SEVEN QUESTIONS FOR THE WORKING WRITER: DAME DARCY
Dame Darcy is the author of the bestselling comic Meat Cake and the graphic novels The Illustrated Jane Eyre, Frightful Fairytales, Dame Darcy’s Meat Cake Compilation, Dollerium, Gasoline, Comic Book Tattoo, and Handbook for Hot Witches, among others. Her work is featured in numerous anthologies and collaborations, including The Big Book of Grimm Fairytales, Rollerderby, Dancing Queen, The Graphic Canon: The Definitive Anthology of the World’s Greatest Literature Through Comics Volumes I and II, Fantastic Four Fairy Tales, The Penalty of Hope, Cobweb, The Blythe Doll Book, In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers, Women’s Herstory in Comics, and Twisted Sisters. Her upcoming publications include Meat Cake Bible (Fantagraphics, 2016) and Lady Killers (Harper Collins, 2016); she is also currently at work on Voyage of Temptress, an animated and live-action series based on Meat Cake. Her books, fine art, press kit, events, music, commissions, video, short film and animation, and all other multimedia (including her Mermaid Tarot cards) can be found at DAMEDARCY.COM.
Dame Darcy! Do you ever publish your work without compensation or for a nominal fee? If so, why, and how do you feel about doing it?
I hate it, and I think it's unfair, and I think it's completely unrealistic. How are we supposed to live??? This summer to serve the Goddess I volunteered at a women's crisis center summer camp, teaching kids comix and crafting...that wasn't for money but for something bigger. Otherwise, I'll do what I have to do to survive, working to pay today's bills while working double-time pitching intellectual properties to get beyond survival.
Does your craft alone provide you with a livelihood?
I work a full-time job as a ghost host at Escape Savannah to make money to live on. After I’ve sufficiently introduced and terrorized the survivors in the game, I lock them in the room and draw my comics while I wait for them to escape! My art studio is connected to the haunted house, and I work with my intern in the back. When I lived in Los Angeles, I worked as an extra on TV shows like ER and Law and Order. I would hide behind the Coke machine, wearing scrubs, trying not to get picked to be onscreen while drawing my comix. These kinda jobs don't pay well, but they enable me to work on my deadlines and not use up the book advance. I have three books being released next year, so my new challenge is to be able to pay for a tour to promote them. I was at a loss as to how this was to be done, so I prayed to the Goddess, visualizing a treasure chest full of gold. That's when I discovered Kurt Cobain's hair in my jewelry box...I got it in the 90’s from Courtney Love when she commissioned me to do a doll for Francis. I'd kept the extra hair left over from the doll and forgotten about it all these years. I'm now in the process of auctioning it – I’m going to give a percentage to a suicide prevention center, and use some of it to help me pay for my book tour.
If you have to hold a day job to supplement your income, or just make a living at all, do you feel you have as much time as you need to write?
Anything can be done with proper time management, and we only have this one life. So git ‘er done!!!
How do you know for sure when something in your work still needs another revision?
Usually when the book is finally published and I have it in my hands. Only then, after it’s too late, do I notice that some of the threads on the spider web are missing, or the final revision of a tarot card is wrong.
When revising something in your work, how do you know for sure when it’s truly time to stop?
A true work of art is never really finished, merely abandoned. You can't be OCD forever. Just make it as good as you can, and get it done and published. If you think that it could've been done better, make a new intellectual property and just do that one better. Put whatever ideas are left over in your new work, or this dang stuff will never get finished.
Do you feel that being a writer was a choice or a calling for you?
I was a complete and utter failure at absolutely everything except for that at which I truly excel, so I had no choice. I am severely dyslexic, and I got straight D's in all my classes. But because of my bangin’ art portfolio, I won a scholarship to a fancy fine-arts school full of the children of millionaires. And, like Cinderella, I left the drudgery and the tedium and the psychotic, prison-like life I had in Idaho — which many of my friends did not survive — to go to the San Francisco Art Institute on a magic cloud and begin my career at age 17. Many of my friends went into the military, worked on fishing boats in Alaska, were child brides, or killed themselves in order to escape. I was very lucky. My oldest and best childhood friend was gay-bashed – he fended them off with a chain saw — and he took his attackers to court on attempted murder. When he won the case, he used his money to go to fashion school. He’s now a famous designer, and uses chainsaw imagery in his designs.
BONUS ROUND FOR PURE PLEASURE: What book did you probably read too young and it therefore haunted you forever after?
I loved reading books about utopia and the apocalypse. Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar really affected me. Also The Stand by Stephen King...and the book Utopia which is based on Cretian/Minoan texts…books about Atlantis, where I originate ...and of course, obviously I was influenced by the Oz series, Alice in Wonderland, and Pippi Longstockings’ pirate adventures. Also, all the sailing classics: Treasure Island, Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World, Moby-Dick, Robinson Crusoe, Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Fairytales about mermaids, and my most favorite story of all time, the Count of Monte Cristo, which I vow I will live myself one day in true pirate revenge and capture all the gold and give the power of it to the goddess through ocean conservation.