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Interview with Kitty Riggs

About two weeks ago I saw a post on Instagram by Lucy McCourt, a music blogger who I look up to, with a book that had a title that caught my eye immediately. What If Bowie Were A Woman? That was all I needed to go and order myself a copy of the book, I was intrigued instantly.

'What If Bowie Were A Woman?' is a book by the wonderful Kitty Riggs, that depicts a fictional version of David Bowie's life but as a woman. I was lucky enough to be able to email Kitty some questions about the book and she was kind enough to get back to us and trust me, you'll want to read this (and the book of course!).

Hi Kitty! I just wanted to start by saying that I am absolutely loving your new book ‘What If Bowie Were A Woman?’ And I think the whole idea of this concept is incredible. I guess I’ll start there, where did the idea for this come from?

My dad! I’ve been writing novels since I was 12, but around the age of 17, I hit a huge wall and didn’t write a novel for over a year (which was a first for me, the longest I’d been without writing a novel since the age of 12 was 2 weeks). I don’t know what inspired him, but he bounded into the living room one evening and just said the words: ‘what if bowie were a woman?’ To say my life changed feels a little dramatic, but it really did. It sparked something incredible inside of me and, well, here we are two years later!

Could you summarise the book for the readers?

WIBWAW follows the timeline of David Bowie, but as a female. It’s a fictional autobiography about ‘Penny Jones,’ (female Bowie) and her experiences through womanhood and the music industry. No past knowledge of Bowie is required for the book; Penny is entirely her own character and it’s totally her story about the struggles she faced. I like to think it’s a bit of fun and rock n roll too!

Bowie is such an iconic character and has inspired so many people in so many ways, my perspective may be more more on the musical side, but how has Bowie influenced how you write? Or just generally in your day to day life?

I obviously, LOVE Bowie’s music, don’t get me wrong, but I am probably more inspired by him as a person. I find him utterly fascinating- the ultimate enigma. Not to mention his fashion too; he’s just THE icon. His ability to change character and his PASSION for art- of all kinds. I mean he sang, danced, acted, played an instrument- he did it all!

In terms of my own writing; I definitely try and embody that spirit and passion. I’m similar to David, in that I don’t like fads much, and I can move on from an idea very quickly. I love mixing things up and just being creative- no matter the format. As much as I love writing; it’s essential to my mind and my writing that I allow my creativity to process in different forms like photography or music. David’s always with me though, I feel like we got incredibly close since starting the process of WIBWAW- not that he knows that!

What was it that made you choose Bowie as the basis for Penny?

It just wouldn’t work with anyone else- at all! A big part of why I think it works with Bowie is because he’s an already famed androgynous figure; it’s not impossible to imagine him as a woman, so it allows you to focus on the plot and themes rather than getting caught up imagining him with a vagina!

In my last year of college, I made a short mockumentary called; ‘Leanne Gallagher,’ which was a day in the life of a female Liam Gallagher. It was A LOT of fun and it did work in that format, but to tell the stories I did and deal with the themes that I chose in the book, it just had to be Bowie. I considered Elvis Presley and doing ‘the Queen,’ instead of ‘the King,’ but I don’t like him nearly half as much and I knew I was going to need to love the guy to study him for as much as I did!

In your book, you highlight some issues that are within the music industry about how women are treated. This is such an important issue to bring to light, especially right now, what was it that made you want to write about that?

Other parts of the book definitely came first; discussing gender as a whole and touching on sexism was my main focal point to start; but before I knew it, the plot grew into more issues about how women are treated in the music industry. Music is my life, and as a woman who loves rock n roll; I have a lot to say on the matter. I also started out doing music/ live event photography and experienced a lot of sexism every time I turned up to do my job. A lot of; ‘you the girlfriend?’ ‘You here to fuck the band?’ One band refused to get close to us because their girlfriends were there, we were like; ‘calm down mate, we just want to photograph your set, not bone you backstage!’

The sexism I experienced was very low key (still incredibly frustrating) and I do consider myself lucky to have not experienced anything worse. There was a lot of simple things that made that job so complicated; even just knowing that the gig would finish late in a big city, and I wouldn’t be safe as a woman on my own or with my other female friend, so would have to arrange a close lift. Just stupid shit like that that make your job 10 times harder as a woman.

For someone who loves music though, I just hate the thought listening to a piece of music, knowing the struggle a woman went to produce it safely. I really want to work hard and help create safe and creative spaces for female creatives. We NEED more female creatives, they’re out there, they just need looking after better.

You have been writing novels for a long time, can you remember how you started or what some of your early ideas were like?

I thought everyone in the world was a ‘book writer,’ as a kid. I though primary school was a ‘book school,’ where you learnt how to write books. It took me a while to figure out I was the only one who wanted to write novels, and I wasn’t disheartened at all. I wrote my first book aged 12 and just carried on ever since. I wrote a lot of shit though, that’s a key part to growing and learning. My early ideas weren’t very ‘me’ at all, despite writing 20 novels, (WIBWAW being my 20th) it’s taken me 19 novels to find my style fully. I wrote a lot of dystopian, love shit and that’s just not me at all. I don’t even like reading dystopian novels! I’ve always known my style, but I think I was a little scared to be honest, to fully embrace it; only because I know my style isn’t conventional, I never write in the proper person and as a kid I didn’t know whether that was okay or not. The best advice I can give is to fully embrace your style from as early as you can. Only YOU can write or create like YOU, and that’s amazing.

This is your first published novel, what was it about this novel that you knew this was the one to be published?

From the very get go it felt ‘big.’ Much bigger and bolder than anything I’d written before. There was a real urgency from the beginning with this one. An urgency that I will now trust and use to gauge my work in future, it was incredibly primitive; quite a soulful experience actually. Not that I’m much of a spiritual person, but the experience certainly was. I also think (and learnt) that if your body and soul is prepared to go to the lengths mine went to to create this book; it must be published. Writing the first draft is a piece of piss, editing and editing and editing until your heart hurts is where that determination is really vital. If you can get through that process; it must mean you believe in your work and yourself enough to get it published.

Lastly, what can we expect from you next? Is there anything exciting in store for you?

I have quite a nasty habit that I’ve developed over the last few years. I tend to write a novel, pour my heart out into a huge manuscript and then I’ll have a complete drought for a month or so. After that, I write poetry and lyrics; ‘little bits of writing,’ I call it. This can last anything up to a year before I write a novel again. I think it’s probably something to do with the fact I’ve spent so long on such a long manuscript, I need to get short, snappy feelings out in shorter sentiments.

I compare writing to drugs; writing a novel is a hard hit, prolonged and dangerous. Writing poetry or lyrics is a short, quick fix; something like weed, that just sees you through the afternoon. I must switch between the two, so I’ll be writing a lot of ‘little bits,’ for a while now before an idea strong enough grabs me. I try not to think about it too much, I let my body do what it needs to do.

Congratulations again on the release of ‘What If Bowie Were A Woman?’, I hope everything is going well and wish you the best for any future escapades.

Thank you so much to Kitty Riggs for taking time to answer these questions for us, I have to say I was really excited for this interview as I have been really enjoying reading 'What If Bowie Were A Woman?' in my evenings after busy days at uni. If you want to get yourself a copy of the book I will link it below along with Kitty's Instagram so you can keep up with her and the release of this book.

Thank you for reading, until next time...

Buy 'What If Bowie Were A Woman?' here.

Follow Kitty Riggs on Instagram here.

Follow After Midnight on Instagram here.

Follow After Midnight on Facebook here.

Follow me on Spotify here.

Follow me on Instagram here.

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