women out there:

I met Carrie through Rock ‘n’ Read, which happened just a few weeks too soon for her to promote her amazing new book, Cherry Bomb: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Flirt, a Tougher Chick, and a Hotter Girlfriend--and to Living Life Like a Rock Star, but Carrie is supportive of her fellow rockin’ women, so she came to Rock ‘n’ Read and to my Book Soup event with Alexa Young. I thought she was beyond cool, totally the kind of big sister I always wished I had, and Cherry Bomb allows her to be that sister to all of us! COSMOgirl! says “Think of it as a cool girl’s guide to life,” and L.A. Weekly raves “Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna has taken the fluffy and tired genre known as "grrrl guides" (the girl-powery nonfiction sister to chick lit) and given it claws — black, of course."

Today, we celebrate Carrie, her cool-ass book, and learn more about both of them. And at the end of the interview, you guessed it, you’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of Cherry Bomb!

Q: Cherry Bomb is the ultimate guide to being a kick-ass, tough, rock 'n' roll girl and you've got some great ladies giving advice. Tell us about some of the highlights, who's giving the best advice about what?

Carrie: The contributors in the book really outdid themselves. We’ve got Lisa Loeb sharing her domestic diva side in the chapter on how to be a rockin’ hostess. (Her challah bread grilled cheese recipe is great for hangovers!) And, then we’ve got Dita Von Teese waxing poetic on how to do a classy striptease for your man (or woman) in the bedroom. You know what they say -- men want a whore in the bedroom and Betty Crocker in the kitchen. Cherry Bomb shows you how to be both! And to sooth your rock-weathered soul, Tori Amos offers us some zen life advice on how you need recharge to move forward. Cherie Currie of the Runaways talks about what the song, and book’s namesake, “Cherry Bomb” is all about, Terri Nunn of Berlin gets down and dirty with some sex advice, Kat Von D makes you think hard before deciding what the next tattoo will be. They all really rocked it out!

Q:This is a great concept for a book, fun and empowering, tell us a little bit about how you got the inspiration for it and the process of rounding up rockin' women to participate?

Carrie: I needed a book like this for myself years back and always joked with friends that someone needed to write a “rock chick guide to life.” There are tons of girl guides out there, but none that spoke to the edgier, more alternative, rock and roll-minded girl. I’ve written advice columns before and tend to be the older rock wife of the bunch that the younger rock chicks always come to for advice and it was just time to put it all my useless knowledge in a book and share it with others. The bulk of the advice in the book is from my own experience as a music/entertainment journalist since age 17 (but rock chick since kindergarten) and rock wife of almost eight years now. For the topics I’m not fully an expert on, I called in the pros. I basically just had a huge wish list of my favorite females who rock at whatever it is they do and then I wrote them all very long, lovely letters telling them why they had to be in my book. I got lucky that so many said yes!

Q: Were you always such a cool rock chick or do you have some not-so-rock-n-roll skeletons in your closet. Like for example, my first concert was Janet Jackson and the first tape I owned was Kool and the Gang (I was 7, okay? I liked that Celebration song!)…

Carrie: Hey, who says Janet and Kool and the Gang aren’t cool?! I loved both! I started out with very questionable, but age-appropriate, musical taste at age 5 when I professed my love for Donny Osmond and John Travolta (Grease!). But by age 7, dad turned me onto classic rock like the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and Led Zep and that led into the start of my ‘metal years’ when I was all about AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Ozzy from ages 10-14. I was ‘cool’ then, but hormones kicked in and I went into a deep hair band period – Poison, Cinderella, Bon Jovi. My hair was big. My hormones were raging. My musical tastes were dictated by how cute the band was. I missed out on a lot of great music during that era, like Depeche Mode and the Cure, but luckily I found them a few years down the road and made up for lost time.

Q: What was your first concert and album?

Carrie: I snuck out of the house to see Twisted Sister and Ronnie James Dio when I was 14 and got grounded for a month for it. It was at the New Haven Coliseum and I remember thinking it felt like one huge rock and roll cult and I was hooked. First album, hard to say. I begged for Donny Osmond singles when I was in Kindergarten and wore out the grooves on my Grease soundtrack my parents bought me. The first piece of music I bought on my own was the Motley Crue single for “Looks That Kill” and – at the risk of sounding like a great grandmother here, I really did have to walk a mile to the record store to buy it. I was 13.

Q: Were there lessons in Cherry Bomb that you could have used in your teens and early twenties? Were there any tips that you didn't know about and incorporated into your life as you were gathering them for the book?

Carrie: I could’ve used the lessons on Bitchy Broads and Frienemies earlier on. I don’t know why, but most women are not very nice to other women. I’ve never been one of those women and I truly, honestly, try to rise above all of that female cattiness but it’s not always easy. I wish someone sat me down earlier and explained to me why women do this and how you should handle it when a bitchy broad is on the attack.

Q: Now all my regular readers know that my favorite band is Nirvana and I'm totally a nerd when it comes to them. So I have both your Nirvana books and especially love the Illustrated Day-By-Day Chronicles, so I've gotta ask how did you get involved with and approach that project?

Carrie: This is where being a good person, a hard worker, and always leaving a job on good terms paid off. When U.K. publisher Carlton Books was looking for a writer to pen the latest installment of their “Eyewitness…” book series, Craig Rosen, my former boss at Billboard magazine and a Carlton author, suggested me. I had written about Nirvana during my 4-year tenure at Billboard and I just happened to be in Seattle when Kurt’s body was found, so I handled a lot of the on-the-street coverage of that weekend, including the vigil at the park. That was enough for Carlton to say, ‘Ok. We want you to write this book.’ I was a bit shocked. I didn’t think book deals came this way. It was the most intense project I’d ever done. I spent three months working on the book, often times in my jammies and unshowered and having crazy dreams about Kurt. I interviewed 50 people involved with Kurt or Nirvana for the book, including their old manager Danny Goldberg, and I was often times in tears after hearing their stories. The more I got into the project, the more I felt like I really understood and felt for Kurt. I used to be able to enjoy listening to Nirvana’s music for the music and lyrics and since doing the book I have a hard time getting through a song without feeling sadness.

Q: Any cool Nirvana-related stories to share?

Carrie: I’m not too cool to admit this, but I didn’t fall in love with Nirvana until about midway through the “Nevermind” album cycle. I was in love with Guns N’ Roses at the time Nirvana was breaking and when I first saw the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I turned the TV off and scoffed, “Ugh, THAT’S? Nirvana?!” Sad, but true. Other than that, I never met Kurt. But I met Courtney and she told me to “Get the fuck out of my face” when I asked her a question about Kurt helping her write songs. Fair enough. It was a rude question but I was just trying to do my job as a journalist. In hindsight, I could’ve phrased the question a bit better.

Q: And what is next up for you? Can we expect more music-fueled books in the future?

Carrie: Everything I do is fueled by music somehow and if not, I will make it music-oriented. I’ve been asked by porn star Tera Patrick and her rock star husband Evan Seinfeld to write their joint autobiography for them and we are just in the book proposal stage now. Their story is amazing and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with everyone! I want to write one book a year. I’d love to do another advice book. I’d love to do another music book. I’d love to put all of my sorted stories as rock journalist and rock wife into a collection of short stories. I would love to write for younger girls and do a Y.A. novel. I want to do a comic strip based on “Cherry Bomb” with my book’s illustrator Liz Adams. I want to write a book on writing books or how to break into magazines. I love sharing tips and advice that works.

Q: Last, I have the question that I ask all my women who rock. What was your biggest rock star moment? Anything from a concert you enjoyed to a person you met and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy!" moment to a time where you just felt like a total rock star. Please share!

Carrie: I get that way with painters more than I do with rock stars. It’s probably because I started writing when I was 17 and have met a lot of people. But when I first met painters Joe Sorren and Mark Ryden, I was completely tongue-tied. The closest I came to that in music would’ve been when I was 19 or 20 and I was in a tour bus with my boyfriend at the time with Jack Bruce of Cream fame going over the Golden Gate Bridge in S.F. That was my first taste of it. Later, sitting down with Tony Bennett for a sweet one-on-one was really special. Standing onstage watching my husband, Chris Vrenna, play in Marilyn Manson at Reading a few years back and seeing the tens of thousands of fans freak out, freaked me out! I just stood there, looking out at the crowd, looking at my husband, thinking, wow, I’m lucky and I LOVE this! I get the real “I’m not worthy” feeling when I get to travel and find myself drinking vodka in Russia or tequila at the bottom of a pyramid in Mexico. That’s the stuff that sends chills down my spine!

Thanks for sharing your great stories with us, Carrie and I would LOVE to read a book a year by you! I’m sure everybody is really excited about Cherry Bomb now and Carrie has been sweet enough to agree to send a signed copy of the book to one lucky winner! How do you enter? It’s easy. Leave a comment on this blog (maybe share your favorite rockin’ tip or just express your enthusiasm about Carrie or other rockin’ ladies) sometime before next Wednesday and I’ll pick a winner at random and announce them on the 8/20 Women Who Rock Wednesday! Our guest next week will be Mandi Perkins, a songstress with a gorgeous voice from our neighbor to the North (Yay, Canada!). You may not have heard of her yet, but trust me, you will be hearing a lot about her soon!

BTW, if you want more Carrie, you can visit her on MySpace or meet her in person this Saturday the 16th between 3 and 7 at Billy Shire Fine Arts in Culver City, CA, or at the Beauty Bar in New York City at 7 pm on August 19!


Alyson Noel said...

Awesome interview--love the concept- and Carrie totally rocks!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks Alyson!!!

tetewa said...

Enjoyed the interview and love this idea for Wednesdays! My first concert was Peter Frampton when I was 17!

Ameya said...

Love the idea for WWR Wednesdays! And this book looks great- can't wait to read it! :D

N.M.C. said...

Can't wait to see this book!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks to everyone who is excited about this book(you all should be it is awesome!) and about WWR Weds! I hope you'll keep coming back!

Cris Mic said...

Thanks for the article and the interview!! I would like to share most influential people other than rock stars, which had left their significant effect on regular people.