Sarah Tipper is a writer who happens to write. Books, no less! Good ones, too. She is a pioneer in the art of heavy metal fiction. She also has the power of flight and can make leopards disappear by staring at them for seven consecutive hours. She has spent the last eleven hours wearing socks on her ears.
Me: There has been a number of complaints from the Panda community about your use of the band name Eviscerated Panda in your work. Several pandas at the Atlanta Zoo have refused to eat bamboo for the past two months until you agree to change the name of the band to something like Eviscerated Squid or Devitalized Orangutan. How do you respond to the charges of “panda-sploitation” that have been leveled at you by the Panda community?
Her: It’s only a very small (but very vocal) part of the panda community that isn’t keen on the name. Most of the pandas I’ve spoken to love the name, they feel it raises their profile and lends weight to the argument that they need conservation. I’ve even had a letter from pandas in Scotland asking if they can name their thrash metal band Eviscerated Panda. That’s going to be one furry mosh pit just as soon as a venue is brave enough to book them.
There’s a rumour that the Atlanta pandas had my books dropped into their enclosure by Tipper Gore, who then rabble roused them into taking action (which is no mean feat so I’ve got to give her credit for that, you ever tried to get a panda organized to protest? They’re not the most dynamic guys on the block. As for them not eating, just you check out the (imaginary) CCTV footage around three a.m. every morning. She’s sneaking bamboo flavor Marshmallow fluff sandwiches in to them.
Tipper Gore is no relation to me and I don’t condone the use of my surname as a first name.
Me: Do you feel like your third novel, Eviscerated Panda-Vulgar Display of Panda, was a new level for you as a writer?
Her: I’m glad you asked and since the most obvious way to answer this question would be with every Pantera track on Vulgar Display of Power I’m going to answer it with every track on Danzig’s debut album.
By the time I wrote my third book, Vulgar Display of Panda, heavy metal fiction had me in it’s possession until the end of time. It felt sometimes like my inspiration was not of this world and, with my soul on fire I was the hunter of pleasant things (mainly cookies) and evil things to lay before my readers. I included the occasional twist of cain-like naughtiness from my character Victor and told the tale of the approval hungry character Suzy (the insatiable band manager). She rides and then asks herself “Am I demon?”
My mother was very supportive and reminded me that as a child I’d written a poem about a holiday to Bognor Regis (an English sea side town). This has been lost but I sometimes still wonder what rhymes with Bognor Regis.
And now I’ll answer this question with every track on Vulgar Display of Power. Pow! That’s just how flexible I am as a writer. It’s like I’m doing yoga with words. Writing Vulgar Display of Panda was indeed a new level. This love I have for heavy metal and for writing is something regular people might not understand. Every morning when I rise and walk to work, it’s no good trying to quiet the clamor of characters in my head, using their mouth for war, or fornicating hostile (phew! Kept it clean). Without writing I feel hollow and might as well live in a hole. I’m happy to have the compulsion to write, if you can choose your demons to suit you, then by demons be driven.
Me: In your latest novel, The Mega Metal Diary of Cleo Howard, the main character is 16? Have you ever been 16? If so, how did it influence your writing?
Her: I’ve been sixteen briefly. I’d have liked to have been sixteen for longer to help with the writing process but it was a busy time in my life so I only stuck at it for ten months. I did think about going back and having another go for research purposes but there was nothing on wikiHow to help. Nothing! Can you believe that? In a parallel universe I told Stevie Nicks about my struggle to give sixteen the time it deserved. In this universe she wrote Edge Of Seventeen. Coincidence? Yes, very probably.
Me: Also, how old is 16 in English years?
Her: To calculate English years simply add 2 to your US years, so 16 in English years is 18 in US years. The only exception to this is if you are appearing in “Saved By The Bell”, then in England we must add 5 years to your US years to calculate English years.
Me: In a hallucination I had earlier today, book critic Dwight Garner of The New York Times called you the “Rudyard Kipling of heavy metal fiction writers who mention pandas in the title of their books”. Do you think he’s accurate?
Her: I’ve been called a lot of things since I started writing the heck out of heavy metal fiction including The Jackie Collins of the Riff.
Your hallucinatory Garner is broadly correct and correctly broad. I am much like old Rudders Kippers as I like to call him. Do you like Kipling? I don’t know, I’ve never Kippled, is something English people say all the time. Great moustache that Kipling guy, really sterling top lip work, sadly overshadowed by his writing. Also, Garner has such a lovely smile for a critic, really warm and friendly. Also, I once saw a picture of him on the internet holding a cat, but it turned out not to be him, but I bet he’s still a really nice guy.
Recently, scientists have speculated that human beings evolved from flying monkey-like creatures that descended on the planet from Pluto in the early 19th century. How do you think your writing will evolve in the next thousand years?
I’ve got medium sized plans for the next thousand years. I could have had big plans but I got distracted by listening to Manowar on the day I’d set aside for planning the next thousand years (Thanks a bunch DeMaio! Your anthemic metal offerings delivered from within the hairiest of pants could have cost me an amazing career).
Eventually novelists and musicians will just beam books and songs straight into the minds of the audience (U2 are (allegedly) working on this right now). Some traditionalists will still want paper books and CDs. I’m going to buy new pens around 2325 because I’ve calculated that all ink in pens now will have dried up by then. Future book covers will have more foil and PVC on them and come with free gifts, like a robot to read aloud to you, or stickers, people like stickers.
If you were only allowed to use one word for the rest of your life (you could say it or write it as much as you want, but you could only use that one word), which word would it be? And how would it affect your style as a writer?
I’m too promiscuous with language to ever commit to one word and my favorite word changes all the time. It was spoon a minute ago, now it’s ambrosia. I’ve had a very public falling out with the word nice for trying to appear too frequently (it’s like the Kardashian of adjectives, always wanting more publicity). I’m also not enamored of the phrase “he thought to himself” because you have to think to yourself, you’d be telepathic if you were thinking to someone else.
I’m currently trying to invent a word that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet.
I’m not a very good interviewer and I want people to actually know about the great stuff you are doing, so I’m just going to shut the hell up at this point and actually let you talk about your work, which is probably more interesting than the question I was going to ask you about whether you’ve ever eaten a moose before…
I heard you got a certificate of merit from the association for interviewers that don’t ask the obvious dull questions but it got lost in the post. Also, in a future book I write, all five members of Eviscerated Panda have small tattoos on their buttocks so that when they drop trou and line up it reads “Keith Spillett Is A Great Interviewer”. They only have small tattoos because large ones wouldn’t be believable.
I’ve eaten chocolate mousse and lemon mousse, mmm…one so sweet, and one so tangy, (oh, sorry moose, no but I once dated a guy with antlers, anyway that’s a story for another day…)
I’ve written six books of heavy metal fiction and have achieved a small and delightful cult following, mainly in England but also in the US and Canada.
Two of my books are diaries, covering 1997 and 1998. If you are ready to relive your teenage angst, plus doing all the truly exciting stuff for the first time with the backdrop of the late nineties metal scene then these books are for you.
Four of my books are about Eviscerated Panda, a thrash band struggling for success. I don’t focus only on the band, their fans, friends and girlfriends are all present too, being in a band doesn’t stop real life from happening. The same characters are in all my books and I promise you if you like metal you’re going to recognize yourself and your friends within my pages.