Stuff Brenna Likes: An Interview with Brenna Ehrlich

This Fiction Friday, I'm bringing you something a little different: an author interview! Last summer, I read Brenna Ehrlich's debut YA, Placid Girl, and reviewed it for idobi radio; as an obsessive music fan, I could relate! Brenna was awesome enough to talk to me about the novel, David Bowie, and her independent press/label. 

Welcome to Mind the Gap, Brenna! Thanks for doing this interview!

Let’s start off with a mini introduction: if you had to tweet a description of yourself in 140 characters or less, what would you say?

I’m a petite writer who enjoys moshpits and listening to songs on repeat. I also have a cat. (Is that 140 characters?)

Congratulations on publishing your first YA novel, Placid Girl, last year! What inspired you to write Hallie’s story? Why choose YA?

Thank you! When I first started writing Placid Girl, I wanted to rewrite Lolita from Lolita’s POV. I was working at MTV on an awards show called the O Music Awards and we had a category for “Best Fan Army.” I was fascinated with how, well, fanatic people could be about musicians, so I wanted to get into that mindframe (not that it took too much work). At the same time, I was also interested in Instagram and how people could manufacture their lives on that platform (this was pre-”Catfish”). All those things came together to inspire me to write about a girl who is a HUGE fan of a musician that starts talking to him on Instagram.

As for why YA, I had previously written an “adult” novel that failed to sell to publishers. My agent at the time told me that it was because my characters acted too young (apparently they hadn’t met that many 27-year-old man children). So, I decided to just write the way I normally did and make the characters teenagers.

Placid Girl was released through your small press/label, All Ages Press. Tell us a bit about the company - how did it start? How many books/publications are you hoping to release every year?

I started All Ages Press to cater to weird teens, as I think they’re kind of under-represented in traditional YA. I’m not quite sure what’s next for us in terms of releases - I’m hoping to put out more zines, tapes and books in the coming years.

Your first book was a humorous look at hipsters - would you write something “non-fiction” or based on pop culture again? What is your current work-in-progress?

I would! I’m not quite sure what that would be next, but probably something weird. Those books also take a LOT of work. I’m currently finishing up the first draft of a novel about a teen ghost hunter who moves to a town overflowing with the ghosts of virgin teenage boys.

You’re now the managing editor at The Talkhouse and used to be an editor at MTV. Have you always wanted to work in the music industry? 

I have not! I went to college for theater, initially. I wanted to be in movies. Then, halfway through college, I decided to get my MA in journalism and just kind of ended up writing about music. I’ve always loved music, though - I was obsessed with David Bowie when I was six years old.

You don’t have to wait for someone to give you permission to write.

What kind of advice would you give to aspiring writers (whether they’re working on a book or trying to break into the music industry)?

Just write. Even if you don’t have an official platform. We’re so lucky to have the Internet nowadays. You don’t have to wait for someone to give you permission to write.

I have to ask: what are some of your favourite bands/musicians/artists? Do you listen to music when you’re writing?

Of all time? Very hard! I love Man Man and Tacocat and the Doors and David Bowie and Prince Rama and XTC and Nobunny… The list goes on! I don’t tend to listen to music while I write, though - unless it’s just one song on repeat. For Stuff Hipsters Hate, I just listened to Black Lips’ “Navajo.” For Placid Girl, it was one record by Gap Dream.

Now we’ve reached the fun ones! If you could live in any fictional/fandom world, which would it be?

Hmmmmm, maybe the one in Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell? Or Princess Bride? Or The Last Unicorn? These are all kind of depressing, though.

QUICK TAKES: No need for long answers here, just hit us with the first thing that pops into your head.

Current obsession?

Francesca Lia Block books

[Sam's edit: I've read her Weetzie Bat books and have two other ones sitting on my To Read shelf right now. Such gorgeous writing!]

Current thing that makes you RAGE?

When I can’t see at a show

[Sam's edit: this is the worst feeling. Just thinking about it makes me mad.]

Pop culture-y item that’s coming out soon that you’re too excited about?

The new Tacocat record!

Girl crush of the moment?

Viv Albertine

What’s one thing that you love that you wish got more attention?

My cat’s Instagram

Guilty pleasure (though we believe no geeky love should ever cause you shame):

Bad rom-coms deep in the Netflix jungle

One recommendation that a fangirl just HAS to read/watch/play/ingest:

Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

Time for plugs! Where can people find your content and chat with you? 

Twitter / Tumblr / All Ages Press / Instagram

Thanks so much for the interview, Brenna!