Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday: The Characters of IWBYJR!

In honor of Teen Read Week, I decided to do an extra special Women Who Rock Wednesday and interview Emily Black and Regan Parker, two characters from my book, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE. After all, as members of the world famous (yet fictional) punk band She Laughs, they qualify as women who rock, right? So I made several announcements on the blog and on MySpace asking for questions from fans of the book for Emily and Regan. You guys sent in some awesome questions and I tried to incorporate as many of them as possible without getting totally carried away and making the interview last forever. It still did turn out a wee bit long. What can I say, I had sooooooooo much fun revisiting two of my favorite characters!

I started the interview with general questions that people who haven't read the book can still enjoy and get to know my characters, but of course lots of fans wanted to know what happened to the characters after the book ended. So there are spoilers. I marked in BOLD where the spoilers begin and if you haven't read the book, I highly advise that you stop reading at that point, go read the book and then come back to finish the interview :) But you can still leave a comment and be eligible to win this week's prize which there will be a picture of at the bottom of the blog and you can see that as your safe point to continue reading.

Before we begin, I have a couple of IWBYJR-related announcements and of course, I have to announce the winner of last week's prize, a signed copy of Denial of Death by the Brain Surgeons! The winner is Teddy of Reddy Teddy from blogger. Teddy please email your mailing address to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com!

Now I also want to remind you that today is the absolute last day to vote for IWBYJR as the Best Book of 2008 on Venus Zine's Hott List. I'm up against some really stiff bestselling book competition, but with your help my little punk rock book might actually have a shot. So get those last votes in here!

Saving the best for last, I wanted to tell you guys about an amazing opportunity to get your hands on a marked-up copy of IWBYJR and help out an amazing charity, First Book which helps disadvantaged children have access to reading material. Some fabulous teen book bloggers came together to raise money for First Book's Leave a Mark auction and they asked authors like me to mark up their books so they could auction them off. Basically this means I didn't just sign the book, I spent all night writing notes in the margins giving you background information and insights into the story. So if you are a hardcore IWBYJR fan, this is a must have for you OR if you haven't read the book yet, this is your chance to get a one of a kind copy and help a good cause. Bidding runs through Friday, I believe and you can check out the auction on The Page Flipper's blog right here!

Now, on to the main event! The long-awaited interview with Emily Black and Regan Park of She Laughs!

Q: Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday, Emily and Regan! It's great to be speaking with you guys again because it's been way too long. I've got some awesome questions that your fans sent in and I think we'll start with this one: If She Laughs was an ice cream flavor what flavor would they be?

Shit, do you know how many ice cream flavors there now? I don't even know them all, so how are we gonna choose? Does Ben and Jerry's have punk flavor yet?

Emily (laughing): Dude, what would that taste like sweat and stale beer? I don't know about that. Lets stick with the classic most awesome flavor. Cookie Dough. Cookie Dough ice cream is the ultimate because it's two kinds of dessert in one and our band will leave you as satisfied as two desserts in one.

Regan: Isn't Cookies and Cream two desserts in one, too, though?

Emily: But you usually eat cookie dough raw. And we're totally raw.

Regan: Okay that's good. Though in the past we've been Rocky Road...

Emily: Well yeah, and like Rocky Road even though it's rocky, it's still awesome.

Regan: She's not really this arrogant. She just plays it up to cover her soft underbelly.

Emily: Pfft. Whatever.

Q: Well, that's a good lead-in for this next question actually, speaking of soft underbellies. Was there ever something so personal to you that you couldn't express it in music? Something you're saving for later, when it's easier to handle, or something that's just so private it's yours alone?

Regan: Well, I have I have to say that the nice thing about being a drummer is that there's no way you know what I'm thinking when I'm playing. I can pour everything into music and I do. Drumming has always been the way I get through things. When I don't drum, that's when you have to worry about me. Then I'm letting things get pent up and well, I've had a tendency in the past to drown my sorrows in the bottle instead and that's just no good. But Emily as the singer and lyricist, I imagine you have to be more guarded.

Emily: Yeah, I am, but not about the personal stuff that you'd imagine. Like when I'm hurt or angry. I can write about those emotions comfortably, my lyrics aren't always direct, but I know what I'm singing about. I can't write about the things that make me feel really vulnerable though. Like love. True, real, deep love. You won't see me writing a love song. Not one that anyone besides my beloved will hear anyway. That's mine. I can't share that with anyone but him.

Q: I like this uncomfortable line of questioning... Let's try another one. What was the most embarrassing thing to happen to you on tour and where?

Emily: Oh that's an easy one. The show in Seattle where I got totally trashed and ranted about my love life on stage. You simply cannot top that kind of embarrassment. Well unless you get trashed and go on stage often maybe, but I try to avoid that.

Regan: It's an easy one for me too because I never do embarrassing things. I just embarrass Emily and Tom like when I talk about Emily's love life on stage.

Emily: Whatever, Regan! You embarrassed yourself a bunch when we first started touring and meeting bands that we admired. She would either get so tongue-tied or she would stand there and babble to them like a drunken idiot.

Regan: Except I wasn't drunk. I do think Mike Ness from Social Distortion still avoids me though because I kept him cornered for like fifteen minutes just babbling away to him when we first met.

Emily: That is so not the worst of it though. You puked on Moe Tucker's shoes when you met her.

Regan: Yes, I puked on Moe Tucker, the drummer from the Velvet Underground's shoes. That's how I show people how much I respect them by getting so nervous I vomit on their shoes.

Q: I take it she is one of your heroes then because that was another question about which drummers you admire?

Regan: Yes, I love Moe. Her and Sandy West from the Runaways were my earliest influences. I also love the greats like John Bonham and Neil Peart even though it is so unpunk to admit to listening to Rush. Dave Grohl is a real powerhouse, too. And Patti Schemel from Hole. Oh and Sam Maloney who also drummed in Hole AND drummed for Motley Crue. A girl drummer in a cock rock band. That has to be the greatest thing on earth. I would totally do that. I'm just waiting for the invite.

Q: Thanks for the perfect lead-in to another question. If you could play in an already existing band, besides She Laughs, what would it be and why?

Emily: So Regan, I guess your answer is Skid Row or something, huh?

Regan: Maybe more like Guns N Roses. I might be the one person who could keep Axl in line since I've had plenty of practice keeping you in line, Em.

Emily: Ha! Well, I think if I did anything else besides She Laughs it would be because I want to play with all girls. So I'd have to see to join the best all-girl band currently in existence, Civet.

Regan: Hey, I don't really want to play with all boys. If I did they would have to be cool boys like Social D if Mike Ness would ever forgive me. But now I need to one-up, Emily and say I'd form all girl super-group with Courtney Love and Brody Dalle on vox and guitar and Kim Deal on bass.

Emily: Are you saying that Courtney and Brody are better than me?

Regan: I'm saying that I would need both Courtney and Brody to replace you.

Q: Aww, but now Tom is going to think you're going to replace him with Kim Deal.

Regan: We might if he doesn't behave!

Q: Well, I don't want to stir up trouble in your relationship, so lets go back to Social Distortion since they keep coming up. In interviews I've read, you've said that Social Distortion's "Don't Take Me For Granted" is sort of Emily's anthem; so my question is, what song would Regan's anthem be?

Regan: Well, I'd honestly have to say that "Don't Take Me For Granted" is sort of me and Emily's song.

Emily: Awwww!

Regan: Shut up! Anyway an anthem meaning a song that tells the story of my life is hard for me because I'm not always so focused on the lyrics of the song, more the rhythm and the way it makes me feel. So I'm going to answer by saying what my go-to song is, the song I listen to when I need cheering up or to work out my feelings or whatever, and that has always been "Wave of Mutilation" by the Pixies. The rhythm is great, you can dance around the room to it and yet it's about mutilation. I don't know. I think I love the Pixies so much because it's not about the lyrics, at least I can't usually make sense of them, but just the way the songs make you feel is so perfect. Yeah they aren't anthems in the typical sense, in the Emily sense, but in the Regan sense they are because of the vibe of the song, the way it makes you feel.

Q: Cool, okay on to the next question...

Emily: Wait don't I get to answer that one, too?

Q: Well it was for Regan...

Regan: Typical front woman, can't stand to let the drummer talk.

Emily (playfully hitting Regan): Whatever! I just thought that since we determined "Don't Take Me For Granted" was "our" song. I could choose mine. But you are getting more questions than me. You got that one about your drumming influences or whatever.

Q: Well there are some questions that are just for you. They're more personal though, so I thought we'd start on the musical stuff first.

Emily: Ugh, I always get the personal stuff and she gets the musical stuff.

Q: Don't worry, there is personal stuff for her, too. But go ahead and tell us what your anthem is.

Emily: "Ask the Angels" by Patti Smith. Rock 'n' roll is what I'm born to be, baby. Okay, you have some more music stuff for us, I hope. I'm not ready for the inevitable mom and love life questions yet.

Q: We've got a few more musical ones here. If there was one band they could bring back (either from the dead, or put back together) who would it be and why?

Emily and Regan in unison: The Runaways!

Regan: We loved them!

Emily: We lived their songs, a little too literally sometimes. (Singing) "Hello world, I'm your wild girl! I'm your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb!"

Regan: I was so completely devastated when Sandy West died. I'm glad we were invited to play at the memorial tribute. It was probably one of the most meaningful concerts we've done. We've done a ton of political fundraiser type concerts and festivals and stuff, but that one mattered the most to me.

Q: Speaking of festivals, which bands and singers would perform at your "dream music festival"?

Emily: A reunited Runaways with Regan filling in on drums.

Regan: Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Social D, my sister's band July Lies.

Emily: But newer bands too. Like Spinnerette, Brody Dalle's new band. I'm dying to check them out. And Rise Against, gotta support Chicago punk.

Regan: Tiger Army and the Horrorpops. Those psychobilly bands are so much fun live.

Emily: And now this is almost all punk. We need more variety.

Regan: How about the Pixies and Sonic Youth and PJ Harvey?

Emily: Good and the White Stripes. When I first heard them, I had such a crush on Jack White. Not like an I'd-cheat-on-my-man-with-him crush, but like an I-wanna-be-him crush. I should amend my "What other bands do you want to be in" answer and say Civet and the White Stripes.

Regan: And Civet needs to play our festival, too.

Emily: Definitely.

Q: Since you're opening up about your Jack White crush, maybe you're almost ready for some personal questions? (Regan shrugs, Emily looks mildly distrustful.) We'll start with a fun one to ease you in. Tell us about a prank you pulled as kids.

Emily (immediately brightening up): Oh my god, where do we begin? There was the time I replaced that bitch Jackie Jenkins shampoo with blue hair dye. She showered at home after cheerleading practice after that.

Regan: Oh but how about our best prank phone call of all time?

Emily and Regan's eyes meet and they in unison: Tom's mother!

Emily: We did this little mini-tour the summer before our senior year--

Regan: Tom's junior year. So he was barely sixteen and his mom hated us, so she totally forbid him to go--

Emily: Even though were just in Madison, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. With Regan's responsible older sister the whole time.

Regan: Marissa is not that responsible. Our parents might have told themselves she was, but not Tom's mom. Not to mention, Marissa was the result of my mother's teen pregnancy, the very thing that most repulsed Tom's mom about my family.

Emily: And we totally played on that.

Regan: Tom was just gonna go on the tour and deal with the consequences when he got home, his usual method of dealing with his mother in regards to the band and me. But we decided that was no fun, so we called her from Madison and told her that Tom and I were up there getting married because Tom knocked me up.

Emily: She was so livid. I didn't think her religion allowed her to call us all those names she called us. She actually told us she was calling the police too and filing some sort of kidnapping report. It freaked us out a little bit, so we didn't tell Tom about it.

Regan: Poor Tom. He always ends up being a prank victim it seems. He had to go through the most embarrassing sex talk in the world when we got home. It's a wonder he didn't break up with me and quit the band.

Emily: On several occasions!

Q: Well now that we are talking about Tom, let's get into these more personal questions.

Note to Readers: SPOILER ALERT!!! If you haven't read IWBYJR quit reading the interview now and go read the book first!

Seriously, QUIT READING if you haven't read the book, there are serious SPOILERS ahead!

Q: Regan, readers want to know is your relationship with Tom still going strong and if so how do you keep the love with your high school sweetheart alive?

Regan: Tom and I have been married for four years now. I did chicken out and break up with him the first time he proposed, so maybe that's the key. Take a break, see what's out there and be reminded that you had the best, then beg him to take you back. Actually, I wouldn't advise that though. That was really painful. Honestly, I think playing music together helps us keep the love alive because it's always triggered such chemistry between us. That and having a sense of humor. Tom's finally gotten into the prank playing thing. It's fun.

Q: Regan, if you ever did have a child what would be some of your top boys and girls' names?

Regan: Tom and I have a three year-old girl, Rose. I liked the name on a few different levels. I think it's a cool name for a girl because roses are beautiful but they can also hurt you with their thorns. My daughter certainly isn't a delicate flower.

Emily (proudly): She slapped a boy in her preschool just last week.

Regan: And Aunt Emily should not encourage such behavior. Rose is also named for Emily in a way because there's this story called "A Rose for Emily."

Emily: Ugh! I hate when she says this! In that story Emily is crazy, she like sleeps next to the body of her deceased lover or something.

Regan: And you're not just the teeniest bit crazy? (Shaking her head at furious look from Emily). Okay, Rose is partially named for Emily because she has the same middle name as Emily, Diana. And I do want to get pregnant again as soon as the band's touring schedule allows for it. I think we want to tour for one more year since we took off last year when Emily had her son and on that note, I'm not sure what we'd name a boy because Emily stole our boy name, Cash.

Emily: Well like you, I wanted a tribute to Johnny Cash and I'm sure as hell not naming a kid Johnny! It's only his middle name anyway so you could still use it. My son is named for the best man on this earth, Michael, for his grandfather.

Q: Speaking of your dad, Emily, I have a couple questions for you about your dad.

Emily: At least they aren't Mom questions. Shoot.

Q: Well the Mom questions are coming, but we'll start with this. Do you feel that a girl misses out on anything specific when being raised by only a father?

Emily: I want to say no, but I'd be lying. My dad gave me everything I needed on so many levels, but sometimes I did just need a woman to talk to. Like about boys. I turned to Molly usually when I needed to, but maybe I wouldn't have made so many mistakes with guys if my mom was around. Well, maybe not my mom, but a mom who could give more sound advice about guys.

Regan: I made guys mistakes and I had an awesome mom.

Emily: Yeah, well, there is that... Maybe it wouldn't have made a big difference. Probably not given my personality, but having a woman to talk to is important. I'm glad I had Molly for that.

Q: Okay, Emily, since every girl marries her father, what are the shining examples of that truth in your man?

Emily: Well as much as I love my man and even though we have a beautiful child together, I'm not marrying him. Maybe it's a leftover fear-of-love thing that stems from my parents' relationship, but I think moreso it's just that I don't like doing things the traditional way. And Ian accepts that. Like my dad, he accepts me completely for who I am. He's also kind of on the quiet side like my dad, but when he has a point to get across he can make me listen. Most of all, he has the same honest creative passion as my dad. For my dad, it's music, for Ian, it's photography. My dad taught me almost everything I know about music and now Ian's teaching me a ton about photography

Q: Emily, where are you living and why?

Emily: In Chicago. It was always the city I claimed for myself. Growing up in Carlisle, I clung to the idea that I was born in Chicago and from a real city. I love being in the midst of all the busy-ness in the city. But I do need a break from it sometimes. Both Ian and I were raised in the country. We have a farmhouse not to far from River's Edge where we go to escape and hang with our families and I record most of my music there because that is just where my music has always come from. It's funny how before Chicago was the escape and now the Carlisle area is.

Q: Okay, here comes the big unavoidable questions. Everyone wants to know, Emily, if Louisa has tried to make contact with you and if you stay in contact with her at all? And, Regan, if your mom is in touch with Louisa.

Emily (sighing): See, I can write songs about this stuff without having to really be obvious about my feelings. It's still hard to just straight up talk about my mom. Yeah, she sent my dad and me a letter. And I didn't read it or her notebooks for over two years. My dad kept his distance a bit at first, too, because he didn't want to go against my feelings or whatever. But I told him to go ahead and talk to her, have his closure, work things out, whatever he needed. And their relationship, well, that's their business and I won't really get into that here. Molly and my mom write and talk all the time. They need each other, just like Regan and me. So yeah, when I was finally ready to look at Louisa's letters and her notebooks, Molly was the one I sat down with. Maybe it was more of that weird, emotional girly stuff you need a mother figure for, but probably it was just because my dad has his own shit with Louisa and it is just way too emotional the two of us combined. Anyway, Molly helped me process, Louisa's letters and the notebooks. And I actually wrote like six or seven letters to Louisa with my response to her. Some of them were angry, some of them were sad, one of them was even a total "I forgive you, come home and let's be a family" letter. I put a sticky note on top of all the letters that said, "Clearly I don't know how the fuck I feel about you and you're just going to have to deal with that for right now." And she wrote me back and said she'd deal with it however I wanted to deal with it. So there were letters for another year, then finally there was a phone call and now I see her every once in awhile. Our first meeting was at a bar in New Orleans which seems appropriate, don't you think? She's still kind of nomadic, but obviously so am I with touring and everything. Meeting in places outside of Carlisle and Chicago works for us, it's like meeting in neutral territory. She's come to Chicago once though to see her grandson. Yeah, so that's that.

Well, there you have it. Now there is no need for a sequel, right? Or maybe there is plenty of room for a sequel. Only time will tell. And if I do someday decide to write a sequel, I reserve the right to completely change all of this. This was just my first instinct of where I thought Emily and Regan would be 9 years after the book. Feel free to leave a comment on how you imagined Emily and Regan 9 years after IWBYJR because now that the book is out there, it is just as much yours as mine and I always think the story is best left up to your interpretation.

I gotta say, I had wayyyyy too much fun doing that interview. I hope it was fun for you too. Now feel free to comment away about it because here is the fabulous prize that one lucky winner will receive:
Since I didn't have any She Laughs memorabilia, I wanted to give you a piece of my biggest rock star moment. This is a big poster from the event I did at the Metro a month ago. It is signed by me, Irvine Welsh, and Bill Hillmann. Now Bill and I aren't very famous (yet!), but obviously signed Irvine memorabilia is a big thing. The Metro will be auctioning these off for charity at some point. But you can win one right here by leaving a comment. I will choose a winner at random two weeks from today on October 29th when I host Kelly Parra, author of the amazing book Invisible Touch which just came out yesterday (but I read an ARC and I can tell you it is soooooooooo good!)

Yes, I did say Kelly will be here two weeks from today. Next week I am taking the week off from blogging (except at MTV Books where I'll be Monday and Teen Fiction Cafe where I'll be sometime next week because I'm due up on those group blogs) to get some hard work done on my 3rd book! I love blogging but if I don't take a week off here and there you guys won't get more books and that would make us all sad.

Hope to see some of you at the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend! And a big shout-out to everyone who was at the Forest Park Public Library last night, especially all the teens who came out. It was one of my most fun events yet!


Anonymous said...

Great interview! You got good questions, too, no thanks to me. I only thought of things to ask Louisa.

Anonymous said...

Best blog ever. This made me so happy!
And both my questions got answered, so I totally nerded out over that, clapping my hands and squealing to myself.
But it's so cool to learn more about the characters! And to get an idea of where they are years after the book.
I love that Regan and Tom named their daughter after Emily; it's so cute! As was the answer to my question, with Regan seeing Don't Take Me For Granted as THEIR song; I loved it. :)
And the musical references were AMAZING, as always! The Runaways and the HorrorPops references made me smile, and the festival question was AWESOME. I would SO love to see that line-up!

But I'm gonna stop rambling now... Thank you sooo much for the interview, and hope you're doing well :)