Nichole Perkins is a writer and podcast host from Nashville, Tennessee. She hosts This Is Good For You, a podcast about finding pleasure in life, and previously was a co-host of Thirst Aid Kit, a podcast about pop culture and desire. Nichole is the author of Sometimes I Trip on How Happy We Could Be, a memoir, and Lilith, But Dark, a poetry collection.
“The Story of Her Life,” an interview with Nichole Perkins
This interview was conducted via e-mail by Interview Editor Anna Narin. Of the process, she said, “Nichole Perkins’s book, Sometimes I Trip On How Happy We Could Be does a brilliant job describing personal relationships. She tells her stories with a contagious sense of humor.” In this interview, Nichole Perkins talks about her creative process entering into a new genre, serious issues that arise from her pieces, and balancing social media as an author.
Superstition Review: You said in an interview with The Interview that the best compliment you’ve ever received is when people get angry at their emotional responses to your writing. Could you describe an example of that?
Nichole Perkins: Sometimes people will read or hear my work, and it creates such an unexpected emotional response in them, that they become surprised at their own reaction. I used to co-host Thirst Aid Kit, a podcast about pop culture and desire. We would write and read short fanfiction, and sometimes listeners would tweet me their strong (positive) reactions to what I wrote. That always made me feel good.
SR: I want to talk about “Fast.” It was a beautiful piece that really emphasized the struggle between not wanting your “...body policed by the elders in [your] community,” and your personal fascination with the concept of love. Can you talk about your inspiration for that story?
NP: I wrote “Fast” because I wanted to talk about the ways Black girls’ sexualities are policed and punished, even though they are expressing a natural curiosity. When people call Black girls fast, they’re saying the girls are too mature, too grown. It’s a strange way of trying to protect girls from people who would take advantage of them, but it places the blame on the potential victims, and not on that of the perpetrator. This kind of victim-blaming can create serious issues as the girls grow up and try to figure out how to express themselves.
SR: Your work speaks directly to me as a BIPOC, because our bodies are policed in different ways. What is your advice for the next generation of young girls coming of age within these constraints?
NP: I hope young girls growing up learn how to listen to their own internal voices, and not the voices outsiders try to plant inside them in order to keep them repressed. I hope young girls learn to speak their minds and establish healthy boundaries so they can protect their mental and physical health.
SR: “Call It By Its Name” is a powerful and striking piece about the reality of sexual assault committed by someone close to you. I want to thank you for having the courage to not only write but to publish that, because the reality is stuff like this does get weaponized against women all the time. Your passion has a prominent presence in your work. Besides your writing, how else do you bring activism and awareness about SA to the greater community?
NP: I try to amplify other, more articulate voices however I can and never assume I have all the answers. I also try to remain empathetic and listen fully whenever anyone comes to me with a situation.
SR: Maureen Lee Lenker said that you aren’t afraid to say something outrageous. What you want to say, you say it and you don’t hold back. Your writing is deliberate. How did you develop your writing style and what is your advice for someone who is trying to develop theirs?
NP: The writers and poets of the Black Arts Movement, like Sonia Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni, really inspired me with their plain but lyrical styles of writing. I discovered Dorothy Parker through a song by Prince and enjoyed her cutting honesty, so I knew there was a place for my frankness. I also want to upset literary gatekeeping, which often thinks the denser the text, the more “intelligent” it is, and I think literature should be as accessible as possible. Literature should not make your audience feel unintelligent; it should connect readers. Beyond that, I’ve always been a combination of awkward and bold in how I talk and I prefer to be as clear as possible in expressing myself. For those trying to develop their own voices, I say figure out what you want your readers to leave your work with, then write in the style that suits your mission.
SR: You said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that an autobiography was out of the question because your memory is all over the place. I want to ask you what was the most challenging part about writing this memoir?
NP: The most challenging part was figuring out which memories to excavate and how much of other people’s stories I should tell. My life intersects with many people and I wanted to be respectful of telling other people’s stories in the right way.
SR: How did publishing your first book, Lilith, But Dark change your process of writing for this book?
NP: Lilith, But Dark was published via a small, independent press, and it was also poetry. It was a collection of poetry I’d written over a decade. The process was just me and the publisher. I started writing the essays for Sometimes I Trip… about 4 years before it was released, and I had more people involved-- my agent, my editor, my beta readers, the proofreaders and fact-checkers… I had to write more quickly and with more purpose.
SR: When Juliana Ukiomogbe asked for your advice for people who want to become better writers, you answered “Read more poetry.” Could you expand on that? Would that be applicable for people whose preferred genre isn’t poetry?
NP: Poetry is my first writing love, and I’ll always consider myself a poet first, so I’m a big champion of poetry. It’s a beautiful genre because it often takes big, heavy subjects and paints evocative imagery with so few words. I think reading poetry is important for writers to learn how to be succinct, how to be lyrical, and how to avoid cliches. Poetry is for everyone, and I’d encourage people who don’t care for it to look for work that’s different from what you were first exposed to in school.
SR: Like many people, you’re active on social media, mainly Twitter and Instagram. What has your experience been like as an author on social media? What does social media contribute to the well-being of the literary community?
NP: Social media has been a boon to my career and life, so I’m not one of those people who wishes it would all go away. I’ve met good friends on social media, and I would not have published either of my books without it. However, like anything, moderation is key, and sometimes people think that because they’ve read your tweets, they know everything about you. They become overly-familiar and cross boundaries. I’ve been thinking about how I can step away from social media for a bit to focus on upcoming projects. As far as the literary community, social media is a good way to remain connected to others and to learn about writing opportunities.
SR: What does your writing space look like?
NP: My formal office is a bit of a cluttered mess right now, but I work from my laptop with a wireless mechanical keyboard because I like the pronounced click clack sound. It makes me feel like I’m really doing important work. I have images of inspiration around my desk, like a picture of an Italian villa, lyrics from Hozier, word portraits of Toni Morrison and Prince, plus Wonder Woman trinkets and a Funko Pop of Niles Crane.