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TIPPI TALK: An interview with Tippi N. Blevins
By Scott Nicholson

tip.jpg (2426 bytes)She's written so many poems that she can't even keep track of where and when they've been published. She's also written some very fine short stories, and after years working in the small press, she's now breaking into the majors. She has stories in the anthologies PROM NIGHT, BETWEEN THE DARKNESS & THE FIRE, 365 SCARY STORIES, and may have a collection of vampire stories coming out soon. Though I've never met her in person, she has a vivacious Internet personality, and I suspect we'll all be hearing more about her in the coming years.

SN: How did you get started in writing?

Blevins: A bit like how Scheherezade got into storytelling, I guess. It was a way to keep the bullies too interested in what I was saying to pick a fight! The first story I can clearly remember making up had something to do with a disastrous boat trip, and everyone died a horrible death. Maybe I was
writing episodes for Gilligan's Island or Love Boat, I don't know. Whatever it was, these other kids were just rapt listening to me talk. I had this sort of "wow" moment. Like, "Wow. A bunch of six year olds will
sit still for WORDS!"

SN: You are something of an exception in that you had a lot of success in the small press and are now breaking into the professional ranks. Sort of "working your way up through the minor leagues." Do you find that an advantage now or do you still get branded to some degree?

Blevins: I don't know about a lot of success, but I think it worked well for me. I mean, I could get a time machine and try to do something differently to see how things would have worked out. As far as I can tell, though, I did okay taking the path I did. I have been a little branded as a sort of Goth poetess, but that's wearing off as time goes by.

When I started out--some four or five years ago--it just seemed logical to me, like starting out as an apprentice or something. I got feedback, I got encouragement. I got noticed, to some degree. All my honorable mentions in past editions of The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror were from small press
publications. I met a lot of very nice, creative people.

And, depending on what you define as the "small press", I still submit to some of those publications now.

SN: What role do you think the small press plays in the genre's overall health?

Blevins: I think it's just good to have zines that aren't dependent on advertising revenue. That leaves the small press free to do weird, potentially interesting stuff, I think. There's a whole lot of crap out there, too,
don't get me wrong. But there's more experimentation, I think. The small press is sort of like the independent film industry. Some of the stuff out there is really risky and artsy, and some of it's pretentious drivel. Fun
to sort through, though.

SN: What sort of writing schedule do you use: nose to grindstone or lightningbolts of inspiration?

Blevins: From talking to other writers over the years, I think I have an unusual way of writing. The only way I can turn off my Infernal Critic is to keep him off-balance. I have several dozen stories in progress at any given time and will write a sentence or two at a time, or as much as a couple of pages, and then move on to something else. By the time my inner critic is waking up, I've already gone on to something else. The only really discernible pattern in my writing is a seasonal one. I write much more during the fall and winter months than I do during the spring and summer months. I think it's just too hot in Texas to be creative sometimes.

SN: What is the difference in your approach to poetry as compared to prose?

Blevins: I think the difference is in what I feel like I have control over and what has control over the work. In poetry, I have control over the content, but the form has control over the poetry. In prose, in fiction, it's the
opposite. In fiction, I control the form, but the content has control over the story. In poetry, the ideas, the content, come from me. With fiction, though, I think the meat of the story comes from my muse or my characters, or whatever. Who knows? It's a bit of a mystery still. Like my business card says, I'm the secretary to beasts, UFOs and miscellaneous muses.

SN: You do vampire stuff. Some readers can't get enough of bloodsuckers, and others yawn audibly at the mere mention. What keeps you sinking your teeth into the subject? (Ouch)

Blevins: I think I'm just fascinated by the idea of eternal life. I have so much to do, so many things I want to see, that I'd need several centuries to accomplish everything. Plus, I like the challenge of trying to write
something new in a field that so many people think is dead. It's fun.

On an ironic note, as a kid, I used to have horrible nightmares about Dracula trying to kill me. When I was four, I slept with a head of garlic in my bed. Plus, I get totally queasy at the sight of blood. I can't even eat my steaks rare.

SN: You're at a turning point in your career. Do you ever feel like you have to write a "Tippi N. Blevins" story, or do you just follow your Muse?

Blevins: At this point, I don't think there's a definitive Tippi N. Blevins story. At this point, I don't think anyone knows quite what they're going to get from me when they start reading a story. I mean, in one case you'll find some silly humor piece, and in another case you'll find some semi-kinky dark vampire story. Maybe I'm still trying to find my "voice", or maybe I'll always enjoy doing really varied stuff.

SN: What are your short-term and long-term writing goals?

Blevins: Do you mean writing goals or publication goals? For writing, I just want to keep learning, get better at what I'm doing. I'd also like to spend more time on these two novels I've had brewing for a while. For
publication, the goals are much more lax now than they used to be. I used to make really goal-oriented resolutions. I kept aiming at a specific market till it drove me nuts. Now, I just try to relax more. Take it
easy. I just want to create good stuff, entertaining stuff.

SN: What advice do you have for those writers or readers trolling the small press magazines?

Blevins: If you've got the time, dig around. You'll find some good stuff.

SN: Favorite books or writers?

Blevins: Most of what I read nowadays is nonfiction. Richard Ellis writes some great, entertaining and informative stuff pertaining to marine biology. Some of my favorite novels? Too many to list, but some off the top of my head: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Interview With the Vampire by (duh) Anne Rice, The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I just read a fun book by Laurell K. Hamilton.

SN: What do you want readers to come away with after reading your work?

Blevins: Just feeling like it wasn't a waste of their time to read the story, first and foremost. I want them to have a good time, make friends (or enemies) with my characters. I want them to feel like they've been on a little trip someplace where there's interesting stuff to see and interesting people to meet.

-Copyright 1999 by Scott Nicholson
To learn more, visit
Tippi's homepage.

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