Curiouser & Curiouser: I read a thing you did about Deadly Women. If you could actually be on the show as one of those re-enactors, what would be your ideal role? Killer, victim, nosy neighbor witness, etc. Be as specific as possible. I always wanted to be on Unsolved Mysteries, to get my start there, like Matthew *McCougheny*...
Letitia: I would definitely be a murderer. I am not even slightly murderous or violent in real life, so it would be therapeutic to play one on television. I’d like to be a jealous girlfriend or lover. Also out of character.
C&C: Sort of related to True Crime stuff, do you think the focus of most of that Other generalization, the “Look at the Broken People” emphasis is related to the way we treat fictional crime/criminals/monsters? Movie examples: in the Swedish version ‘Let the Right One In’ the little girl vampire stays the same when she kills/mutilates, but in the American version, she mutates into a monster first. Do we have an inability to entertain the idea that ‘bad’ is a part of us regular people, or could be?
L: Oh man, I like this question. I think horror/crime fiction (and in film) we get to both try on the point of view of the “evil” or “monster,” but also to make it clear that it is other. So in slasher films, we get the murderer’s POV, but by the end, we get to be the virgin who kills the murderer (until the sequel). In horror, often the monster is something outside that comes in and “infects” us. It’s not really us. Though contemporary horror and crime writers, of course, play with this a lot and complicate it. I think a big goal for me, and something I hope to do more often in future novels, is work on synthesis instead of separation. How can horror be about acknowledging and accepting that evil as part of us and still be horror? I think John Carpenter made this great distinction between types of horror: a conservative horror, which is about the threat “out there” and horror that is about the threat within. I’ve always preferred the second one.
C&C: Do you have any pets? Why or why not?
L: I have three black cats — Cheeto, Nina Simone, and Doombot. I love cats. I grew up with lots of cats and dogs, so I always expected to have pets, though my mom is now an animal hoarder and it makes me hesitant to ever have more than three: I’m afraid it might get out of control. I love dogs, too, but they feel like a lot of work. I can hardly get myself a bath or walk, I can’t imagine having to also manage those things for a dog.
C&C: Who was your first best friend?
L: My first best friend was probably a girl named Jessi, who I met in fifth grade when I lived in Bennington, Vermont. I think we were both kind of weird little outsiders, bookish and artsy. I remember we would sit on a stoop outside a storage shed during recess and write and illustrate a story about Junebugs instead of playing on the playground. I generally had only one friend at a time anyway (I wasn’t a popular kid, to say the least), so my best friends were by default. Since Elementary school, though, I haven’t had a best friend. That makes me kind of sad.
C&C: Where did you get Roscoe’s name?
L: There is this famous folk banjo and guitar player named Roscoe Holcomb: he introduced the “high lonesome sound” of Appalachian music to a wider audience. Here’s a youtube clip:
When I was freshly pregnant and not even thinking about names, we watched a video of Roscoe Holcomb and I said “Maybe we should name the baby Roscoe.” My husband Zach agreed. We decided right then and there. We figured it was a good way to honor Zach’s Arkansas/Oklahoma heritage. When I told my mother I was going to name the baby Roscoe, she said “Roscoe? Like my dog Roscoe?” But she has about fifty dogs, so I bet one of them was bound to be named Roscoe.
C&C: Cookies or pie? And which kind and why?
L: Just these words are making me sad because I’m currently avoiding sugar, but cookies, so many cookies. God, I love cookies. Chocolate chip. Sugar cookies. Those crunchy butter cookies with jelly in the middle. Snickerdoodles. Molasses cookies. Gingerbread. There’s just something about the texture of a perfectly-baked cookie that gets me. Pies are great too, though. I really have to stop typing about pies and cookies now.
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
L: Nothing! I currently have no pockets because I’m wearing a sundress and a tank top. Which is my post-baby wardrobe because jeans no longer work and I don’t have the patience for buttons.
C&C: Did you read a lot when you were a kid?
L: I read a ton when I was a kid, which was weird, because I did not come from a family of readers (though I guess that my grandmother’s copious collections of magazines and trashy tabloids could be considered reading). I started with kids books, but when I was seven or eight started reading young adult novels. I loved problem novels about social issues, abuse, poverty, and orphans–orphans were really big in the 80’s. When I was 8 I started reading Baby Sitters Club books in addition to all of my grim problem novels. Oh, and I remember reading Hatchet, which made me fantasize about living outdoors. That winter, I tried to make acorn pancakes, which did not work. Shortly after that, I started reading adult novels–Stephen King, the Bronte sisters, etc. I also read most of my stepfather’s fantasy and sci fi novels,though I never could get into sci fi that was heavy on the science part. When I turned thirteen, I started to focus specifically on the poetry sections of the big school anthologies we read from every year. I ended up taking then all home with my over one summer (I went to a small school and nobody missed them)–I took the Brit Lit, American Lit, and World Lit and just read them straight through. I can still remember reading Sylvia Plath’s poem Blackberrying and thinking “Oh man, this is what I like.”
C&C:You went to Ohio State University? There’s a teacher there in the English dept that I had a crush on for like all of highschool. Like when I was 14, he was 16 and he carried a skateboard everywhere, smoked cigarettes, and was the bee’s knees (name omitted). Did you have him, and what sort of teacher was he? And in general, what was your best experience with a teacher? Conversely, what was your worst?
L: I went to Ohio State for my MFA, so I only experienced the grad faculty–none of my teachers had a skateboard 😦 😦 I have had some good experiences with teachers, though I’ve always been a little timid and hesitant in school settings. I have this idea that I’m bothering teachers if I ask them to look at my work, have a personal conversation, etc. I guess I still feel slightly out of place in a school setting, even if being a student is probably the one thing I’m really good at. So, I was too scared of most of my teachers or professors to really get to know them. I did have some really good ones, though, like my fifth grade teacher who encouraged my writing. Or Dr. Hall in undergrad who told me via e-mail that I should have won a school poetry contest and Dr. Cole, who helped introduce me to Feminism, and many others–I had an excellent undergrad experience, weirdly, despite going to a Southern Baptist college. I also had many encouraging grad profs like Kathy Fagan and Michelle Herman. Currently, I’m a psychology grad program and I’ve had some great professors here, but my worst school experience has actually been within the last year, when I had this group therapy class that went terribly, terribly wrong for reasons I still don’t fully understand. I didn’t think that at 32 I’d have another incredibly awkward school experience, but I guess life is full of surprises. Oh, and I did have a pretty bad experience with a semi-famous (more so at the time) visiting writer in grad school who was completely baffled by a short story I turned in, but not baffled in a good way. She didn’t like how I used the word “fuck” a lot and asked me if my story was just “about being a crazy person.”
C&C: Do you have any tattoos?
L: I have several tattoos. This is probably a boring list, but here goes! The first was a Tik Nhat Hahn quote: “Thanks to Impermanence everything is possible.” I got this in Brattleboro, Vermont, just after I started meditating, and it was wildly painful but I was immediately hooked on tattoos after that. The pain was somehow meditative, too. I started the tattoo game late–I think I was 28 when I got my first one. I didn’t think about it much and follow the impromptu tattoo policy. My second was a High Priestess image from a 70’s tarot deck. I started learning tarot when I lived in Vermont and loved it so much that I wanted to get those images on my body permanently, as reminders of things I wanted to better understand. Next were morning glories, wrapped around my High Priestess. My mother grew morning glories on the side of our trailer. I thought they were magical, how they closed and opened. I don’t have many positive childhood memories, so I wanted something to remind me of the good things about my past. The phases of the moon run down the back of my neck and back. I have an enormous, enormous open pomegranate tattoo that I got in Israel that is so amazing, but I hardly ever get to see it because it’s on my lower back (it’s kinda a monster ‘tramp stamp,’ a terrible phrase, but that’s the location). I have a sun card tarot image on my forearm, which is a matching tat with my husband. I always wanted to get a mutual tat, but we didn’t do it until just a few years ago, after being together over ten years. We figured that would help us to avoid the whole “get a tattoo then break up” thing that happens. Last, I have a Celtic moth on my back–I like the moth as a symbol. A night butterfly.
Sometimes I joke that I’ll get a really bad tattoo of my son on my bicep or something, which would be hilarious, but I will never, never do that. Still, I’m kind of impressed by bad but ambitious tattoos. To me, tattoos say “fuck you” to death, in a way–like, I’ll do whatever I want to my body because it’s impermanent, ultimately, and I’ll celebrate that by getting it all inked up.
C&C:What are your plans for Halloween?
L: I usually have major Halloween plans, but now I have a baby, so it’s hard for me to imagine how my usual Halloween parties or movies and alcohol are going to happen. I just want to get away to a dark theater and watch something terrible happening on a screen for a couple of hours. I hope that will happen.