Kristin Hersh.

“This is my attic. Rain drips through that glowing window on the days when it isn’t glowing and sun bakes the room on the glowing days.  But nobody else in the neighborhood is up this high in the air, so they don’t care if I plug in an amp or play a drum kit. At least, I can’t hear them complain when I do. Not pictured is a tiny refrigerator that my 8-year-old son filled with bread and peanut butter and jelly so that he can have a snack when he comes upstairs for a visit.”
Kristin Hersh is a solo artist, as well as lead singer and guitarist for Throwing Muses and 50FOOTWAVE. Her newest album, Crooked, was released as a book. She’s the author of Rat Girl (Penguin, USA) and Paradoxical Undressing (Atlantic Books, UK). Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
FROM YOUR DESKS: In 1985, you kept a diary. I wish I kept a live record of events. Do you still journal?
KRISTIN HERSH: I only kept that diary because painters told me to. They decided that painting was high art, music low, and that I had to learn to write in order to crawl my way up to painting from the depths of songs. Since they were all about 20 and I was 18, I figured they were old and wise enough to know, so I dutifully kept a journal until my son was born, at which time I no longer had enough time in the day to eat, sleep or shave my legs, so I never kept a diary again.

FYD: When you were writing your diary, did you hide it (as most people think of a “diary” as something hidden.)

KH: I didn’t have to hide it because it was a ratty old notebook that nobody would have been interested in anyway.

FYD: Did you sit down, sift through your diary and write your book in a linear fashion. Did you start at the beginning or the end of your novel?

KH: I already knew that diary by heart, for some reason; I had read it many times over the years. But I had to turn it into what is essentially a non-fiction novel in order to not confuse readers. Diaries don’t contain a lot of exposition or description. And I started at the beginning because I’m not very creative.

Communication is just as important, but magic takes you for a different ride, if that makes any sense.

FYD: Did you keep a routine going?

KH: My routine was to put the kids to bed, sleep a couple hours, then write from 1 or 2 a.m. until the sun came up. It’s very quiet then–quiet enough to go time-tripping.

FYD: Did any authors inspire you to write?

KH: I’m not a big reader because I have trouble sitting still, but my favorite living writer is probably Nathalie Angier, the science writer. The only writer who inspired me regarding this book, though, was James Herriot! I found myself standing at his front door on my last tour; the enormous marked-up manuscript of Rat Girl left on the seat of my car. I stared up into his window and thought,  “He never confused anybody” and that seemed valid. After a career of confusing people with music, I figured this was my opportunity to tell a vivid, clear story in English. Not everyone is fluent in music, but a lot of people speak English, you know?

FYD: I noticed Mary Gaitskill loved Rat Girl. I loved her book Veronica. Are you a fan of her work?

KH: I love Mary, but just met her through Rick Moody, not through her actual work.

FYD: How would you compare reading at events over performing on stage?  Is there any comparison?

KH: I *lose* myself in music, but not in text. I love writing, but it isn’t cathartic or uplifting for me necessarily, just a clear way to speak. Not as magic as sound maybe? Communication is just as important, but magic takes you for a different ride, if that makes any sense.

Not everyone is fluent in music, but a lot of people speak English, you know?

FYD: The cover of Rat Girl is great; black, panicked, sad and worried yet something seems okay. How did you settle on the illustrator?

 KH: There was never any doubt in my mind that it had to be Gilbert Hernandez. A Gilbert illustration is a reason to write a book, if you ask me…I’m a huge admirer of his. In fact, he did the cover of the Throwing Muses record, Limbo. I had no idea that for Rat Girl, he’d draw my face! But he definitely captured my expression, just like you said: panicked, sad, worried, but okay.

FYD: What’s up next?

KH: I’m still working my solo record, “Crooked” (which was released as a book last year), Throwing Muses are in the studio again after almost 10 years, as we’re fan-supported now, through the help of Cash Music (the Coalition of Artists and Stakeholders–a non-profit I started with some friends). And a new 50FootWave record called “With Love from the Men’s Room” should be coming out this year. It was recorded in LA with the producer, Mudrock. I’ve also started another book, but since “Rat Girl” took 4 years to write, I’m guessing it’ll be a while before anyone sees it (!)

Follow Kristin on Twitter @kristinhersh

3 Comments For “Kristin Hersh.”

  1. Mim says:

    I’m so happy to see Kristin Hersh’s space. I read Rat Girl and really enjoyed it. So glad you posted this.

  2. brad says:

    very heartwarming how my favorite hero fills her kin with yeasty carbs and fats just like I give to my lil’ ol’ Milo…

  3. Mary says:

    Love Kristin and her music! Thanks for sharing a little bit more about her.

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