Thursday, January 19, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Addie Tsai


New year, new interview series! Looking forward into 2023, I have decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Today we are joined by ADDIE TSAI. Addie (any/all) is a queer nonbinary artist and writer of color who teaches creative writing at the College of William & Mary. They also teach in Goddard College's MFA Program in Interdisciplinary Arts and Regis University’s Mile High MFA Program in Creative Writing. Addie collaborated with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater on Victor Frankenstein and Camille Claudel, among others. They earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College and a Ph.D. in Dance from Texas Woman’s University. Addie is the author of Dear Twin and Unwieldy Creatures. She is the Fiction co-Editor and Editor of Features & Reviews at Anomaly and Founding Editor & Editor in Chief at just femme & dandy.

Why do you write? 

 I write in order to make sense of the world and my place in it. I write in order to connect to others, to feel less alone.



What made you start writing? 

 I first wrote to make my mother happy, literally—I wrote a Mother’s Day poem to cheer her up. It ended up placing third in a contest, and that validation helped motivate me. But it was an assignment in English in high school that really changed my life. We were asked to write a poem that didn’t rhyme, and I made a decision to use the assignment to process the childhood trauma I was experiencing at the time. It was a lifechanging moment for me, and from that point on, writing became a lifeline for me.



What do you do when you’re not writing?

 If we’re speaking generally (and not bound by COVID restrictions/risks), I like to: read, take photos (largely self portraits on film), dance tango (although I haven’t been able to dance since COVID began and have no idea when I’ll get to return to it), see art in museums, or theater, dance, and other types of performance, watch films, rollerskate, and take trampoline fitness classes.



Describe your book in three words.

 Queer Asian Frankenstein



What are some of your favorite websites or social media platforms? 

 I really love Dracula Daily and also Writing with Color.



What is your favorite book from childhood?

 A Summer to Die, Lois Lowry



What are you currently reading? 

 Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West: Love Letters



If you could go back and rewrite one of your books or stories, which would it be and why?

 When I first started writing fiction, it was in the form of “fanfic” of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles (but it was the 90s and we didn’t call them fanfic and for most of us, they lived on handwritten pages in a secret drawer or a folder on our vintage Macintosh desktops. In my Ricean tales, twin vampires Juliette and Josephine were the original vampires, and I would retell that mythology in varying ways. Recently, I’ve thought of resurrecting those twins in my own vampire lore, and seeing where the story might take me.



    What songs would be on the soundtrack of your life?

     Sufjan Stevens’ Should Have Known Better



    Do you DNF books?

     I will stop a book before finishing, but it’s pretty rare. If the language or the story doesn’t grab me enough, I’ll try once or twice more but I don’t force it to happen. The other reason is if the book is harmful or problematic enough – the last time I did that was with James Franco’s Palo Alto.


Unwieldy Creatures, a biracial, queer, nonbinary retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, follows the story of three beings who all navigate life from the margins: Plum, a queer biracial Chinese intern at one of the world’s top embryology labs, who runs away from home to openly be with her girlfriend only to be left on her own; Dr. Frank, a queer biracial Indonesian scientist who compromises everything she claims to love in the name of science and ambition when she sets out to procreate without sperm or egg; and Dr. Frank’s nonbinary creation, who, painstakingly brought into the world, is abandoned due to complications at birth that result from a cruel twist of revenge. Plum struggles to determine the limits of her own ambition when Dr. Frank offers her a chance to assist with her next project. How far will Plum go in the name of scientific advancement and what is she willing to risk?

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