This is one of an ongoing series of interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.
Addy Evenson studies acting at the University of Washington. She performs music and models for print in the Seattle area. Her fiction has been published in various literary magazines in the U.S. and U.K., such as Prime Mincer, Bourbon Penn, and The Comix Reader. Her story “Maquillage” appeared in issue 1.3 of The 3288 Review.
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3288 Review: When did you first start writing? What was your inspiration to put pen to paper?
Addy Evenson: I started writing fiction as soon as I could write at all. I preferred imaginary worlds to schoolwork. In the first grade, I went to a private school, on Prince Edward Island. I had a very stern teacher there. I was a little troublemaker in class, and always getting caught. She called me up to her desk after school one day. I remember feeling afraid. She brought out an assignment I had turned in. It was supposed to be academic, but I had turned it into a narrative, all about talking animals. Instead of scolding me, she asked, “Did you have help with this,” and I said, “No,” and she told me, “Whatever you do, you have to promise me you won’t stop writing. You’re going to be a writer one day.” I held on to those words. And I pursued it.
3288 Review: “Maquillage” is an unusual piece, both in style and subject. What is the story behind it?
Addy Evenson: Sex work is often misrepresented in fiction, as sex workers are stigmatized as femme fatales or romanticized as doomed heroines. I wanted to see normal girls. Girls who had grit. Selling themselves, not because they are tragic or desperate, but because it’s their job. It was something I related to, as someone who models for lingerie and art. I often hear criticism like “Girls who wear makeup are fake,” or “Models are stupid,” or “You contribute to the objectification culture in America.” So this story is my laughing retaliation.
Truthfully, it was pure fun for me. There is no implicit moralism or complexity. It is a kind of old-timey pulp fiction read, with more kink. And, what I love about these women is that they aren’t trying too hard to prove a point. The protagonist finds out she can’t be with the man she wants, but she gets through it with her friends and her Chanel. There’s no introspection. There’s suffering, but it passes quickly. And this pragmatic response is so integral to the work that I do. You can suffer, but you have to keep searching, striving and living. This story was rooted in that feeling, and, true to form, the aesthetic matters more than the meaning. Cat’s obstacles are not meant to be too overwhelming, because they pass. It is a story of infinite security. Love of self, love of women, and love of sex. But it’s also cheap. And it’s meant to be.
3288 Review: The dialog in “Maquillage” feels like overheard conversation—distinct voices, natural rhythms and quite realistic. How much work goes into creating dialog like this? For instance, do you “act out” these scenes?
Addy Evenson: I write the dialogue based off of how my friends and I talk in real life. I feel like conversation can be a bit stilted in fiction. I want my characters to exist in a somewhat cinematic realm, but also, a very genuine one. These people have an ease about them, and accessibility. The vernacular was intuitively felt. However, when I wrote this piece, I was taking a lot of acting classes. And actors, I guess, are some of the best writing coaches. Because they’re very conversational. They study human behavior. So I learned a lot from listening to people. And I also just pay attention as a consumer more than a creator. What usually holds my interest in a film or a book is being able to identify with the characters. If they sound too smart, it’s no good. If they sound like they’re faking it, readers will pick up on it, and they won’t like it. I always choose sincerity over intellect, which is why my University professors can’t stand me.
3288 Review: You have a wide variety of artistic pursuits. Do you keep them distinct, or is it one source with a variety of outlets? And how much do they influence one another?
Addy Evenson: Writing happens intrinsically. It’s my truest love.
Acting, however, is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It’s going to take me years to figure it out. I love to grill actors about where their proficiency and remarkable expression come from. To me, it’s one of the most difficult art forms, especially because of the discipline required (you have to dispose of all pride and self-importance, and train your body like a soldier).
Modeling is an extremely underrated art. In a photograph, you have to compel a camera and an audience enough to keep looking at you. That’s hard work. I thought it would be cake at first (“I’m a pretty girl, it’s fine,”) but when I actually saw 300 pictures from my first shoot, and all of the angles and mishaps and mistakes, I was disillusioned. It took a lot of practice (making faces in front of mirrors, balancing books on my head, walking in stilettos down long corridors) to get to here. But I do like to put stories into my pictures, sort of on the sly. It’s all in the eyes.
As for music—I took it up because I had a thing for a guitar player. He taught me my first chords. For two years, I played just to impress him. Then I played for me, out of heartbreak.
I keep doing it all because, well—God, to be perfectly honest, I have no idea why.
3288 Review: Who are your literary influences? Have you read anything which had a particular impact on your writing?
Addy Evenson: So many! I love Sherwood Anderson, Lucy Maude Montgomery, and Sandra Cisneros. I also take a lot from Alfred Hitchcock films, old music, and billboards. Elle magazine. Perfume ads. Even Disney inspires me, really. But as a kid I was all about classics. Lolita blew my mind. So did Crime and Punishment. But honestly, I love reading the biographies of great women. Like Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera. That’s what actually gets me to work lately. Seeing that people got up and did something with their art gives me the energy to keep going.
3288 Review: What is the Seattle literary scene like? How much interaction do you have with the writing community?
Addy Evenson: I prefer to work alone. I’ve tried branching out to different writing niches and haven’t really found a place where I feel supported and challenged. My University has a creative writing department, and I figured that maybe they would show some support to my work and introduce me to some local things. After sending them unanswered email upon email, I went ahead and took all the magazines I’ve been published in and emptied them out on their front desk. They just said to me, “That’s impressive, but we are too busy to talk to you. You can have a cookie on your way out.” So I left their office, cookies in hand, and decided to go it alone. I hold on to the fact that you should never compromise your work to groups or communities that don’t appreciate it. Lots of great musicians got rejected by labels, and it’s the same with fiction. If people don’t support your vision, you have to do it yourself. Of course, I’ve tried time and time again, and persistence is necessary, but if they don’t want you, you have to learn when to walk.
3288 Review: What are you working on right now? Is any of your work scheduled for publication in the near future?
Addy Evenson: Always submissions! I’ve done a lot of longer work in the recent years (novellas and novels and collections), and I would like to find representation for them. I recently got signed with a talent agent, and am working on getting my acting portfolio out there. Because of my work, I’m hoping to someday write for film. Now, all I really need is to find a literary agent to believe in what I do.