Jasmine Odessa Rizer is a serials cataloging librarian. She hails from Kentucky and lives in Athens, Georgia. Previously, her work has appeared in The Blotter, Wilderness House Literary Review, Drops of Crimson, Orb, and Stillpoint. She has contributed artwork, fiction, and non-fiction to the arts-based e-zine Moonshine. She also served as a section editor and regular contributor of fiction, reviews, and feature articles, to the e-zine Mosaic Minds. Her erratically updated webcomic can be read at damnfoolgirl.tumblr.com.
In this interview with editor Dariel Suarez she talks about drawing comics and dabbling in other art forms, about her experience working as an editor, and about e-zines. Also, a few words on Megavixens and writing what you know.
Dariel Suarez: Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write “Fall”? Why did you choose Maureen as your central character?
Jasmine Rizer: Pretty much all of my stories are partly lifted right out of my real life, and partly made up from whole cloth. I have a lot in common with Maureen, but some of her characteristics, not to mention the situations I put her in, and the other characters in the story, I picked up out of the world around me, or out of my own imagination. I suppose, if it's not too pretentious to say this,
I put her at the center of the story because she put herself there. It might have been interesting to put Lucy at the middle of this one, but apparently this didn't want to be a story about first-love heartbreak. It wanted to be a story about drinking. Which actually makes sense, if you believe in the precept of "write what you know"! I actually started another story at one time with Maureen and Lucy as secondary characters who befriend the main character, but it never really went anywhere.
DS: Music plays a part in this story not just in its setting but in its overall atmosphere. Do you have any particular interests in music? How did you choose what details to include, such as the name of the band, the Megavixens?
JR: I have always loved listening to other people's music, and I have always experienced spectacular failure at attempting to make any music of my own! Like Maureen and Lucy, I grew up listening to my mom's records as well as forming my own musical tastes in adolescence. I remember that a friend of my dad's gave me a huge stack of Bob Dylan records when I was about thirteen or fourteen.
As for the Megavixens, there was a band in Athens, Georgia called (I think -- it was fifteen-odd years ago now) the Supervixens when I was in college here. I never got to one of their shows, though I was always curious about them. I doubt that they sounded anything like the Megavixens in my story, but I do remember seeing a picture in the local free newsweekly that showed a beautiful blonde from the band, onstage with a guitar slung across her body, like the picture Maureen sees in "Fall."
DS: You mention in your bio that you’ve done some artwork before. Do you often delve in other artistic mediums besides writing? Do you prefer any medium over the others?
JR: Creative writing and pen-and-ink comics are pretty much my only artistic pursuits these days. I have tried to branch out from time to time, without any great degree of success. I mentioned my musical failures above -- I took guitar lessons in high school, and I was just barely tolerably good at that. It washed up pretty quickly when I realized I was too tone-deaf to tune my own guitar. I am actually in awe of people who can channel their creativity into making useful things like clothing. That's another area where I dabbled and didn't stick with it.
As for preferring one medium over another, I think I find writing and drawing comics equally rewarding in very different ways. Making up stories feels easier than planning and executing comics sometimes, but there's also something very satisfying about looking down at some panels that I've sketched out and inked and seeing very tangible proof that I had the patience to finish something!
DS: Who would you say are you main artistic and writing influences?
JR: That list could go on and on and on, although I almost hate to claim any of these people as "influences," because I certainly don't think their brilliance has rubbed off on me through my consumption of their work. Toni Morrison. James Thurber. George Booth. Shirley Jackson. Friends of mine like Mary Jessica Hammes, who is a freelance journalist but has also been a hilarious blogger and is a brilliant cartoonist to boot. A handful of television writers like Russell T Davies, whose work on Doctor Who I absolutely adored, and who wrote a particular speech for Penelope Wilton in Bob and Rose that I quote way too often.
DS: Do you find that doing work as en editor influences the way you look at writing in general?
JR: I feel sure that it must, even when I'm not thinking about it on a conscious level. Hopefully it makes me a little sharper at recognizing the parts of my own writing that need to be cut out before I send a piece off to be scrutinized by actual full-time professional editor types. You'd think it would make me better at spotting continuity errors in my own fiction, but it's surprising how many of those I've let slip through over the years.
DS: Can you tell us a bit about the e-zines with which you’re involved?
JR: Mosaic Minds actually shut up shop in 2007. Wow, I can't believe it's been that long! Someone I knew from the non-Internet world suggested that I submit my work to them in the first place, and getting involved with Mosaic Minds really helped me get my confidence as a writer back during a time when I had been very ill and lost a lot of faith in myself. For that I will always be indebted to everyone involved.
Moonshine is the brainchild of Robin Fay, who is an all-around rock star of creativity. It is on an extended hiatus at the moment, but Robin has plans for a relaunch in summer of 2014. I am excited about that, and everyone reading this should be excited about it, too! For now, the most recent issue and an archive of previous issues lives here: http://www.southerncreativity.com/moonshine/.
DS: Where can readers find more of your work?
JR: I don't really have a site where I gather up the links to my stuff around the web. My short story "Better" appeared in The Blotter in June 2013. (An archive of their past issues is available at their website, http://blotterrag.com/). My short story "Kiss the Bride" appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review in Fall of 2010, and it is available here: http://www.whlreview.com/no-5.3/fiction/JasmineOdessaRizer.pdf). You can also read my webcomic at damnfoolgirl.tumblr.com. I wish I were able to update it a lot more often than I do, but at the moment there is a new panel or two up about every two weeks or so. I drew a monthly comic for Moonshine which you can see in the archived issues I mentioned above.