by Alan C. Baird
ACB: Your book is pretty steamy. Is it a kiss-and-tell?
RS: Kissing? There was no kissing. There were crops and clamps and bondage tape, but nope, no kissing.
Actually, it’s a book about a character in midlife crisis, unhappy in her marriage and career and wistful about roads not taken and wishing someone would ride up on a big-assed horse and save her. So it’s more chick lit than anything. Chick lit with graphic sex.
ACB: So, the next time you write a book like this, can I be in it?
RS: I’m holding auditions. How do you feel about swinging from a trapeze?
ACB: Will you add a few inches to my… statistics?
RS: Why? Will I need to?
ACB: No, no, of course not. But, er, just in case: will you accept a check?
RS: From you? No way. But I do take PayPal.
ACB: Okey-doke, moving right along. Three Days in New York City is based on a shorter piece that was nominated for a Best American Short Story award. Has the adulation gone to your head?
RS: Hell, yeah. I so rule! Did you see who won this year? Alice Munro and Annie Proulx! I mean, am I in good company or what?
Okay, the truth: I found out after being nominated–and this is really sad–that the editor of the magazine in which my story appeared had missed the BASS submission deadline, so my nomination papers were returned, unread. That means technically, I was nominated, but um… none of the judges ever saw my story. But hey, that also means I didn’t lose!
ACB: You were raised by an artistic family – does that make your approach to writing different from those of us who grew up with non-artists?
RS: I dunno. I do have a lot of material from all the insanity that went on, and I know I’m severely damaged. But I suppose there’s probably a scientific reason for that. You know, genetics, a right-brain kind of thing: warped parents = warped children.
ACB: Weren’t you once related to a pop-music legend?
RS: Well, not blood relatives. My husband was cousin to Grace Slick’s ex-husband. But she wasn’t a pop musician. She was rock, baby.
ACB: I used to have a schnauzer named Gracie…
RS: I’m happy for you, Ace. But this is about ME. Now what were you saying about your statistics?
ACB: Very little, sadly. Why do you blog? Isn’t it the ultimate navel-gazing activity?
RS: Yep, my point exactly. Mental masturbation. It’s almost as good as the real thing. I’m so addicted I need a twelve-step program. I use it for everything from uploading excerpts of my new novel to posting pics of my kiddies to kvetching about how awful it is to have a day job.
ACB: You recently helped launch a new print magazine and pledged to write a NaNoWriMo novel in thirty days. Meanwhile, you’re an editor at NFG and Philadelphia Stories, in addition to holding down the aforementioned day job. Have you cloned yourself?
RS: Can that be done? Do you know how? Teach me, please! I need to do it, I’m ready to pass the fuck out. It’s funny, though. I get exhausted doing one load of laundry or making one photocopy at work, but when it comes to reading and writing and editing, I have unlimited energy. Hm. I wonder why.
ACB: You’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month a few times. Have you gotten any usable material from it?
RS: Actually, I got three novels out of NaNo. Okay, I’m lying. I got two and a third. The one-third is this year and I’m way behind schedule, but I’ll manage it somehow. I don’t know why, but NaNo really works for me. The first year out, 2002, I knew I had a novel in me that wanted to be written, about living with an alcoholic. Now THAT’s a kiss-and-tell story. And it was amazing: I had a 50,000-word book within thirty days. I still haven’t done anything with it, though; my plan is to turn it into a sequel to the novel I’m writing now about the jazz/rock scene. But anyway, I needed the discipline to actually sit down and do it, and I love a challenge, so when I heard about NaNo, I decided that would be the catalyst to get me started.
Last year, I had already written the short story version of Three Days in New York City, and NaNo is when it all came together as a novel.
This year I’m writing about touring with my rock-star kiddies across America. It’s straight nonfiction, which should be easy, but oh my God, I’m so freaking bored. I can hear this monotone voice in my brain, just relating the facts. I’m dying to make up lies, just so it’ll be more interesting.
ACB: You also went on a European tour with your rock-star kids. What’s the most outrageous incident from that summer?
RS: Well, if you must know… it was a music festival in Germany, held outdoors with a Woodstock atmosphere. It was like time had frozen. Men and women with waist-length hair and tie-dye shirts were dropping acid. Anyway, backstage was just like you’d imagine at any rock concert: an open bar, all kinds of drugs, and groupies and hangers-on. But the bizarre thing was – these weren’t typical rock stars because this wasn’t a typical rock festival. It was a four-day extravaganza devoted to the music of Frank Zappa, called Zappanale.
It was held in this little town in East Germany–Bad Doberan–where the central square actually features a bronze bust of Zappa, the way other town squares might have a war hero or something. It was hilarious. The town’s whole economy relies on this annual event.
Anyway… for all these years, I’ve kept my one vice hidden from my kids. And I really have only one vice. I was never a drinker, didn’t smoke cigarettes, hated hard drugs–although I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t try them–but my one vice is pot. Now my kids, they’re drug nazis. They equate pot to heroin. To them, all drugs are bad, and I suppose if I were a normal mother, this would make me ecstatic. I mean, I’m not a stoner who wakes up smoking; I enjoy a joint before I go to bed the way people enjoy a glass of wine. But I always kept it secret. I smoked when the kids weren’t home or asleep, and I always burned incense and sprayed Lysol. Well, everything was great until one day last year: I didn’t expect them home and left my bedroom door open. Then one of their musician friends showed up with them and said, “Yo dudes, your house reeks, man!”
This was how I was outed. The kiddies did an intervention. I was humiliated. Swore I’d never do it again.
So we go to Zappanale and I’m backstage at a fucking rock-and-roll festival. I’m standing there talking to all of these legendary musicians who have played with Zappa – names which will mean nothing to most people but if you love Zappa you’ll be just so impressed: Jimmy Carl Black, Napoleon Murphy Brock and Ike Willis. Anyway, I’m hanging out, drinking beer with them, joking around, when Ike pulls out some black hash. Now, I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen black hash in like twenty years. There’s just no way I can pass on that. I look around and my kids are doing a sound check so I quickly join the, uh, smoking circle. We’re passing the pipe back and forth and it tastes so good, I can’t believe it. I’m wishing I was brave enough to buy some of this and smuggle it home with me. We’re talking music and discussing Zappa and John Lennon with whom many of these guys have played and I’m so fucking into it that I’m not keeping track of my teenagers. All of a sudden, I look up and these two sets of eyes are staring at me… completely and justifiably mortified.
The kiddies took off and I had to run after them through the woods screaming, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and feeling like the worst parent in the entire world. I mean, how could I explain it? “Listen kids, Mom hasn’t seen black hash in twenty years, you’ve got to make an exception…” No, instead I had to sit there and get a lecture on the horrific risk I took, that I could be spending the rest of my life in a foreign jail, and what a bad example I’ve set.
But it all worked out. I apologized, didn’t do it again, and hell, I must be doing something right: both kids are on the Dean’s List at their respective colleges and they’re about to become very famous. A movie’s been made about their music and the tour called Rock School, and Newmarket Films bought it. It’s coming to a theater near you in March.
Ironically, the movie culminates at Zappanale and there’s a shot of me dancing in the audience, completely wasted.