[Today, we sit down for a short interview with author and poet Nicole Kapise Perkins. Here, she discusses her new collection, This Is The Mask; her love of speculative fiction and faerie tales; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How would you define your personal spiritual path? Does it have a name, or are you more eclectic?
Nicole Kapise-Perkins: I am a Dianic Pagan and practice kitchen Wicca. I loved Greek mythology when I was a child. I remember wishing that people still worshipped Greek gods — it was so mysterious and beautiful. I would pretend to be a priestess of Artemis. When I discovered Paganism at seventeen, my entire outlook on spirituality and religion changed.
ev0ke: You recently released the poetry collection, This Is the Mask. First, congratulations! Second, you self-published this book. What advice can you offer to other poets who are considering doing the same?
NKP: Thank you! I was very excited to finish this collection and publish it. This Is The Mask is my second foray into self-publishing. In February 2018, I self-published my debut novel Held Captive, a historical romance set in Rome following the conquest of Britain.
I find the most difficult aspect of self-publishing to be the self-promotion. I published both books through Kindle Direct Publishing, which is a user-friendly platform, but it is up to the author to promote their work, and that’s not my strong point. (I’m working on it!) I always feel like I’m bragging, but when it comes to self-promotion that’s not such a bad thing. The best advice I can offer is to really push your work: talk about your work on every social media platform you’re on, open accounts on the ones you’re not on. Share links to your blog if you have one, to whatever retailer is carrying your book, make yourself a Goodreads profile and share your work there. You can actually create a listing for your book on Goodreads. Be visible! And don’t get discouraged.
ev0ke: This Is the Mask includes almost thirty speculative poems such as “The Witch’s Apprentice” and “The Unicorn.” What is it about the speculative genre that you find so appealing?
NKP: Faerie tales and fantasy have been my favorite genres since childhood. I read the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen over and over; Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey, and Andre Norton are long-time favorites. I love the suggestion of magic, the other worlds, and the visions of mystery that speculative fiction promises. Speculative fiction takes readers to places where everything is possible and nothing is untrue. Happily ever after isn’t always a guarantee, which is another facet I appreciate. Writers like Theodora Goss, Margaret Atwood, and Catherynne M. Valente show us the darkness that lurks around the edges of faerie, reminding us that there are two sides to life. Speculative fiction is a magic mirror through which we can consider real life.
ev0ke: In the poem “Faerie Tales” you write “I seek my happy ending, / remembering always that faerie tales were never written / for the innocent.” Who do you consider the audience for faerie tales? And what can we learn from them?
NKP: When I was little, someone gave me a copy of The Twelve Dancing Princesses in which the princes of the underground caste were executed. My father was so disgusted that he threw the book out. I don’t remember him reading me that story; I would love to read it now. The original faerie tales were dark stories, an oral tradition of moral lessons about greed and vanity, warning people against the sin of deceit. Today they are bedtime stories for children, but at one point they were admonitions meant to be taken seriously. If nothing else, I think faerie tales encourage us to slow down and reevaluate how we are living. Everything is so fast-paced; we sometimes forget to consider the simple things and how valuable they are.
ev0ke: In “Familiar” you discuss a “jewel-eyed cat.” So, fun question: what would your familiar be?
NKP: For thirteen years my familiar was a fluffy gray and white cat with glittering green eyes and the personality of a clown. Kami passed away at fourteen, some days before Samhain. My husband told me that early Samhain morning he woke up to Kami scratching at the bedroom door. He opened the door to let her in, and then remembered that she was gone. I like to think she was saying a final goodbye before crossing the Rainbow Bridge. Nowadays I am owned by a dainty black hellion with eyes like new pennies. Personally, I think Momo spends her days plotting humankind’s demise.
ev0ke: Your Rapunzel is a tragic character who “sings dirges of what might have been / had she been stronger.” Do you find Rapunzel to be an especially tragic figure in faerie tales? And what are your favorite depictions of Rapunzel?
NKP: I never considered Rapunzel to be a tragic figure, though her story is hardly a happy one. I identified with her aloneness. I was (am!) an introvert that loved to read. My bedroom was my tower (though I had the luxury of making frequent escapes to gather apples and Mom’s chocolate chip cookies). My favorite depiction of Rapunzel is Blanche in Susan Wade’s story “Like a Red, Red Rose” from Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s anthology Snow White, Blood Red, published in 1993. It’s a different kind of Rapunzel story, less dark in some respects, utterly heart-rending in others.
ev0ke: What sort of research went in This Is the Mask? Did you have a big stack of books? Take long walks?
NKP: Much of This Is The Mask was inspired by my collective reading. The poem “This Is The Mask” was directly inspired by Bhanu Kapil’s book The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers. Other times a line or phrase would catch my interest, ultimately leading to a poem that has nothing to do with the original source. “The Witch’s Apprentice,” for example, was inspired by Tangerines and Roses, the name my sister Tangie and my daughter AlysonRose say they are going to give to a bakery someday. I turned it into an ode to my grandmother and a journey to myself. “Cosmos” is about a blueberry.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
NKP: I have a few projects ongoing. I am working on a Victorian-era retelling of “Twelve Dancing Princesses” and have outlined a plot for a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty.” I also have a children’s series that I am hoping to publish in the near future. In May I am graduating from the University of Massachusetts and will have plenty of time to finish current projects and start new ones. The irony of being a creative writing student is that you don’t have time to write creatively!
Thank you so much for this opportunity!