I met Dala Dala on Instragram when I came across her badass epic-looking book covers/concept art for her book Blue Moon of Ake. When I found out she produced Blue Moon as an audiobook too, and performed it herself, I was blown away. Check it out! Thanks for interviewing with us!
Can you talk about your inspiration and research for the world of Ake?
Ake is the ancient world of Africa I created. Most are not aware that I came up with the name Ake from the ancient name of Africa; Alkebulan. I just shorten it. Of course Ake/Africa has a rich history, and most think of Africa and tie it to Egypt and the historical Pyramid’s. I created a different time in space before that, that involved kingdoms, god’s and magic. I wanted to tell a story in a way that empowers women in a creative way. Many women including myself have experienced heartbreak or other setbacks in life, however we forget how powerful we are once we detach ourselves from the past or whatever has a negative hold on us. As the story unfolds in the next parts the audience will see a goddess who has to face other setbacks but with any uncomfortable or unwanted situations it makes us stronger. In the case of the villain Jinabadi it makes her more powerful.
In your paranormal fantasy piece, Blue Moon of Ake, we meet Queen-Jinabadi headed on a "wicked journey" to build her kingdom. We also encounter Eanulu with his own intentions along the way. How do you create a character's motivation?
When I put together a story I’m usually creating main characters with deep roots (history) that engage the audience. The characters are moved or enticed in a way to achieve an objective, because of their past. Eanulu is one of those characters with a long history.
What do you find to be the most fascinating part of Ake?
What makes Ake fascinating, is it is the perfect place for her to show off with her magic and start building her new platform to rule. Ake is just a part of Jinabadi’s history; it’s a chapter of her life that helps awaken a darker time for her to pursue a new mission.
Are there any new fantasy books that have you excited? What are you reading right now?
I’m currently not reading anything at this moment because I’m swamped with many things to do, but I’m looking forward to listening to the fantasy story “Children of Blood and Bone”.
What's the most important aspect of writing about fantasy to you?
I want my art to spark imaginations with fantasy that is dangerous, but safe at the same time.
It’s important for me to be able to tell my stories in a way that is magical and entertaining. But with my flavor, which includes rhythm, music, and deep ethical roots.
Do you face any challenges of performing your work for audio? What's your process like from start to finish?
Some challenges I face, which aren’t really big ones, are that I lose my voice quick. Sometimes I get a little tongue tied too. Other times I seem to start off good but my voice might drop and I have to start over, so that my levels are balanced. Overall I love recording and I have fun doing it. It’s just the editing that takes the longest because I’m adding backgrounds and sfx.
How do you prep for a performance? Anything you do to get into character?
I’m a big tea drinker, so tea helps me to prepare along with listening to music. I also rehearse my role playing.
Do you have any techniques/tricks you find useful when recording or performing?
For me I learned it works better to record in the earlier part of the day, instead of at night. I also like to keep recording even if I mess up. It helps to know your story a little by heart, and since my stories are shorter and older I pretty much know them. Other tricks that helps is to have the right set-up, like the lighting, the view and temperature.
Has writing and producing Blue Moon of Ake changed any part of the writing process for you? Has it changed how you read?
I believe after doing this audiobook, I will focus on delivering a style that flows better since I planned to have other narrators next time. I now know my writing style fits more for audiobooks so I plan to continue writing which is more about performing than for written work.
What's next for you?
Definitely new audiobooks which include, part two of Blue Moon of Ake and a new story I’m working on.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
Blue Moon of Ake is part of an amazing journey where you will witness a unique super villain. Stay tuned!
Find Dala Dala on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too!
Photo credits Dala Dala
But first, quick bio that I copy/pasted:
Lexi Spino is a 25 year old poet from York, PA. She released a chapbook in 2013 through Poemsugar Press called "I'm A Wanderer Not A Runaway," which was focused on dealing with depression. Since then, she has recorded a spoken word EP called "Suicidal Since Birth," featuring numerous musicians, which was released in December 2016 (available on Bandcamp and on cassette). She also wrote an e-book titled "A Collection of [Not Such] Simplicity," which is available for free. Known as the Joan Jett of poetry, Lexi has formed an edge around her words and performances, which takes depressing concepts and gives them a punch that leaves you on winded on the floor. And sometimes she'll scoop you back up and help you breathe again. Sometimes.
"She shares a birthday with Salman Rushdie and Paula Abdul and that pretty much sums her up, right?" - Shoop
Many of your poems are emotionally charged. Is it ever difficult for you to maintain a balance between the cathartic and the rumination in your writing?
That’s a very good question, and I’m not sure I ever really thought about that before. I think most writers who perform their work find it cathartic in a sense no matter what. Most even find the writing process in itself cathartic. Poets specifically tend to like to push boundaries and make people think or question. We also like to whine and complain...a lot, ha ha. For me personally, all of my work is personal on some level. Whether it be me performing something written about a certain situation that I experienced, or one about questioning religion and faith, it’s all cathartic to me. However there is a difference in the way I perform the different types of poems. Delivery and wording and tone can mean everything when you perform. So, I guess the short answer would have been yes and no.
How did you find out about Poemsugar? What was the experience of being published and promoting a book at such a young age like for you?
When I moved back to my hometown [at the age of 20] was when I seriously got into writing and performing. I always wrote. I have been writing poems since I was five. I just started taking it more seriously then. The two most prominent poets in the area actually created Poemsugar Press as a local publishing company. It no longer exists. One of them is still my editor though, and they were both huge mentors for me in beginning. Back then I thought it was a way bigger deal than it was in reality. I did a couple local shows to promote it and they were my first paid performances. Really though, looking back on it, I had no clue what I was doing and the book was not very good either. I was still finding my voice and flow. What I wanted to stand for and what I had to say that was actually important. The whole thing was really sloppy and rushed honestly. Back then though I thought I was the bees knees. Younger me just liked the attention and that was the difference really. It should never be about the attention. It should always be about the soul and the art.
Your readings come off both conversational yet slightly theatrical. How long did it take you to "find yourself" as a spoken word artist?
I’m now 25. Five years performing and I am still fine tuning things. I’d say to get to where I am now it took about three and a half years. It’s an extremely long process and such a personal journey. I’d like to think I will always be fine tuning to it. I look at everything in life that there is always room for growth and more to learn. The minute you think you’ve completely got it all, that’s the minute you truly stop living.
In your audiobooks, how do you construct the atmosphere? There's more ambiance and production to it than one might expect.
Well, I don’t look at them as audiobooks. What I have on spotify [Suicida Since Birth] is actually a spoken word EP. One day I want to do a full length album with a bunch of different musicians who I have met and have inspired me throughout the years. I have such a huge love for spoken word bands. I get a lot of inspiration from La Dispute and Listener. Being an individual poet will always be my number one, but one day day I would love to have a band as a second project. So really that’s the difference. I went into my friends basement studio and busted out a concept album in less than a month. I looked at it more as a music project than just a poetry recording backed up with music. It’s a whole other ballpark let me tell ya.
What's your favorite movie?
This is such a hard fucking question. Like honestly out of all of these questions this is the one I'm more pissed off with. Not because the question itself sucks, but because who the hell can choose just one movie?? I would have to go with Factotum. It’s a movie based off of a Bukowski novel and it is absolutely brilliant. I suggest every writer watch it at least once in their lives.
How useful is Instagram for you as an artist?
If you know how to use social media correctly, I am sure it is extremely useful. I however suck at technology and it actually also scares the shit out of me. So...for me it isn’t useful one bit. I have one though, and I do post frequently. lexi.spino.
Has there ever been a single reading event that you would call your best or favorite? If so, why?
I have done so many readings at such different venues it really is hard to pick an absolute favorite. However one that stands out to me as a special one is when I performed at Tattooed Mom in Philadelphia during my mini tour to promote This Is Not For You. It was the best turnout of strangers I have ever had. So many locals who had heard about it and showed up to hear people shout emotional words in this punk bar. I had two other performers drop out of the show, so it was just me and one other girl for like three hours. After the show I had multiple people come up to me telling me what lines/poems really hit them most and asking me questions about my process and advice and compliments and it was a lot to process but it meant so much to me. Also, in case you couldn’t tell, I am a huge fan of run on sentences.
How many of your poems are written about real people?
I can promise you that every single poem about somebody else is a real person. Except for the poem Leonard. That poem is about a demon. So it really depends on your beliefs if he’s real or not.
Who would you say, in your personal life, was the biggest influence in your writing?
One of my best friends, Boots. A nickname obviously but I won’t put his real name out there, he likes his privacy. He has been just a huge inspiration in my life in general. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for that guy. The other one would be my current partner. He’s been my biggest supporter and there are so many things I have written from him being a muse. Lastly, my mom. She’s probably my biggest fan, and she also isn’t afraid to tell me when something I am working on makes absolutely no fucking sense. She also just has a brilliant and kind soul and I am the person I am today because of her.
Is it ever hard separating yourself from Lexi Spino the artist? Do you see a difference between your narrative voice and off the record?
Usually it isn’t, but it definitely can be. I do see a difference for sure. I think others who are extremely close to me also see a difference. It’s the hardest when I perform newer extremely personal poems. I am a huge advocate for stopping the stigma on mental illness and I try to connect to people who struggle with it on a daily basis. Also anyone who has been mentally/emotionally/sexually abused. So sometimes performing the poems about my experiences that are newer still get to me while I’m on stage. I have cried before during a performance. I have had a panic attack and huge dissociation fit to the point where I blacked out for half of my set. These kinds of situations are not common at all. I have gotten myself overall to a point where I have found the balance between “this is me and my voice” and “time to put on my performance persona”, but there have been a handful of times it’s slipped.
If not for writing, is there any other medium of art you would consider?
Growing up I did dance for 17 years and I also taught it for four. I recently started teaching dance again actually. I also did a performing arts program my last two years of high school and was super into acting. This past year I have gotten into creating artwork also. So...all of them??
You seem to travel to promote your books with readings, from what I'm seeing online (at least more than a lot of authors today do). Do you ever feel like you're living the tour life? Does that inspire you or make you feel accomplished?
I am huge into doing readings and trying to get exposure. I have been working on combining poetry and music communities into performing together at venues as well. I usually only have like two or three shows a month in surrounding areas though. I did one mini tour last year to promote my book This Is Not For You and that was two months straight of traveling places and having like five shows each month while also balancing my job as a manager of a burrito shop and that did indeed feel like living the tour life. It is inspiring in a sense and I definitely did feel accomplished, but many people like to fantasize about tour life and it being so much fun and magical almost. It’s not really. You tend to be broke. You use a lot of the money you make at shows for food and traveling to the next place. I slept on friends couches and it was exhausting. Don’t get me wrong I loved it, but there really is nothing extravagant about it. Unless you’re like extremely famous and rich, but most of us are usually starving artists. Literally.
What would be your dream line-up at a poetry reading? (It can include yourself with people supporting you, living or dead people, whatever terms and conditions you wanna play by.)
Oh jeez. This is going to sound like one insane show with people who probably do not belong together at the same event but here we go. It would be a poetry and music show. Me, Bukowski, Andrea Gibson, and Neil Hilborn for the poets. Julien Baker, Keaton Henson, and Tegan and Sara for the musicians. It would be the most emotional party ever.
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I met Melanie on Instagram and was blown away with her work and my first thought was, “I gotta interview her!” So check it out y’all!
What are you working on right now?
My first three books were romance novels and while it’s something I’m very comfortable writing, I want to challenge myself (though let’s face it, I think romance will be integral in whatever I do). So my big project is a three-book (minimum) fantasy series that I think I’m going to need quite a while to write and do justice to. In the meantime I’m also plotting a novel heavier on the suspense seen in my first books. Because I know I can do something a little more complex on that front. Finally, I’ve got kind of a random project planned (that incidentally I’ve not spoken about before, so you’re hearing it here first!). If you’ve read my first books or watched my Instagram feed, you know I love Italian food. So I’m going to put together a companion recipe book for The Safeguarded Heart series, including recipes from dishes mentioned in the books, some of my own Italian family recipes, and others I’ve found from other chefs and adapted over the years. Nothing fancy, just a fun extra for anyone who drooled over the food scenes in the books
At what point did you decide The Safeguarded Heart was to be a series?
I knew TSH would be a series when I finished the first book. Because, you know, it ends on a cliffhanger. And I’d be a real bitch to leave it there. But seriously, I didn’t feel like the story was finished, so I wrote another. And I felt the same after the second, so I wrote a third. It feels fairly complete now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t come back to it at some point.
Have you run into any obstacles while writing this series?
Honestly, these books flowed out fairly obstacle free. I wrote the first in 4.5 weeks, the second in 6 weeks, and the third in 3 weeks. It was one of the most liberating, exciting experiences of my life. I don’t expect that will always be the case, though.
What to you, is the best part of writing one?
The best part, hands down, has been seeing other people enjoy them. Because I wrote stories I would want to read but had no clue if anyone else would feel the same. It’s absolutely amazing to get so much positive feedback and it definitely makes me want to keep going
Has your creative process changed since you published your first book?
Absolutely. My first was my experiment, where I learned exactly how much story is needed to build characters, suspense, and keep things varied enough to be interesting in the general range of 70-90k words. I didn’t plot much when I started writing but learned quickly that some structure was necessary while still leaving room for the story to flow true to the characters and situations I’d created
Many readers have remarked that your plot keeps them guessing—one reviewer said that the ending “satisfies me more than any other book series this year.” How do you maintain a plot that surprises readers?
Besides killing people off willy nilly? Haha. (That doesn’t happen in these books, btw, folks, I’m not George R.R. Martin over here). I spend a lot of time thinking about what all the characters are thinking and feeling and try to have them react in a way that’s consistent with the personalities I’ve created which causes them to go off in their own directions. That alone is usually enough to push a plot down a path that doesn’t follow the logic/personality of the main character, so it can take the story in a surprising direction (even for me at times). I also think leaving certain things a mystery does a lot for keeping a reader interested.
How do you wrap up the story in a way that satisfies all questions?
From my previous answer, a satisfying ending comes from getting all the characters back on the same page (see what I did there?) and resolving the mysteries. Though let’s be real here. You’re never going to write something that satisfies every question of every reader and wraps up every subplot neatly. And while the romance genre comes pre-built with an expected ending, that doesn’t mean I don’t purposely leave some situations unresolved. Because life is messy and unresolved. Plus, if everything was resolved then there wouldn’t be much room for more books in the series, would there?
Another reviewer recommends your book to anyone who is looking to be “consumed by the characters and be made to feel they are a part of you.” What’s on your “must haves” list of creating characters? How do you assemble a cast of genuine characters?
Here’s where it becomes obvious that I’m no literary master. I don’t know what the formula is, or if there even is one. A lot of what I write is done on gut feel of what’s needed (and to be fair that instinct has been honed from a lifetime of reading). I started TSH with a strong female character in mind, including her physical appearance/age/etc, strengths and weakness, backstory, and so on, and then created a male character that had traits opposite of what she’d normally go for. Because there has to be conflict. From there as I wrote it became obvious what other people and personality types needed to be added to the mix. It’s just takes asking yourself questions like “if this happened to me, who would I ask for advice?” Then you make that person and ask yourself how they would respond. Or sometimes you ask yourself “who could come along and make this situation even worse?” and then create that character and get in their head. I did mini backstories for a bunch of the characters to aid this as well. Also, since it’s hard to step outside of your own creation and make sure your sense of each character translated onto the page, it helps to have a good set of beta-readers.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Without including spoilers, there’s a scene in my second book, All of Me, where Sera goes to the hospital to visit a friend. It’s intensely emotional. That’s all I’ll say about it. I’ve actually cried writing a few scenes. I thought that was weird at first, but if my books don’t move me, how can I expect them to move others?
As an avid reader, have read anything that made you think differently about fiction? Writing?
So much of what I read sticks with me. I was a huge fantasy reader from the get-go and always wanted to create my own world. But it wasn’t until I read Anne Rice’s books that I thought about writing novels. Mind you, this was the mid-1990’s, but hers were the first that I read that were their own world AND had erotic undertones, and boy was I intrigued. I wanted to write stories like that. I would start to but lose my nerve quickly. And then I got my hands on her Sleeping Beauty series. They were my introduction to sex-heavy content, and I never even imagined such a book was possible (I wasn’t a romance reader until recently). But still, I didn’t believe I could do it. Until I read the Fifty Shades series (which I actually enjoyed elements of) and realized that a story doesn’t have to be perfect (or even all that well written) for people to love it. That’s when I felt like I finally had the nerve to attempt it.
I see you’ve worked with Wicked Dreams Publishing to produce The Safeguarded Heart. What’s important to you when selecting a publisher?
Wicked Dreams Publishing is actually my company. Right now I use it primarily as my own label, but once I get more experience I may also branch out and use it to support other indies. Right now self-publishing fits my goals best. But were I ever to select a publisher, I’d have to be pretty confident in their value add - industry contacts to enable wide distribution and marketing, being able to retain enough control over my work so that it’s still something I’m proud to publish, and basically just proving that they’re worth the hefty percentage they’ll take. That’s not to say there aren’t some excellent publishers out there, but I’ve also heard far too many cautionary tales of not great ones. I’d have to be confident in their ability to garner exposure and increase sales to give up complete creative and legal control over my end product.
How do you find balance life with your creative endeavors?
For me, writing is what gives me balance. I gave up my traditional 9-5 job to be home with my son, though I still also run the property management company that my husband and I own. It’s been amazing to get back to having a creative outlet that still lets me feel productive. My biggest issue is letting go of things so I have time to write. Have you ever seen the TV show Friends? Well, I’m pretty much Monica. So I’m always cleaning or cooking something. It’s an incredibly far cry from the days when I worked as a lead engineer for the Boeing Company, but I find being a stay-at-home-mom far more fulfilling than I thought I would. But being home all day, its hard to turn off “house stuff.” Thankfully I have an incredibly supportive husband who sees how happy it makes me, so he takes over parenting our four-year-old so I can disappear into my hidey hole (the Smallest Bedroom, Our Home, Seattle Area, WA). You know I love something if I’m willing to let the house be dirty to do it.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you heard?
Just write. And if you can’t write whatever it is you’re trying to write, write something else. It’s true. Eventually all the words will come. You don’t need to force them.
To start in the middle. Do people really do that? It seems like you’re begging for heavy edits if you don’t build consistency and tone from the beginning. But that’s my $0.02.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’m not in this for fortune or fame (though I wouldn’t turn them down if they happen along). I just want people to enjoy my books. So if you do, let me know! There’s no bad way to contact me, but I’m most active on Instagram (@melanieasmithauthor) or reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are always appreciated too!
I first met A. R. Yngve on Instagram, and I'd see a lot of his art for his series Darc Ages and bits and pieces of other stuff he was working on. When I found out he also did game design in addition to writing and illustration, my first reaction was that I gotta talk to this guy! Check it out~
What are you working on right now?
- Preparing for the big annual Book Fair (http://bokmassan.se) that takes place in my home city of Gothenburg, Sweden. That means creating ads, hustling my books on social media, getting the paperbacks delivered, writing press releases, courting journalists, organizing events with fellow writers... feels like being a carnival barker, which in many ways it is!
I’m also trying to write a short story for a writing contest.
What's your creative process like?
- Messy. Lots of little notebooks, much daydreaming... I try to structure my work by writing plot outlines, but I end up with an unstructured pile of plot outlines. Yet somehow, work gets done.
What helps you balance life with your creative work?
- A very understanding spouse who wants to read my work. Ask other writers who are single parents with three kids, how they manage to get any writing done. They amaze me.
From the get-go did you know DARC AGES would be a series? At what point did you know? Does your process/planning shift when writing a series vs. a standalone work?
- The DARC AGES books were intended as a series from the start, because they began as a script for a comic book in the 1990s (sadly, never completed nor published). Then it became a Web serial, and it got too long for a single book.
I understand that every writer wants to have a bestselling series – those bills are not going to pay themselves -- but there is no way of knowing in advance whether a series will be in demand. So there’s really no point in planning a serial too far ahead of actual success.
That being said, there is that long-running series of DARC AGES books in my mind... I just haven’t written them down yet.
In an Amazon review of your short story collection Precinct 20: Dead Strange, a reviewer states you have a cast of interesting characters that are "full of life and seem to leap right off the page." How do you go about creating that "priest that deals out more than prayers" and the time-traveling president--how do you make your characters feel genuine?
- Real life gives a writer so many characters for free. For instance, that time-traveling President is loosely based on George W. Bush – I didn’t have to make up very much!
I borrow here and there from the real world, and fill in the blanks. Also I borrow from myself, but I think all writers do that.
You’ve got to give the characters flaws. They have to smell a little. I emphasize their physicality; how they move, how their bodies are part of their personalities. I also go inside their minds to follow their thoughts, their doubts, fears and hopes. They’ve got to want something.
If my characters share one trait, it’s that they are obsessively driven – which drives them to greatness, or their downfall, or redemption.
Your works span from a wide range of settings -- from the turf of a big city homicide detective to the Renaissance set 900 years into the future -- how do you start world building? How do you balance the setup with the story?
- For me, a story mostly begins with the idea rather than the characters. And then that leads to more concrete ideas, then a plot, and then characters who fit into the plot.
I am aware that these plot-driven or idea-centered stories may not be everyone’s cup of tea. In recent years I’ve been trying to give the characters more ”breathing space.”
As an illustrator, do you face any obstacles in translating text into an image? Does it differ when you illustrate your own work vs. a client's?
- You can draw almost anything, given enough time. Time, however, is limited. So I take shortcuts – I often draw only ”slices” or details of what is depicted in the text, rather than a big sprawling panorama. Then the reader’s imagination can ”fill in the blanks.” When I work for a client, I need to understand what said client has in mind. This requires good communication; I suppress my ego. (Come to think of it, you should always submit your ego to the craft.)
As a game designer, was there a game that made you say, "Hey, I could do this?"
- Plenty. And plenty I couldn’t.
What's your favorite game and why--would you make any changes to it?
- The only significant change would probably be to make the game last longer. My favorite game of recent years is probably RESIDENT EVIL 4. I like scary games.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
- Yes: buy my books!
You can find them on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/A.-R.-Yngve/e/B075K8BSWT/).
Try my new book PRECINCT 20: DEAD STRANGE; it is getting some seriously good reviews in both the U.S. and Sweden. Reviewers are likening it to THE X-FILES and THE TWILIGHT ZONE...
You can find his book trailers here!
Super thanks to RJ Walker for not only stooping to this interview but for being so incredibly patient. Between sickness, a move, and delayed internet access, he has even more of a right to hate me than most people do. As soon as I saw him on Facebook, I recognized him from some of his Button Poetry videos. I knew I had to interview him but asking felt like Lloyd Dobler pursuing Diane Court. Fortunately for us, he humbled himself to this interview and was great to work with. Please check his shit out and pay him.
In a youtube comment on Button Poetry's video of "Halloween," you say that the poem was inspired by a time where someone was a jerk to you for being the only one without a costume. Did you ever see that dude again? Is he aware of the poem?
Actually, it was my ex who was the jerk, but I changed the name and everything. At the halloween party, she acted like I ruined it because I didn’t come in a costume and all of her friends laughed at me. I was really ashamed and angry. The next morning, I wrote that poem.
Speaking of Halloween, what is your favorite holiday?
Ummm… Halloween… actually. I love ghost stories and spook alleys and campfires and everything autumn.
Some of your performances, such as "Seance for the Boy I Let Die," are confessional and even vulnerable in nature. Is there anything you wouldn't feel comfortable writing about?
Yes. Some things just aren’t meant to be a poem. When writing poems about patients, you have to make sure you’re not telling someone else’s story, and are instead telling your story of the experience.
Your poems really connect with people on a visceral level. Can you ever anticipate which lines or which pieces are going to be more successful than others?
Yes, actually. That’s the beauty of poetry slam. Every time you get scores it’s a measuring stick for how well your work is connecting. When I perform at the local slam, I can get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.
"Deceit & I" has over 200 k views on youtube. Did you ever see yourself reaching such a large audience?
Sort of? I figured that if I kept up with poetry slam, I’d eventually get picked up by button poetry. What I didn’t expect was the response from the safe sleep community and pediatricians. Several doctors reached out regarding the poem to tell me that I was making an impact in reducing SIDS deaths by talking about something people were afraid to discuss.
You've lent your talents to some video games. How similar is doing a public reading voice work?
Honestly, indie voiceover work is just grunting and yelling in a closet. Public readings are great because you can gauge the energy and response of the audience. Voice Over work is really just you and the computer.
Was there ever a moment behind the mic where it clicked for you? Did you have immediate chemistry or was it a slow connection?
I started at a little open mic by my house telling jokes. Eventually, the jokes developed into full blown character monologues and someone invited me to do them at a poetry slam. I went and managed to get 2nd at my first slam ever!
Do you ever see the same people in attendance for your performances as a stand-up comic that you've seen attending your slam poetry?
Of course. When I do stand-up, it's usually at the same mic I do poetry. I also inject some stand-up into my featured poetry sets. The two artforms are very close and very connected for me.
Do you find your work as two separate experiences, one on the written page and one heard aloud? Or are the two directly associated for you?
While the words are the same, my poems on the stage have the added element of choreography and vocal expression. My poems on the page have the added element of formatting, and font and readers can take their time with it. Though the words are the same, the page and stage intersect, but both have advantages and disadvantages.
You actually gave me the heads up on the new Front Bottoms EP with a Facebook post about it. What's your favorite album of theirs?
My favorite album has to be Talon of the Hawk, but my favorite song would have to be Awkward Conversations.
Congrats on taking home the gold in the NPS! Do you ever feel like an athlete participating in such competitions?
well, bronze. We took 4th. Which is still quite impressive! Poetry Slam is 100% an academic sport and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Judging from your social media activity and juggling act of output, do you ever feel overwhelmed being neck deep in the game?
YES YES YES. I wear a lot of hats and do a lot of things. Getting poetry to be profitable is a really big struggle. It’s not exactly a popular product, and all the big pay comes from grants and universities. The big money comes from people who think poetry is important just because it’s artistic, not from people who actually WANT to purchase poetry. So I’m constantly trying to find ways to reinvent poetry as a lucrative and desirable product. That’s part of what Dollar Complements is. Not only am I trying to popularize and incentivize the writing of positive and validating poetry, I’m trying to blaze a career trail for other poets. Several poets have used the Dollar Compliments model of typewriter commissions sent through the mail to fundraise everything from Slam Teams to their top surgery. Slam has been successful for me, but this project is my real baby. It can be difficult to juggle it with my other work sometimes, but it’s certainly worth it.
Obvious final question, but what's next? Anything around the corner you'd like to promote or tease?
Well, there’s my patreon www.patreon.com/dollarcompliments Subscribers get a compliment, which is a tiny ode poem to you, every month. I type them up on my typewriter and send them through the mail. I post all the compliments to my instagram, which is @dollarcompliments. Even if you don’t subscribe to the patreon, you can follow along the compliments other people are getting!
Also, my new book Indigo League just came out on amazon: http://a.co/d/5tHTY7O
It’s a book of 50 poems inspired by Pokemon. There’s a poem for all the different types of trainer in the original red/blue/yellow versions of Pokemon, as well as a poem for all of the cities. A Seance for the Boy I Let Die is the poem for Lavender Town.
My other books are available on my website at www.rjwalkerpoet.com You can also access my voiceover demos there.
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