by Lee Widener
Madeleine Swann entered the Bizarro realm with her debut novella “Rainbows Suck,” released through Eraserhead Press’ New Bizarro Author Series in 2015. Now her second novella “4 Rooms in a Semi-Detached House” is available from Strangehouse Books. I asked Maddy some questions and she answered them!
LEE: Tell us about your new book.
MADELEINE: My new novella is about a girl, Aisha, who lives on a street where each room of each house leads to landscapes in an alternate dimension/the past/whichever you prefer. The front rooms lead to a cinema during the Depression, the bedrooms to a Parisian Salon, kitchens to a Georgian banquet hall in space and studies to a psychedelic book shop. Disturbing things take over the rooms and Aisha thinks a secret of hers might be the cause.
LEE: I know you have a particular interest in avant-garde cinema and also the psychedelic experience. From the trailer for this book it seems these interests play a large part in the story. Is this true, and if so, what other interests of yours show up in this book?
MADELEINE: Avant-garde films and books are a huge inspiration to me. Also I love Pre-Code films, vintage cinemas and vaudeville so I set an area in the early thirties. I also enjoy writers and artists of the twenties, in New York and the expats in Paris mainly, so they’re in the bedroom. The Georgian period is an era I find fascinating, partly because of the lawlessness but also because they were getting to grips with science and life post-religion (mostly). Plus I love all the frills, they were so flouncy. Finally there’s a psychedelic book shop because I felt like I joined the hippie movement in spirit from the age of about 16. Not so much now but I was really into it.
LEE: Can you tell us something about how this book came to be? What was the spark that got you thinking about what came to be this book?
MADELEINE: I genuinely think it just came to me while I was watching Regular Show. It’s taken a lot of work from three editors to get it to a place where I’m really happy with it, but the idea itself just sort of popped in my head. I wanted to write a story involving different periods of history and something involving a street, and there it was!
LEE: I find your talk about using three editors fascinating. I have a piece I’m working on that I’ve sent to two editors and I still don’t know what to do with it. What was it like working with multiple editors? Did you pick and chose which feedback seemed more apt, or did you do a rewrite, felt like it still wasn’t right, so you sent it to another, or what?
MADELEINE: Well, it’s a bit complicated. First off I sent it as a novelette to an anthology but nothing came of that. Then I asked Garrett (Cook) if he’d edit it, I got his notes back and worked on them. Then I asked the publisher if he’d consider releasing it as a novella, he said yes and ended up giving me notes too. I worked on those and then was told Rooster Republic didn’t have room that year but StrangeHouse did, and then they edited it too. I didn’t use every single note but I did most of them.
LEE: Let’s talk about Bizarro Fiction. Do you consider yourself primarily a Bizarro writer, or do you work in other genres as well?
MADELEINE: I think of myself more as a weird writer, but I suppose that fits under the blanket of bizarro. I just like exploring weird, dark things and wherever that takes me is fine.
LEE: What would make a good soundtrack while reading this book?
MADELEINE: Well, if I told you that Miley Cyrus’ Dead Petz was the actual soundtrack to my writing, it would probably put you off. I think anything jaunty and odd, like Mike and Rich or Tobacco.
LEE: You do a lot of outreach to your readers: blog posts, Twitter, youtube videos, personal appearances at festivals and such. What works best for you, and which do you most enjoy?
MADELEINE: I genuinely enjoy all of it. Probably Twitter and blogging the most because I blog about things I enjoy more than myself, and I like sharing the weird arty things I find. I’m very nervous about meeting and talking to people but I’ll certainly be working on that this year! I’m trying to get more used to it by reading my favourite stories to camera and talking on YouTube and it’s getting easier.
LEE: What’s up next for the Evil Pixie?
MADELEINE: Well, I’ve got a few short stories coming out at some point this year, and I’ve just finished a new novella/connected short story thing which is inspired by a section of The Red Tower by Thomas Ligotti, though it’s very different in tone. Also I’m reading from 4 Rooms at the Brighton Fringe Festival, The Big Green Book Shop with Laura Lee Bahr and others and I’ll be at Bizarrocon. See you there!
Trailer for 4 Rooms in a Semi-Detached House:
You can find out more about Maddy and her work, complete with links to buy her books at her website:
Read her weekly column at CLASH Media:
Read her blog here:
Follow her on Twitter: @MadeleineSwann
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Lee Widener is the author of “David Bowie is Trying to Kill Me!” and “Rock N Roll Head Case” published in October 2015 by Eraserhead Press. His collection “Under the Shanghai Tunnel & Other Weird Tales” will be published in 2017.