Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Just over a year ago, you released your first poetry collection, Creepy Little Death Poems. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the concept for the collection?
Tiffany Tang: Creepy Little Death Poems evolved from a very dark place. I know . . . that’s a shocker, right? In the moment that I was writing them, the poems were a very honest response to how I was dealing with depression and an attempt to work through what I was experiencing via creative means. I honestly didn’t expect that I would eventually be sharing them in a public forum, so I didn’t censor myself or deliberately hone and shape the idea. I just wrote them as honestly as I could, trying to capture my internal struggles accurately, but personifying them outside of myself, so that I could better understand them.
BD: What inspired you to take on this subject matter, and do you feel that the creative process of writing the collection impacted you as the project took shape?
TT: Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” For me, writing the poems was a transformative experience, one that helped me unpack and cope with a really dark time. Depression can be mysterious. It’s intangible and tangible at the same time, because, for me at least, I would feel it emotionally as well as physically. I think that’s why the image of the Grim Reaper, or, to be more accurate, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come from A Muppet Christmas Carol (because I’m a total holiday nerd), made so much sense to me. It’s an image that belongs both to the physical world and beyond the physical world, who has knowledge of the present and also of things beyond the present and can occupy space in more than one plane of existence at a time. To take that overwhelming image and put it into everyday situations, like studying in coffee shops and baking cookies, struck me with such absurdity that I would sometimes laugh aloud. Each time I wrote a poem, my energy immediately shifted. It sounds overly simplistic, but the darkness immediately became brighter. I might even say that writing these poems saved my life.
BD: How did you locate the artist for Creepy Little Death Poems, and how would you describe your creative experience in working together?
TT: When I decided to publish, I put a post up on Facebook asking for illustrator recommendations or submissions from my friends. A lot of my friends were becoming familiar with the poems and knew the material, so I figured I would first connect with people I trusted. I received a lot of ideas, which was very supportive and affirming. Lizzie Silverman and I had worked in the theatre community in San Diego together, and she sent me a submission just for fun, because she liked the idea of the poems. She wasn’t really interested in necessarily illustrating the collection. But, when I saw her drawing, the one that is now on the cover of the book, I immediately connected with it. It was just . . . right. I talked her into doing nine more, and from there we decided which poems would work best with illustrations. She chose the ones she was drawn to, and I chose ones I really wanted to see illustrated. The process was actually quite quick.
BD: How would you describe reader response to the book, and what do you hope that readers will take away from it?
TT: The reader response has been overwhelming. Firstly, I’m lucky to have an incredibly strong support system of creative people who are so willing to cheer each other on. That was important to me as I started doing signings and readings, because talking about the origin story of the poems is actually one of the most difficult things about sharing them. Having these people in my corner as my readership grows beyond that initial circle is important, because it gives me courage to talk about what is difficult and to trust my own writing. I guess I still have a hard time believing that people are okay with discussing things like death and depression and dark thoughts out in the open. But, the feedback that I have received from new readers confirms that the poems resonate. Maybe no one is really exempt from these darker experiences. Maybe we can give each other courage by sharing our stories. I would love it if that is what readers could take away from the book.
BD: You recently participated in the event, Shades & Shadows, in Los Angeles, CA, where you had the chance to recite some of your poems to a live audience. Do you have other upcoming events in the works where interested readers may find you?
TT: I’ve had a busy year of book signings, and it’s been a lot of fun. I have recently been invited into to this world of the horror writing genre through various events like the Shades & Shadows Reading Series, which is funny because anything with the word “horror” in it would typically scare the crap out of me. But, I suppose if you put “death” in the title of your book, it automatically inducts you into that world on some level. I look forward to similar events this year, and once they are confirmed, I will be listing them on my website and social media. Maybe Death and I will crash Comic-Con, who knows?
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you are able to share with our readers?
TT: Right now, I’m working on some non-poetic writing, including an addendum essay to Creepy Little Death Poems that discusses the origin story. I figured if people keep asking me about it, it might be worth putting it into writing. Also, it’s allowed me to do some research with regards the innate human need to name things in order to have power over them. I think this naming action gives us a source of agency, especially when we are dealing with concepts that are so completely intangible, like death and depression. I’m also working on a made-for-television holiday screenplay, but that’s entirely unrelated.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite poets or poetry?
TT: Gah! Poets are incredible. It’s hard to narrow it down. I’ve recently been introduced to some amazing spoken-word poets who are currently on tour and are simply amazing, namely Derrick Brown and Jeremy Radin. (In one of the Creepy Little Death Poems, Death is reading one of Jeremy’s collections, Slow Dance with Sasquatch.) Anyone at Write Bloody Publishing is pretty awesome. In the more classical vein, I love John Keats and W.B. Yeats and Shakespeare - not just the sonnets, but the poetry in the plays. I also find a lot of resonance in Emily Dickinson and Mary Oliver and many of my yet-to-be published friends.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to our readers who may aspire to create their own poetry?
TT: Just write one true thing. Even if readers don’t personally identify with your subject matter, they will always recognize and support truth-telling.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Creepy Little Death Poems?
TT: Drop me a line! I’d love to hear if and how you are connecting with the poems. My website is tiffanyanntang.com and Creepy Little Death Poems is on the Facebook. We are also on the Twitter, @teeetang and @creepylildeath. Conversation is the best thing to evolve from this publication, so I am eager to keep it going and I welcome the insights and inspiration.