Hello Friends and Fiends!
Today in the Madhouse, I have the pleasure of chatting with Autumn Christian about her upcoming novel, Girl Like a Bomb. Christian is a fiction writer from Texas who currently lives in California. She is the author of the books The Crooked God Machine, We are Wormwood, and Ecstatic Inferno, and has written for several video-games, including Battle Nations and State of Decay 2. When not writing, she is usually practicing her side kicks and running with dogs or posting strange and existential Instagram selfies.
Girl Like a Bomb, coming soon from Clash Books, is a novel of self-discovery, an existential labyrinth of love, sex, and self-actualization where the only way out is through. When high schooler Beverly Sykes finally has sex, her whole life changes. She feels an explosion inside of her that feels like her DNA is being rearranged, and she discovers a strange power within. After chasing that transcendent feeling and fucking her way through the good, the bad, and the dangerous boys and girls that cross her path, Beverly notices that all of her ex-lovers are undergoing drastic changes. She witnesses them transcending their former flawed selves, becoming self-actualized and strong. Beverly gives herself over and over to others, but can she become who she is supposed to be, with the gift and curse that nature gave to her?
I recently had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of the book, and I found myself engrossed in a world of sex, death, and self-discovery. I loved how Beverly lived her life by her own rules and how she embraced who she was without shame or regret. As such, I wanted to sit down with Autumn and chat a little about the process behind the book as well as some find out some of her favorite parts of it now that it's finished.
I hope you enjoy the interview, and if you're interested in pre-ordering the book, you can do so here. Also, I encourage you all to join her newsletter to stay up-to-date with her writing.
With Glitter and Perfume,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
Tell us about your book. What gave you the idea to create this story, and in your opinion, what does it represent at its most literal and figurative heights?
GIRL LIKE A BOMB is the psychosexual journey of a girl named Beverly Sykes. Beverly just wants to have sex. A lot of sex. But she soon discovers that she can heal people’s mental wounds and help them achieve self-actualization through sex, and soon sets out to save the world. It represents the labyrinthine journey to the center of the soul, with all its confetti and magma and what it takes to become the best version of yourself.
I wanted to write this story because it was unlike anything I’d ever written before. I normally write about things like plague machines, horrific demiurges, and brain implants that turn people into philosophical zombies. I wanted to expand the mythology of my writing and try something a little different.
What I loved most about Beverly’s character is how sex-positive she is. What other books and authors inspire you when it comes to sending this message, i.e. what books can readers run to for more body-positive brain food?
It wasn’t my intention to make it a sex positive book, but Beverly knows what she wants and isn’t shy about it. The positivity comes out of her character, not my inherent desire for positivity. I was more inspired by books about bad girls, by books of people who lived on the outskirts, like authors Henry Miller, Bukowski, Kathy Acker, and Jean Genet. I chose sex as the method of her magical transference because sex is so integral to who we are as human beings, and our feelings about sex are also how we in general feel about our interactions with others. I used to go around jokingly saying that I was the female Bukowski, but I always felt role models for rebellious women were lacking.
I was also inspired by the movies “Kids” and “Nymphomaniac Vol 1,” which showed a rowdy, sometimes excruciating, life on the edge of experience.
The Collected Stories of Colette - Colette
The Torn Skirt - Rebecca Godfrey
Anything by Kathy Acker
Delta of Venus - Anais Nin
Beverly’s character, while based in reality, encompasses a hint of magical realism in regard to her sexual powers. While I don’t necessarily like placing books in a genre label, I’m curious what you would pick if you had to pick one.
I’d say GIRL LIKE A BOMB is part literary fiction, part YA, part fantasy, part horror. I’d best categorize it as a hybrid, but if I had to place it in a single genre I’d say literary fiction. (The vaguest of the genres!)
When readers talk about the hero’s journey, they reference the three stages of development: separation, initiation, and return. For you, which was your favorite part to write, and do you consider Beverly a hero? Or does she represent something else to you altogether?
Every single one of us is going through a hero’s journey, which is why it’s such a universal story. We’re all shuttled into the world without a fucking clue as to who or what we are and are fumbling through a dark tunnel that billions of other people have traversed, also alone. A hero is someone who elevates the human race. Heroes slay the dragons and invent rockets and make sure there are federal highways, so you buy your toilet paper and grape juice without struggle. Beverly is a hero too, in her own way.
My favorite part to write was the first half of the book, when she’s just discovering her powers and coming into her own. But beginnings are always fun. It’s when reality sets in and you realize that you have to live with the choices that you previously made that fun becomes a complication. That’s also when the writing gets more difficult, when you have to take all the threads you’ve created and do something wonderful (or terrible) with them.
If Beverly was going on a first date, what would she wear?
It depends on the stage of her life, but in her early twenties: Crop top, designer leather jacket, black skinny jeans, glitter eyeshadow, red high heels. She’d have her hair curled and be wearing her favorite red lipstick. She’d be carrying a loud and expensive purse like Chanel or Balenciaga. She’s there to make an entrance and get noticed.
Can you give us an insight into your writing process? Any habits when you sit down to write?
Coffee, loud music, headphones, a dash of optimism and a death wish. I sometimes feel like I’m hanging off the edge of the world and barely grasping onto my keyboard. Sometimes I like to write stream of consciousness, and then later go back and refine it with a more critical eye. GIRL LIKE A BOMB went through about five rewrites with Christoph editing. To me, writing is a constant process of refinement, and Christoph is a very analytical, in-depth editor.
What takeaway do you hope your readers leave your book with?
A book is a very personal thing. I want people to connect it to their own lives and make their own conclusions.
What books are sitting in your TBR pile?
I read a wide variety of books, and the TBR pile is never-ending. Here’s a few of them:
Microworlds - Stanislaw Lem
Cybernetix - Carlton Mellick III
Black Chamber - S.M. Stirling
Maps of Meaning - Jordan Peterson
The Death of Vishnu - Manil Suri
What is next in store for your readers?
I’m currently working on two projects. Both are horror, but in much different ways.
What advice do you have for writers working in fiction?
Have some fucking fun with it. People take writing so seriously. It’s art. it’s supposed to be entertainment. It’s an expression of being alive. It’s a testament and a celebration of being human. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point? If you’re in it for the secondary rewards, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Also - it’s all about the work. Everything else - publishing, writing friends, marketing - is all secondary to the work. And the work needs to be driven by passion. By fun. You’re going to be spending 98% of the time in a room alone by yourself, and you need to be driven in order to do that.
Drink whiskey and laugh. Dance to techno. Do four espresso shots in a row and buy the loudest keyboard you can off of Amazon. Write what your little heart desires. Write silly things that you don’t think will ever be published. Write the crazy characters that dance around in your head. Create outrageous metaphors. Write like you’re racing against death to finish your book.