Today’s Issue 047 author interview is both seasonally appropriate and gender explorative! Pull up a chair with us as we talk with Jennifer Lee Rossman about “The Good Girl.”
LSQ: Wow, this packs so much emotion into such a short space! I love how “good girl” comes to mean so many different things, and the way the vampire transformation varies so much depending on who’s turned. What gave you the idea for this story?
Jennifer: Questions like these always make me laugh because I want to give you some deep and profound answer… but really, it was a joke I made on Twitter about how the Tom Petty song “Free Fallin’” is about a transgender vampire.
The main character in the music video never ages, even though it seems like decades have passed based on clothing styles. And while you see the reflection of the “good girl” in the photo at the beginning, you never see Tom Petty’s reflection even though he’s around a lot of glass and mirrors, which made me think the vampires mentioned in one line could be literal, not metaphorical. Once the “good girl” starts hanging out with them, dressing more androgynously, that’s when “she” got bit, realized he was a bad boy all along, and began his transition into the transmasculine person played by Tom Petty.
LSQ: This is a perfect example of how a main character doesn’t need a name or detailed physical description to still be intriguing and impactful. How much do you know about this bad boy, and how did you decide how much to share?
Jennifer: I know absolutely as much as I wrote.
Songs are a different kind of storytelling than traditional fiction writing, but they still manage to convey all the information you need with far fewer words than most authors would need to do the same. I think going into a story with the intention of matching it with a song, it lets the brain forget about explaining and describing.
Songs don’t tend to give you backstory. They just drop you in and tell you some pretty words that make you feel things. This story did that to me; just gave me some pretty words without much explanation as to what happened before or after.
LSQ: Could you see yourself turning this short story into a longer exploration of this character and world?
Jennifer: Maybe not this character or this world specifically, but I’m always ready to explore gender via monster stories.
I’ve recently been able to finally put words to the way I’ve felt all my life, and I have realized I am nonbinary. I often call myself a guy because that’s the easiest way to describe it, but it’s more of a fluid thing that spends a lot of time on the masculine side but still dips towards the feminine side. And when you’re like me, comfortable in both worlds but knowing you’re still not entirely from either, that lends itself to a lot of monster allegories. I wouldn’t be surprised if I write more stories about bad boys who thought they were good girls, good girls who knew they were never bad boys but didn’t know how to change, and those people in the middle who are good and bad and neither.