You wrote in a recent essay that people called your book “crazy”, “bananas”, and “weird”. Do you agree with this assessment?
To me, because I inhabit my own weird little brain, it feels like the most normal book in the world. But I can see how people who don’t spend their free time dreaming up combinations of reality shows and horror movies might find it a bit outrageous, that’s for sure. [But] I embrace the gonzo nature of Patricia wants to cuddle.
Speaking of your love of slasher movies and elimination-style reality TV shows, where does your fascination with those two things come from?
I think both are a form of blood sport. One is more mainstream and culturally acceptable (reality shows) and the other is still a bit dangerous (horror movies). I was interested in merging them, mainly to show viewers of reality shows that you’re basically watching a horror movie, a movie that’s a lot more enjoyable and with a lot less gore.… It’s, just like horror movies. Horror, one of those outlets for the aggression and violence of simply existing as a human being in society.
In some circles, both genders are still considered unintellectual. Why did you go this route and was it a specific choice you made?
Absolutely. We often think of reality TV as an unscholarly form. I certainly, when it first appeared when I was a teenager, thought that way. I was like, “The single person and Survivor will be for five seasons, and then we’ll go back to scripted programming, and then we’ll be done with this nonsense. But the longer you watch it and the more the medium has evolved, the more you learn about our society and our culture through reality television programs. You learn a lot about what appears in the show, but you also learn a lot about how it’s presented, edited, produced, assembled – all of that says a lot about our cultural values, about our phobias, about racism, on homophobia.
It’s interesting that you mention scripted programming – what I thought in the book is that reality TV and Instagram are scripted even though they’re presented as reality.
Patricia wants to cuddle definitely grapples with themes of truth, reality, authenticity, and on the other side, you know, falsity. It’s a book about how reality is filtered and how that’s an inherently violent act.
You wrote that you weren’t sure at first to write a camper book, but then leaned into it. What was the hesitation you had to overcome?
Before writing Patricia wants to cuddle, I had built a career as a “serious” journalist. I had written a non-fiction book, The Real Queer America, I have written for major media and local media. And so I’m not sure anyone really expected me to go in that direction. I kind of feel like I’ve come out queer, and now I feel like a weird fiction writer. Like, it was my heart’s secret desire from the start. Once I kind of let go of continuing to present myself as this basically serious person, I realized how much fun it was to go wild.
In another essay, you make a case for earlier slasher movies — that they actually say more than people give them credit for. Is this also the case for your book?
With Patricia wants to cuddle, I used the slasher format to explore racism, heteronormativity and homosexuality. With the “last girl” trope [in shows like The Bachelor]in particular, it opens a door for you to explore not just the violence of surviving a night of monster attack, but the violence of existing in the world as a social and cultural other.
Now that we are talking about “the other”, why Bigfoot? What about this tradition so compelling to you?
When I started writing I thought I would have a human threat – I thought it would be more like the Scream movies. And, obviously, being in Seattle, I’m besieged by Bigfoot images on a daily basis, and I think that kind of seeped into my subconscious.
To me, my cryptid, my Patricia, she’s a representation of the kind of femininity that lurks in the shadows of shows like The single person Where the island of love. Patricia is everything – to paint with a slightly broad brush – the women of the programs are afraid of being: she is tall, she is hairy, she is visibly muscular.
Over the past two or three years there have been several films about the search or discovery of Sasquatch, and now your book. Why are we thinking of Sasquatch now?
I certainly have a theory and it ties thematically to Patricia: in an increasingly dystopian era, I think our desire is intensifying for something rural, pre-industrial and somehow separate from the world. I think we want to believe in Bigfoot, and we may be looking for Bigfoot more now, as our lives are increasingly difficult and often meaningless. …Bigfoot represents a fantasy of a life detached from the demands of capital, of a peaceful life, of an abundant life in a time of chaos and scarcity.
I don’t want to say too much, but this idea of living away from these demands is also represented in the book, especially for queer women.
Queer people, especially at a time when anti-LGBTQ legislation is on the rise across the country, at a time when we are dealing with all kinds of prejudice, cultural and political, we dream of having “a room of our own”, so to talk. There’s often been the fantasy of “Oh, what would it be like to go out into the woods and start a community” or just exist outside of straight society. And I think part of what I explore in Patricia is the sad truth that we can never really escape that, or at least we can’t escape it without cost.
Whereas Patricia reflects darker themes, it also feels like an escape book. Is the label “beach read” something you embrace or make fun of?
I wholeheartedly embrace beach reading etiquette. Yet for me, writing it was kind of like walking a tightrope between having literary elements but also being very propulsive: I designed it to be read in one or two sittings. I wanted it to be a small, thin volume that you could fit in a tote bag. Please read it on a beach.
My first thought when I finished the book was that it felt short. My second thought was, “This should be a movie. Have the [film] have the rights already been purchased?
I’m going to have to tease here and say, Watch this space. Dot dot dot.