To be honest, I’m not done with the book. When I say not done, I mean my edits are in another window beside this one on my laptop right now. Not done. Not there yet, but might be good to collect my thoughts halfway for the curious.
Red? There’s fantasy. There’s a satirical bent. Energy, weapons, fieldwork, deserts, training prisons. A seed of an idea started during my undergrad in Irvine where I studied Dante. Dante thesis. Dante dreams. Even further back, as a baby, my mom played old cassette tapes of Korean folktales. Any tale coming from the East is messed up. I’m talking: a village that can’t pay the forest tiger, so the tiger rapes the youngest girl. She gets pregnant with the tiger’s son who becomes Venus and shits and those become countries. That messed up. My teens consisted of Toriyama’s fight sequences, Park Chan-wook’s incest, Miyazaki’s gods and children. Later, poets and thinkers: Dazai, Parra, Alberti, Boethius, and yes, Beyoncé. Just watching B at Revel made me light up across the board, the set up, the movement, the volume, that sweat and performance. I thought of spirit, body, space, society.
Otherwise, it’d be a different sort of novel. Not as violent and gory. Not making a point of excess in fights and how it bares itself. Then making fun of that point.
Sera, an attention-seeking outcast, sets free a demonic criminal in this energy-enhanced otherworld. Punished with the death of her mother and exiled from a systematic society, Sera seeks refuge on Earth and trains for vengeance under her new OCD-conscious teacher and ill-fated love, the criminal.
In this Murakami-meets-Kill-Bill tale, Sera is stuck between righteousness and carnage and learns the limits of her body while she ventures through worlds of diamonds, jade, and perpetual sunset. Her goal: to obtain the animalistic and all-consuming level of red. Sera’s fight is a fight that ignores the inner voice of dogged fear that she must learn most—her own desperation for forgiveness.
How did this happen? Nothing else was going for me. Not talent nor background. But something strange happens when you cut the crap. Stop hyping yourself with I can do this, I’m smart too. Instead I started where I was honest: I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t have experience or taste. And a lot of people want me to stop. I started there. That’s when I began to grow, very recently.
I’d been rejected from agents, at least 90, for a year before I started Red. I’d score a call back here and there, but things never got going. It was over for me. I did what ghosts do. I wandered saying fuck it, fuck it, fuck it. I don’t have money. I’m across the country from anyone I know. Haven’t been to a hospital in years. Just keep going, just keep going. I was so scared my hands shook on the train from Harlem to downtown where I worked. I was so scared all the time.
So how? Before I started, I told myself no one would read Red but me. I’d finish it, cry a little, put it under the shelf, go swimming, and float in someone else’s pool. Then this happened: I wrote the first draft in 3 months. Took all the hardships behind me to brave that. When I used to dance, that endurance. When I lived without parents in high school, that courage. When my relationship failed, that wisdom. In the scope of things, it all contributed at once.
This is that book. I read a section at Word Bookstore in Brooklyn last night. Guess what? 10 people. But 10 people stayed. 10 people wanted the book. The pre-orders were in. A little crowd of surprised people including myself. What, me? Did you say you wanted to not only read but purchase my book? My eyeballs get all red thinking about it.
I’ve worked for a nice agency, nicer agents, editors, and memorized contracts, templates at you-name-them publishing houses. Worked for journals and critics, worked for free. But the Collective was the first to whoop my ass. They got in my space, read the novel, said How dare you keep this to yourself, you selfish girl, and signed me on. Probably the most sound and reliable and radical contract for writers I’ve read. I was skeptical. But you know me. When I want something, I seize it with the iron grip of my balls.