1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I started writing around the age of 12. I’d been quite illiterate to begin with because I missed out on a lot of schooling. I wrote indecipherable poetry filled with angst—stream-of-consciousness diary entries about wanting to get away from my abusive situation. It wasn’t until I started reading my favorite writers before I’d make any attempt at any real writing. I never wrote full time because I also played the drums and painted. I was most serious about music at the very start.
I fell in love with authors like JD Salinger, Tom Robbins, and Charles Bukowski and buried my nose in everything they wrote. Salinger’s Nine Stories made me want to be a short story writer. Then, I read Bukowski’s Ham on Rye and that truly changed my life forever. He gave me a lot of freedom to be myself as an artist. Then came John Fante, He’s now just about my favorite writer.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
I always knew I’d write this book. I just didn’t know if I’d ever publish it. Not as nonfiction anyway. I’ve always written autobiographical fiction and wrote a lot of dark comedy stories about my family. I figured I’d put them together as a collection or something, but I didn’t think I could string them into one long book. I didn’t believe in myself enough. I’d tried to write whole novels in the past and failed. Eventually, I wanted to try again. And again. And again. It took me almost a decade to finish this book, and as the years went on, Shrapnel took several different directions.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I really don’t have a direct intention for what my readers should or shouldn’t take away. This is the same philosophy I have with putting any of my art out on display. The work has two lives; the one it’s lived with me during its process, then the life it lives once it’s completed. It now lives with the audience and becomes their personal, individual experience. I can only hope people can identify with it on some level.
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4) What drew you into this particular genre?
Interestingly enough, I’d mostly been inspired by fictional stories that were written in a nonfiction, first-person format, such as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Push by Sapphire, Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Alison, and Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. Dorothy Allison’s book is based on her real life and I originally wanted to take this approach, but my partner, Michael Phillips (also a writer), got me to change it to nonfiction. He got me to see how much more powerful it could be. I didn’t think anyone would believe it, and frankly I was fearful of putting my story out there. Now I’m grateful for his encouragement because it’s made me a stronger person.
5) There were quite a few different sides to your story that were heartfelt, emotional and powerful enough to convey your struggle to the reader. In regards to your experience within Scientology, if you could sit down and ask any of the leaders of the group a question or confront them in any way, what would you want to say to them?
I do not think anything I could ask or say to the leader, David Miscavage, that would ultimately change anything. As far as I’m concerned, and as the public continues to hear evidence of the stories regarding his abuse and destruction, he is a megalomaniac with blinders on. He has no conscious when making his ends meet, whatever they may be. Challenging his motives would only make things worse for his enemies and Scientologists alike.
Having once been a devout Scientologist, I’d rather address Scientologists in general and ask that they try to consult their gut. I would tell them that people that speak out against religions that abuse their members are not evil. Cutting off a dialogue with them doesn’t fix the situation. Disconnecting from people labeled “suppressive” only further isolates your mind to stick with like-minded Scientology kin. How will you find understanding with the rest of the world that way? And are you really the one who controls your communication?
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Keeping a blog is key, as well as slowly adding to my mailing list. I put out a newsletter a few times a year and am careful not to “spam” my list with too many superfluous email blasts. I make sure I announce my blog posts on all my social media outlets. Facebook and ello are my most successful.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
You can always get better at writing by reading. Read a lot and a wide range of genre. Don’t give up, but don’t try too hard either. Try not to listen to other people’s opinions—that may possibly kill the best thing about your style and voice. Just be mindful of it anyway, because not everyone knows what they’re talking about. Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is almost the only thing you’ll ever need. But if you like spending $100K on college, do what you like.
The most important piece of advice I have is: despite rejection at seemingly every turn, you can do this. We are all stronger than we think.
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On a separate note, if you were to be able to speak to anyone who has questioned the practices of Scientology or has been approached to possibly join the group, what would you want to say to them or what advice would you want to give them based on your own experiences?
I feel I’ve pretty much answered this and choose not to dig a deeper hole. But I would refer current members of Scientologists to Dr. Robert J. Lifton’s Eight Criteria to reevaluate their situation.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Right now I am finishing up new artwork for my big book launch and solo exhibit at the gallery that represents me in Los Angeles, Craig Krull Gallery. The show opens Saturday April 13th, 2019 at 4pm with a reading and a short Q&A. I will then sign books until the artist’s reception that goes from 5-8pm. The show runs until May 25.
I’m also putting the finishing touches on the special lettered edition of Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley, which is limited to 30 copies only. It is hard-bound in linen and comes with original artwork inside.
I plan to take a short hiatus over the summer and begin working on a book of short stories in the fall. I’d like to publish them with watercolor illustrations by 2020.
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Carol Es is a self-taught artist, writer, and musician born in Los Angeles. Using a wide variety of media, she is known for creating personal narratives that transform a broken history into a positive resolution. Her paintings, drawings, installations, videos, and books have been exhibited nationwide in venues such as Riverside Art Museum, Torrance Art Museum, Lancaster Museum of Art and History, and Craft Contemporary in Los Angeles. Some of her works can be found in the collections at the Getty and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Her collaborative film was also featured in the 2015 Jerusalem Biennale.
Awarded many honors, including several grants from the National Arts and Disability Center and California Arts Council, she is a two-time recipient of the ARC Grant from the Durfee Foundation, a Pollock-Krasner Fellowship, and the Wynn Newhouse Award. She has written articles of art critique for the Huffington Post and Coagula Art Journal, as well as having poetry published with small presses. She also received a writing grant from Asylum-Arts—a Global Network for Jewish Culture.
Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley
Desert Dog Books