Second and final part of my August 2010 interview with Culture Colony’s Pete Telfer
What kind of opinions have been expressed (about Blackout and the Naked Reading)?
It’s like this, many come because I’ve got no clothes on and some read because of that and then I get letters saying things like ‘I cannot accept that your main character is…’ because they got drawn into the story as a result of the naked reading, and many identify with, love or get drawn into Tessa’s journey. Tessa is the main character of Blackout (some would say my alter ego). And there are those who point-blank refuse to watch the naked reading but want to read the book (as if this lends them some sort of moral or intellectual high ground). And there are those who only want to see and hear the naked blonde writer reading.
I can’t pretend I don’t enjoy it; I’m a combo quiet-thoughtful writer and blonde exhibitionist who loves to read to people, I’m not doing it for others, I’m doing it for myself and if there are people who get drawn in along the way then great. I’ve received opinions from more men than women, obviously. A few of them have warned me to move away from the naked route and stick to just writing the words. They worry that I’ll get tarnished, corrupted, and so on. I’ve had proposals of marriage, declarations of love and filthy dirty propositions that, in retrospect, are hysterical. Even though at the time I felt sick. I also get responses that say how brave, honest and courageous I am to read naked. Because a writer bares her soul in so many ways, I’ve done it physically as well.
Explain this: Is the Pen mightier than the naked female body?
I used that as a hook to get people interested before the naked reading went up on the website. Looking at that question now I think, ah, I’m using the naked female body like a weapon, a sword. It shocks people and starts a battle… I was asking the question because I suspected that we live in a world where nudity and sensationalism are more valued than art, and I wanted the response to be ‘no, no and thrice no!’ But the answers that came back were both negative and positive. Some said ‘yes, we like your body better than your pen’ and some said no. At this point it seems to be even, sadly. But then I think well, what do I think? Is my pen more mighty than my body? Of course it is, to me. But I’m a bit weird like that. Writing is a very personal thing to you, more so than nudity… I write almost in secret.
I am less self-conscious about posing nude than I am about showing my written work to readers. Because the words, they come right out of my heart, soul and mind, they are way more important to me than what I pose as for a camera. I’m not dissing the camera, and the photos and performances are also very dear to me, but the writing, ah! The writing goes way deeper and showing my work to people is something I avoided for a long long time, because I was so self-conscious about it. The written word has tremendous power over me, it can penetrate me so deep, naturally I am wary of opening my self up to criticism through the writing because of how much the work means to me.
Does the naked writer persona damage the writer in you?
I think it does because there’s a battle going on between this exhibitionist and the other side who is very private, very contemplative and solitary. I think if I had to make a choice then the naked blonde would go. Because the actual act of writing is not a choice; I am compelled to do it and will continue to write whether people buy my work or not. The naked blonde has opened doors, got me attention and caused a readership to start growing so I am thankful to that side of me but she takes so much energy to maintain that I’m already considering leaving her behind… and as I’m saying this I’m thinking ‘yeah, yeah, maybe one day, but not yet… I’ve got more performances in me… I’m just getting started.’
Why is writing so important to you?
I mean, you could have chosen modelling or acting, why has writing been more important?
As I said, it’s not a choice. The compulsion to write has forced me to move continents, abandon people, places and things, and turn down all sorts of opportunities. I’m not as driven to success as you might think. I am driven by this innate sense that ‘if it gets in the way of the writing it will eventually have to go.’ If I’d really wanted to be an actor I would have stayed in Hollywood. Every day I used to walk down Hollywood Boulevard with this little vixen on my shoulder saying ‘you’ve got to write, you’ve got to write, go home.’ Took me six years to give in to it.
What great themes are you exploring in your work?
Whether they’re great or not is a matter of opinion. A recurring theme seems to be meaning of life in this modern society of ours where being famous has superseded ambitions like becoming a surgeon or a scientist. I’m writing about sex and sexuality, the differences and difficulties between the man and woman. Madness is another one of my obsessions, or so-called madness. And death. What writer isn’t fascinated by death? Oh yeah, and hypocrisy, because I see so much of it, and I’m a hypocrite too – not a proud one, just a hypocrite. Judgmental to the core, of others, but of myself much more so. I’m also obsessed by self-obsession. That’s what all the photographs are about, in some ways. I live with all these images of myself and I use myself as a mirror to the world, to life, death, God, to all those things. This business of self-obsession could be negatively narcissistic or not. I mean I don’t sit down and gaze lovingly at myself, I look at myself on film, in the mirror and I study myself and others and from that study I produce stories.
Rembrandt used himself constantly for study…. I’m not that different to any other artist, maybe it’s just irritating to people who can’t take the whole ‘naked blonde’ thing. That’s it! I’ve just got it, it’s a Rembrandt thing I have going on… aha! Yeah but Rembrandt used himself because there was no one else… Look around, Pete, it’s just me here… I like the Rembrandt idea, it fits. I’m keeping it for a while. All those photos are of different people, different people inhabiting one body, mine! And all those people are in my writing, somewhere. Or maybe it is just superficial self-obsession, a symptom of the generation in which I was born. Oh I don’t know. Anyway, enough about me, what do you think of me?
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing ‘Tales From the Hollywood Bus Stop’ or ‘The Dark Side of Tinsel Town.’ It’s about those six years I spent in the city of dreams, based on the life of the strangest casting director I ever met. I’m gonna blog it in cyberspace but in Dickensian serial style. Thousand words per chapter, one chapter per month. And I’m gonna do a short story version performance of it to introduce the story.
What will Tracy do next?
You know yesterday I was thinking it’s time to move on. I haven’t thought that for a long time. I’ve got all these plans to write all these stories and I worry that I’ll die before I finish them all. If I knew what Tracy was gonna do next then maybe I could outsmart her and calculate my way into staying put so that I can just write. But she’s unpredictable. And often I move from need, because I have to earn money to eat to live to write and all that stuff. What Tracy does next is out of my control. As I’m speaking I’m realizing I sound slightly schizophrenic.