Writer vs. Writer Interview: Vicki Hendricks

I'm honored to finally have the chance to interview one of my most favorite Transgressive Writers, Vicki Hendricks author of noir novels such as Miami Purity, Iguana Love, Voluntary Madness, Sky Blues, and Cruel Poetry, the latter an Edgar Award Finalist in 2008. Most of her short stories are collected in Florida Gothic Stories. She lives in central Florida, the rural locale of her most recent novel Fur People, which reflects my interest in animals and nature.

It's a great honor to interview you, Vicki. You can't imagine how happy I am for this opportunity. I would like to start with the time that you decided to become a writer in the Transgressive Genre as I see this as normally a genre mainly male dominant.

Until a few years ago, when I was included on a transgressive website, I hadn’t heard of the genre, so the tendency must have been natural. My writing has always rubbed some people’s fur the wrong direction, mainly because of the graphic sex, but I didn’t set out to do that. I write what I feel will be interesting and transgression often happens. My overall goal is originality, and I suppose that’s transgressive in itself. My first reviewer for Miami Purity found it necessary to check to be sure I was a woman, not a man with a female pseudonym, because I sounded too tough, and possibly males were expected to dominate the tough/transgressive genre in 1995. My editor at Pantheon called the novel noir, but I hadn’t realized I was writing noir, though I should have. I knew I was writing in the style of James M. Cain, one of my all-time favorites, but hadn’t paid attention to the category. After that, I was forced to become something of a noir expert since I was called on to define noir on panels at conferences for years.

There are many similarities between Noir and Transgressive Fiction. What about Transgressive Genre attracts you?

It’s the sexual aspect overall. I’ve concocted all sorts of unique pairings to fit a variety of circumstances and to include important animals, bestiality, that’s generally frowned upon. Again, all in the name of originality. I was shocked, however, when my story “Stormy, Mon Amour” was criticized with outrage, not so much because of the sex scene with a dolphin, but because the offspring was a mermaid. Apparently, mermaids are sacred and should be given an elevated status. Apes involved in murder plots, iguana “rape,” and various men with unusual perversions probably qualify as transgressive, although I’m not good at judging. However, as I realized how my unplanned style and subject matter drew attention, I kept it up. Being one of the few transgressive or noir women, that tendency worked in my favor. For the last twenty-five years, at least, one woman writer has to be included in each noir, or transgressive, short story collection, whatever you want to call it. Over the years, I’ve gotten too many invitations to keep up with. A good thing, of course. Besides the sex, I’m attracted to the daring subject matter. Transgressive and daring aren’t exactly the same, but they share the quality of getting gut-level reactions.

I totally agree with you. So, in your perspective, what makes a good story?

I completed an MFA in creative writing at Florida International University, and I would have to repeat everything I learned in four years to give you a decent answer to that question. Skimming across the top, I would have to say interesting characters, again originality, and an ending that can’t be predicted, but is perfect when it arrives. Meaning “just deserts” for all. A role of fiction, I’ve been told, is to make up for life’s inequities and bad luck. To me, it does a great job, and I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to it. I don’t know how people can live fulfilling lives if they don’t read. Your own thoughts and limited world get tedious after a short while, I think.