The Idea of Agency: An Interview with Alexandra Naughton

 

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Elaborate a bit on your new Ghost City Press mini-chap. Is I Wish You Never Emailed Me a part of something arriving in the future?

You know, I wasn’t planning on it being anything more than what it became, but I have been working on little bits recently and I truly believe I Wish You Never Emailed Me was the start of this larger narrative. Ever since I got sober last year I have been trying to focus more on self-care and breaking bad habits and IWYNEM was the catalyst to get me talking and writing about that.

You previously referred to your books as concept albums. What are some concept albums that have left an impression on you over the years?

Beach Boys  Pet Sounds, Bright Eyes  Fevers and Mirrors, No Doubt — Tragic Kingdom, RZA — Bobby Digital in Stereo, Smashing Pumpkins — Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Lana Del Rey — Ultraviolence.

Do you find there is an explicit difference between composing novels and poetry? What do you think is the most important element when unraveling a narrative onto a page?

I don’t really think there is much of a difference. Maybe in ability to sell/profit on the final product. When I’m putting narrative on the page the most important thing to me is getting it down, laying down the idea, the structure, the bones of the thing. Once those are down I can relax and take time to edit and think more about the details and how things will work. So, just getting it down, documenting the idea, is super essential.

How have The Smashing Pumpkins and Lana Del Rey proven to be influences throughout your life? Who are some other people you connect to, literary or otherwise?

I think LDR and Billy Corgan/Smashing Pumpkins are very dramatic but in a sarcastic way and that’s something I always liked about performance. Like I’m pretending that I’m taking this all very seriously, and maybe in a way I am, but I’m also aware that the whole thing is a big joke. It’s a comedy routine. LDR is totally a performance artist though I don’t think she would ever cop to it and that’s the best part. Billy Corgan’s whole existence is a ridiculous joke.

Aside from the manic pixie dream girl, what other narrative and pop culture tropes do you wish to eradicate, either through your writing or your activism?

I don’t want to eradicate the manic pixie dream girl as much as I’d like to play with the trope and redirect the audience’s expectations. I love cliches, I love tropes, and the best part about them is messing with them and making the audience be like, what. I think hatred of the mpdg character trope is a kind of misogyny and I’m not really down with that because really, what is so wrong with a whimsical character who does bizarre things and enjoys herself and is fun to have at parties? The problem with the trope is the idea of agency, is she existing for herself or is she existing solely for the purpose of moving another character forward? Does she have friends, a life outside of the male protagonist, etc? In American Mary, the narrator is a type of mpdg character, but she is entirely with agency, and the only story she moves along is her own.

I don’t consider myself an activist. I write jokes on the internet.

What started your long-term support and devotion to independent artistry?

I just like doing things and I like seeing other people doing fun things with paper and performance and I don’t think one really needs some sort of establishment to back them up in order to do it. I’m just messing around. Making zines, publishing poetry, putting on shows, this is all fun for me.

What sparked the creation of Be About It Press? How has being a publisher expanded or changed your opinions of literature as a whole, if at all?

I started Be About It Press because I thought it would be fun. Having a zine was something I’d always wanted to do. I like putting things together. I like connecting people. I don’t think my opinion of literature has changed much, but I have realized that I don’t have as much free time as I would like to have to devote to all the projects I want to do.

Tell me about the mixtape you teased about earlier. What are some current ideas you have for it? Any other plans or projects?

I have so many projects and plans but I think I want to keep them under wraps for the most part right now. I’m working on a book about public transit, the larger piece I mentioned previously, and this mixtape that I’m mostly just thinking about right now but I know how I want to do it. Also short films and some other things. I literally just need a week or two with no prior commitments!

Lastly, how can we support you?

You can support me on my patreon page, you can buy American Mary (from me directly, paypal: hegemonster@gmail.com or venmo)

Interview conducted by Jordan Hoxsie.

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