AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDRA NAUGHTON
Alexandra Naughton’s ghost can be found hovering over the skeleton of the East Bay extension, or sometimes in a forest tracing the rings of a cut redwood. Here she was born (South Philly, 1985), and there she died (in your arms).
Elizabeth Foster: I know you currently reside in Oakland, CA, but where are you from originally?
Alexandra Naughton: Philadelphia. I moved here (Oakland) in 2008. I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I lived there until I was 22 and it felt super stagnant, you know? It’s not a small city, but it felt really small to me. Especially, you know, going there all four years of college and high school. I just wanted to get out and I had a friend who lived out here, (we’re not friends anymore) but I was like “yeah, I want to come visit you!” So, I came out and I visited her. I was like “oh yeah, I’m moving here,” so I kinda just made a jump and moved, but it’s been good. I think if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now, at all.
EF: If you hadn’t moved to Oakland what do you think you would be doing?
AN: I’d be living with my parents or trying to be a criminal. Which… Who wants to do that? Like, I feel like I’m too old to even find that idea romantic.
EF: How long have you been writing for? Seriously or otherwise.
AN: Oh, I mean… Since I was a little kid. Like writing stories or like writing songs in my head and like, you know, singing them out. I used to be on the softball team and I hated it; my dad made me do it. I just remember standing in the outfield picking weeds out of the grass and like, making up songs about why I hated softball.
EF: Have your parents read your writing?
AN: Yeah, they follow my blog. They know what I’m doing… It’s weird. My mom would say like, “Oh, these poems are like, really depressing… Are you like, okay?” and I’m like “I’m fine, it’s just a poem mom. Ya know? Don’t have a cow,” but… They’re pretty cool. They’re supportive. I think I’m lucky. My dad’s an artist. He’s a commercial artist. He always encouraged me to draw and stuff… you know, be creative when I was younger. I owe a lot to him. I am happy that that was the case. I think it would totally suck to grow up in a household where that wasn’t encouraged, like, it wasn’t permitted. I can’t imagine that.
EF: What feelings, what people, what state of mind do you feel influences your writing the most?
AN: I don’t know if other people do this, but… I wrote this thing for htmlgiant about how like I have to write I have to get my thoughts down because if I don’t I’m just going to go crazy, blah blah blah. And some guy was like “you know, that’s not writing, that’s an addiction, so congratulations on your addiction,” but that’s how I feel. If I’m confused about something or I’m trying to understand something, writing it out and analyzing it from different view points is the best way for me to understand a situation or a feeling, or something. So, I feel like confusion is typically the motivation factor when I write.
EF: How do you deal with negative criticism from strangers on the internet, such as the person you just mentioned?
AN: Yeah, that was funny because I didn’t even see that until I… I Google my name every once and a while, just to see if there’s links up about me or something. Someone reviewed something that I didn’t know about and that’s how I found that. That was just a tweet on Twitter that guy wrote about like “congrats on your addiction,” but… uhm… I haven’t gotten that much negative feedback, so far. I mean with this book I haven’t. Or my online writing… Not really, but uhm, when I make music videos, those get a lot of negative attention from 4chan people and stuff like that. Like, just idiot teenage boys, who because I don’t fit into their, you know, idealized version of a woman, like I don’t have big tits and I don’t brush my hair the way I’m supposed to or whatever, they just like to comment on my appearance or the fact that I’m not really that great at rapping or whatever… Which is fine. I don’t really care, but I don’t know. I think it’s just interesting to see what people have to say and I don’t really take it too much to heart because I think I am doing good work and I think the people that I care about think I am doing good work. I don’t think I’m hot shit. I always want to improve. I just hate that attitude, like that smug attitude that I feel like is prevalent with a lot of people who are big names in the lit scene. I’m really not crazy about that and I wouldn’t want to perpetuate that in any way
EF: Do you believe there is a limit to what can and can’t be considered poetry?
AN: Poetry is like porn. I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it. Not really. Anything could be poetry, but not anything could be good poetry. And of course it’s always up to the individual. My favorite thing is talking with a friend and hearing them use a new turn of phrase or a funny sentence and saying, “That right there was a poem.”
EF: How do you imagine Billy Corgan would react if he were to get his hands on a copy of I Will Always Be Your Whore/Love Songs for Billy Corgan?
AN: I don’t know. I hope he would be into it, but I’m not sure how he would take it. If he already knows about the book, he probably thinks I’m some crazed fan making crazed fan art. But that’s not what it is at all. I’d like to send him the book so he could see that.
EF: You’re going to be going on a book tour for I Will Always Be Your Whore/Love Songs for Billy Corgan this summer. What are your strongest feelings about that?
AN: I’m excited, and really nervous, and also kind of dreading it. I don’t dread the readings or meeting people and all the fun stuff that will happen, but we are going to be on the road for a hella long time. I’m talking like, taking a bus from Boston to Washington D.C., and bussing from Baltimore to Atlanta then to Nashville. Thankfully, I am traveling with my friend and fellow writer, Jesse Prado, so I will have someone to have talk to and have adventures with while riding on Greyhound.
EF: Do you have any advice for writers looking to publish their first book?
AN: I want to say that if you are writing something and you think it’s good and it’s something you’ve been working on for a while and truly believe is amazing, don’t be shy to just send a message to someone you know in indie publishing, or some place you’ve heard of. Just do it.
EF: How do you feel when someone approaches you to tell you that they find your work easy to relate to?
AN: It is seriously the best feeling. I think it’s not an easy thing to do to approach someone whose writing you’ve read, like it’s kind of anxiety-inducing for me when I walk up to some writer I admire, but it’s such a reward to know that someone likes your work and gets it.
EF: Do you think you’ll be writing for a substantial amount of your life?
AN: I can’t imagine doing anything else. I can’t imagine not writing. I would die.
You can purchase Alexandra’s book I Will Always Be Your Whore/Love Songs for Billy Corgan from Punk Hostage Press here.
To find more of her work follow her personal blog and check her out on Facebook. As well as the blog and Facebook page for her zine BE ABOUT IT.