Psychedelic Flapper: An Interview with Madeleine Swann

Madeleine Swann is a psychedelic flapper, weird fiction writer, creepy stuff lover, and hideous face puller. And she’s a lot of fun to interview!

-Austin James

“I wanted to be a writer, an actress (but not a famous one), and every single animal in existence.” -Madeleine Swann

Austin James: First off, thanks for chatting to me… I’m excited to get to know you a little better through this interview. Now let’s cut the crap and get down to the real, deep, issues: where do you stand on the Marmite spectrum of lovers/haters?

Madeleine Swann: Basically, Marmite is the devil’s eye boogies.

James: It seems to be the consensus that it’s generally horrible shit.

Swann: I know people who absolutely love it. I don’t trust them. One of them is my best friend Steve. I’m waiting for the day he reveals his true form as some ungodly being.

James: You’ll have to defeat him with a sword made of lightning in order to advance to the next level.

Swann: I’ll probably just look away, embarrassed, and pretend I didn’t see anything.

James: If you don’t fight him, who’s gonna stop him?

Swann: I can’t see that he’ll do any real damage, he gets confused very easily.

James: Ah, so a lower level boss. Makes sense.

Swann: Yeah, he’d probably wander towards the village, bent upon destruction, then worry he’d left his phone in the car and turn back.

James: As an American, I know everything (like I needed to remind you), and I’m not even sure Marmite isn’t just #fakenews…

Swann: I wish it was. Do you have Nutella? It’s just as bad. Also, Twiglets.

James: We do have Nutella. I have not partaken, but I will keep your warning in my pocket for future use.

Swann: Make sure you do, although I think marmite might be the worst.

James: So, changing pace, I hear you’re a writer?

Swann: Oh yes! I try.

James: In fact, you’ve had a book release just recently.

Swann: I did! Fortune Box in June, with Eraserhead Press.

James: Tell us about it?

Swann: Ok. Tower Ltd Surprise Packages is a mysterious company sending packages to strangers throughout the city. Each package is a different story and they all contain a magical object that either helps or proves disastrous for the recipient.

James: Oh cool! So, it’s like a collection of intertwined and loosely related short stories?

Swann: Yes! They’re different stories with the same premise.

James: That sounds fun. Where’d you find the inspiration for this idea?

Swann: A section of The Red Tower by Thomas Ligotti has a creepy tower sending gifts to people in the nearby town that contained spooky items, and I wondered what kind of items a tower of mine would send, and it went from there.

James: I’ve read the first story/chapter in Fortune Box, which (by the way) I loved. Tell me about Seed Man?

Swann: Oh, glad you liked it. Before I met Bill, I was single for about six years, because I’d had such a succession of terrible relationships, and I was determined not to get involved with anyone unless I was completely sure it was right. It led to a lot of awkward dates which was the basis for that story.

James: This is my favorite line: “They’d talk politics, films and art, and maybe she’d allow him a boob to touch on the first night.”

Swann: Haha! I was really proud of that one.

James: Moving on to the real issues, what relation are you to the James Bond character of the same name?

Swann: Zero, although I’m not sure if she has some Proust connection. I don’t know, I read somewhere that her name is a Proust reference and it made me feel intellectual.

James: Bullshit. You work for MI6. You heard it here, folks!

Swann: Shhhh, you’re not supposed to tell people.

James: Don’t worry, no one but the hundreds of thousands of people reading this interview will ever know. Your secret is safe with us.

Swann: Phew!

James: What’s it like working with Eraserhead Press?

Swann: Good. I like being part of a group of writers weird enough to be accepted into the weirdest publisher; it’s a nice feeling.

James: How involved were you, as the author, in approving cover art, etc. (I ask out of ignorance)?

Swann: They did the cover and I thought it was brilliant. They asked what I thought, and I said, “yes!”

James: Well, I happen to agree. It’s a sweet cover!

Swann: Thank you, I love it too!

James: How did working with Eraserhead this time around differ from when you released Rainbows Suck through New Bizarro Author Series (one of their imprints) back in 2015?

Swann: The first time around we were all placed in a Facebook group and assisted each other with promotion etc.. I found that quite stressful because I’m not great in groups. This time around I’ve kind of just been doing it myself.

James: How has that been? You have any readings or anything lined up?

Swann: I’ve managed to get most of the copies I bought into bookshops, told people online to ask me questions which I’ve answered in videos, and I did a giveaway. Not sure about readings but I’m sure I will at some point.

James: Nice. Getting books into bookshops is an important aspect of the game, even in the age of Amazon and social media. Maybe even more so in this age.

Swann: Definitely! I was really pleased when Blackwell in Oxford said they wanted ten copies.

James: How’d you go about setting that up?

Swann: I emailed them with links to my book and my website and they seemed to like it!

James: Do you find “the UK” to be generally accepting of Bizarro/weird fiction?

Swann: I think there’s a lot of weirdos here, so I think we’re generally open to weird stuff yes. Haha. Not everyone, but there’s always some.

James: How long have you been writing weird fiction?

Swann: Oooohh… erm, I think to be honest I was experimenting with weird stuff in primary school, I was writing surreal comedy stories that made sense to no one but me, and no one else found funny, but I thought they were hilarious, so I kept doing them and making people listen to them.

James: That’s awesome! How did you learn about the bizarro movement?

Swann: I found out about it probably around 2014. I was searching for the weirdest books ever written because nothing was satisfying my weird needs anymore, and I stumbled on Eraserhead Press.

James: And then?

Swann: I read a few and wasn’t sure. Then I kept reading and started to get into it, and submitted some stories to things, and it went from there.

James: Which Bizarro authors do you think helped you “start to get into it”?

Swann: I think probably The Haunted Vagina, I thought it was a genuinely sweet story, by Carlton Mellick III. Also, A Million Versions of Right by Matthew Revert. And Autumn Christian’s work.

James: Yeah, I can definitely see why you were lured in. Okay, so other than Eraserhead, where else have you been published?

Swann: Got a collection with Burning Bulb and a novella with Strangehouse Books, and short stories on The Wicked Library Podcast, Clash Books magazine (issue 1), and various other places. For transparency, I’m answering this question on the toilet.

James: Do they have toilet paper in the UK?

Swann: No, you use tea cups.

James: Ah. Well, at least you’ve all been upgraded to indoor plumbing (I assume)?

Swann: We have now, thank goodness. I used to have to sit in a field.

James: How relevant are broadswords in England nowadays?

Swann: I don’t know about anyone else, but I carry mine everywhere. Also, I’m now hiding because Bill’s got in from work, I’m going to jump out at him

James: Use your broadsword…

Swann: Good idea!

James: If you accidentally kill him I’ll help feed his body to the hogs by documenting each aspect for our viewers.

Swann: I’d probably try Necromancy. I don’t know how I’d handle day to day life without him.

James: Have you successfully necromanced before?

Swann: A couple of times, mostly just old people who popped off again ten minutes later.

James: Makes sense. So, which of your books are you most proud of?

Swann: Definitely Fortune Box. I’m so proud of it, I feel like I’m getting to where I need to be as a writer.

James: Where’s that?

Swann: It still very much has my sense of humor all over it, but I wanted to say more about my thoughts on the world, and people, and things like that.

James: What’s next? Any current projects you can talk about?

Swann: I’m working on a weird middle grade book right now.

James: That sounds awesome. Can you share any details?

Swann: Not sure at the moment because it’s not finished, but I think it will be quite dark for a kid’s book. Hopefully still funny though.

James: Have you talked to any publishers about it? Is there a market for weird YA books?

Swann: I hope there is! Not yet. I’ll do the looking when it’s finished.

James: You mentioned that you’re getting to “where you want to be” as a writer. What’s the next step?

Swann: I’d really like to get an agent. The next thing I’ll do is send this new one out to them and hope for the best.

James: In your opinion, what is the advantage of having an agent?

Swann: I’m not good at promoting myself and such. Agents help you with those things a bit more.

James: Makes sense. How many hobbits live in your town?

Swann: 17, all named Harry.

James: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Swann: I wanted to be a writer, an actress (but not a famous one), and every single animal in existence.

James: How are the actress and animal careers going?

Swann: I kind of abandoned those but I do a good impression of a napping cat.

James: Tell me about your book out from New Kink Books?

Swann: Oh yeah! It’s a novelette of surreal erotica set in a wonderland world of kinky things. It’s another set of linked short stories.

James: Talk about a wide range of audience appeal! Weird porn to Bizarro YA…

Swann: Ha! My interests are vast but they’re always weird.

James: What do you do when you’re not reading or writing?

Swann: I’m probably either watching a weird film, terrible TV or YouTube.

James: What are some of your favorite weird films?

Swann: Guy Maddin is probably my favorite director, he loves the 20s, surrealism and daft humor like me. Also, I quite like Cat Soup, Freaks, A Page of Madness, Pandora’s Box, lots!

James: I’ll have to check some of those out. Don’t make fun of me for having not seen any of them.

Swann: I wouldn’t make fun of you!

James: Do you have a routine you follow when you write?

Swann: I usually write in the morning, then finish around midday.

James: Do you people have coffee on that side of the world, or are you forced to drink tea whilst writing?

Swann: I’m hooked up to a tea drip 24/7. Bill does prefer coffee, though.

James: Mainlining earl tea is supposed to be good for your liver.

Swann: That’s what I tell myself.

James: Haha. Well hey, this has been a great chat! Is there anything else you want to get out there before we finish up? Any links or opinions or #fakenews?

Swann: Sure!

And fake news: if you look deep into a shark’s eyes, you’ll probably die.
Austin James writes obscure and uncomfortable fiction.

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