BookView Interview with Author Tavi Taylor Black

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we talked to Tavi Taylor Black, author, set designer the Vashon Dance Academy, who also works as the tour manager for Deva Premal & Miten with Manose (a musical mantra group), about her writing and soon-to-be-released novel, Where Are We Tomorrow? (read the review here).

Tavi Taylor Black lives on an island near Seattle where she designs sets for the Vashon Dance Academy, works as the tour manager for Deva Premal & Miten with Manose (a musical mantra group), and was the founding director of the Dove Project, an anti-domestic violence non-profit organization. Before earning an MFA from Lesley University, Tavi spent 14 years touring with rock bands.​

Where Are We Tomorrow? was the 1st place winner of the 2016 PNWA Mainstream Fiction Contest and was also a finalist in the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature. Several of Tavi’s short stories have been shortlisted for prizes, including Aesthetica Magazine’s Competition, and the Donald Barthelme Prize for Short Prose.

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR WHERE ARE WE TOMORROW?

The book began as an exploration of miscarriage and the previously taboo nature of speaking about it in our culture, but as the manuscript morphed and grew, several other themes presented themselves:

1) Even if we attempt to run away or bury the past, we all must come to terms with personal and family histories. Trauma can permeate generations, affecting our ability to find contentment.

2) I am interested in definitions of feminine/masculine, what roles we are expected to play. There is a myriad of ways to tap into our power as females. There is no one trait or mannerism that can define us as feminine (and conversely as masculine). The book explores, through all of the women’s stories, the gap between feminism and post-feminism, between proving that women are men’s equals and women reclaiming traditional gender roles.

3) If the maternal relationship is undernourished or impoverished, a woman’s confidence in family and relationships is at risk. Trust in her own instincts—rather than in her mother’s voice—is essential to identifying her true self (the woman that exists underneath layers of resentment, fear, bravado, etc.).

4) Our culture’s addiction to fame. Proximity to fame generally brings only the briefest of pleasure to the ego, rarely offering any true contentment.

THERE ARE SOME HEAVY EVENTS THAT OCCUR IN WHERE ARE WE TOMORROW, WHAT WAS THAT PART OF THE WRITING PROCESS LIKE FOR YOU?

Writing any scene where a character is in pain certainly isn’t easy, yet there is a tangible element in writing a scene like a miscarriage or an assault. All emotions are heightened. Details come into focus in a way we don’t normally experience the world. A writer is trying to hone in on that moment when time slows down. A traumatic scene is like harkening back to a memory. Certain settings or smells or sounds become crystal clear. There’s a lot to work with in the high drama scenes. I have to approach these scenes with a great deal of empathy and yet some detachment as well– not for the act itself, but for the writing of it. Too much emotion while working could result in sentimentality. I think I actually had a harder time writing the sex scene. I mean, how to do that without sounding cliche? Could I possibly have anything new to add to the millions of sex scenes that have been written already? Hopefully, there’s at least one phrase or observation in there that brings in a new perspective.

HOW DID YOUR EXPERIENCE ON TOUR COME INTO PLAY WHEN YOU WERE WRITING THIS BOOK?

Originally, I didn’t really want to write a book set backstage. I was so sick of working and living on the road. But once I had some distance from touring, the concept of setting a story in the fast-paced, testosterone-laden atmosphere became more attractive. And what would happen if you plunked a woman who is contemplating the completely feminine act of gestation into that world? Writing authentic scenes of road life was probably the easiest part of the novel for me. In fact, I had to scale back many of the technical descriptions of the job, as several readers suggested it bogged down the narrative.

Of course, I have pages of scenes that didn’t make the book, but for the ones that did, most have a grain of truth. For example, the mention of one of the practical jokes played (sawing off an inch a day from the monitor engineer’s stool) really did happen when I was on the road with Phish. Practical jokes were par for the course. You just hoped you wouldn’t be the butt of the joke. On another tour, someone did get caught with a nugget of pot in their pocket while crossing a border– it wasn’t the drum tech, it was a caterer. And it was crossing into Canada, not into Mexico like in the novel, but you can see how events that happened in real life take on their own life inside the book.  Most of the ideas, setting, etc. are based somewhat on my experiences. The same goes for the characters. Many of them were inspired by real people, at least they were originally, particularly the four women Alex, Lily, Kat and Brooke. But the pop star, Sadie, who they all circle around, is completely fictional.

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