An interview with author, lead singer, performer, host, poet, icon, blogger and legend – Rosie Garland (aka Rosie Lugosi).
Hello Rosie, I am very pleased you have given your time to answer some questions. We’ve known each other for some time and worked together quite a few times as well. What has always amazed me is that you have so many different aspects to your work. You write in your name Rosie Garland, in fact as this is going on this blog your new novel The Palace of Curiosities is the No.1 Bestseller in Waterstones Manchester; you write and perform as your alter-ego Rosie Lugosi; you are the lead singer of The March Violets; you are a Goth icon; a legend in the world of burlesque; star of Woman’s Hour and women’s magazines.
Your (Rosie Garland) new novel The Palace of Curiosities is now out and it has been fascinating following your ‘getting published’ travails in Mslexia, can you tell me something about that?
The short answer is that I’d pretty much given up on novel-writing. I’d been with a literary agency for twelve years, and had written four novels for them. But however hard I tried (and did I try), however hard I worked on editorial suggestions, nothing seemed good enough. I had twelve years of publishers telling me it’s not what we’re looking for, could you rewrite it completely so we can still say we don’t want it?
To say it was a surprise to win the Mslexia novel competition and then get a two-book deal with HarperCollins is the understatement of the decade. Quite simply, I’ve had my confidence restored, and no, I haven’t given up.
You also have a collection of poetry being published based around the cancer you suffered from and defeated. How do you feel about revisiting what must have been a terrible time for you?
I am very aware that to write about cancer is to stand on the shoulders of giants like Julia Darling. I wasn’t planning on writing about throat cancer – but the poems started bursting out and demanded to be written! Equally, I never thought that anyone would want to read them, let alone publish them. But Holland Park Press were positive from the start – the result is my latest collection ‘Everything Must Go’.
One thing that I love about your work is how inclusive it is. You are a great compere, not an easy thing to do. What are your tips for tentative readers/performers?
Thank you! I can only suggest things that worked for me – I am aware they may not work for everyone. One size most definitely does not fit all! First of all, and last of all: read. Then read some more. Go to events and discover the pleasure of hearing others’ work. Buy their poetry pamphlets and/or badger your library (if you are still blessed enough to have one) to order them. This way you find out what’s out there AND you support other writers. Check out open-mic events and try out your own work. Link up with others in the ‘real world’. The internet is great – but you can lose touch.
And believe in yourself, even when (especially when) things are tough.
You are a part of post-punk Gothic legends The March Violets. What was it like reforming and how have things changed for the band in the reincarnation?
In 2006 original band members Si, Tom and myself got in touch, and there was some on-off talk of a reunion. But we had no idea if anyone out there was interested. After all, it had been 25 years since the last March Violets gig. We were understandably cautious: so decided to record some new tracks, do a one-off show in 2007, and see how it was received. It was an astonishing success. To this day we haven’t seen or heard a bad review. Or even a lukewarm review. That’s a hell of an achievement – and a clear message that people are pleased to see us back. Very pleased.
I enjoyed the Homecoming gig in 2007. A lot. Hundreds of people, all happy to see us back on stage, and none of them shy about showing their appreciation. What’s not to like?
And now we have produced an album – of completely new material. It’s out now!
Your work seems to offer people a glimpse of freedom, whether that is an ability to enjoy one’s sexuality and sensuality, or, enabling people to be open to the lives and feelings of others. Where do you think that comes from as many performers just think of themselves?
I’ve said this before – but central to my work is the idea that I’ve always written about outsiders; whoever they might be. I’m interested in characters who won’t (or can’t) squeeze into the one-size-fits-all templates they have been provided, and the friction that occurs when they try. I know that comes from always having been an outsider myself. I want to find out what’s going on in there. And celebrate it, proud in the face of the overwhelming sludge of ‘normality’.
What is it like to have your book published by a major publisher? Few of us will have that feeling. From the photographs on FB the other day, you look delighted and more.
It’s more than a dream come true – it feels like a dream state. I’m going through what I call the ‘Dallas moment’ (for those who watched the original series). Any moment now, Bobby Ewing is going to come into the shower and tell me that the past year has been a dream. Pinch me!
However, I know that I’ve worked very hard to get to this point. I’m not a flash in the pan. This novel is neither the first nor the only thing I have written. I am proud of the fact that the Mslexia novel competition was judged anonymously, so I was rated on the quality of my writing not because of connections in the industry. This is why competitions can be so encouraging – there’s no ‘old boys’ network’.
Is there anything else you would like say?
I’m working hard on Novel #2 of the two-book deal I mentioned above! You can follow my adventures on my website, or drop by on Facebook or Twitter.
Thank you Rosie
Some You Tube links to Rosie
http://youtu.be/NGce7PGgN8E Rosie reading Donors Card, a poem from Everything Must Go
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5dCteB9Mx4 live reading
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFE2-XNkVjw The March Violets
*photograph of Rosie by Rachel Saunders