“There was a girl who fell out of the sky, they say, a love story drop-out, horror story knock-out, delinquent daughter of a poison love, no sleeping pills to anesthetize the wing amputation, just gravity’s law of laceration.”
“Ashes To Angels”
And so it begins. The crashing cadence of Natalie McCollum’s experimental odyssey “Ashes to Angels” can be felt ebbing and flowing throughout the whole book. It is a lyrical work that delves into the darkly quixotic relationship between the main characters, Auryn and Asher. The story subtly floats and flows until, abruptly, the words change course creating a staggered torrent, a scream of consciousness. Drifting between a daydream world of selfless sacrifices and self involved exploration and a nightmarish world of drug addiction, rape and suicide, McCollum’s book is a study in perceptive idealisms, holding a broken shard of mirror up to what we seem to feel is real.
Born in Muncie, Indiana, but having grown up in the Dayton area, McCollum attended Wright State University, studying English and creative writing. It was here, as I found out during a conversation with her about the book, that the seed for the novel was first created in the form of a 10-page story. From there, it took to the labyrinthine path of her psyche and experiences with the end result being an epic sonnet of spirit and sadness interspersed with song lyrics, snippets of Shakespeare and more than a few cultural references.
Dayton City Paper: How would you describe your book?
Natalie McCollum: I would say it’s experimental, but I’m basically trying to buck tradition and put extremes together that you wouldn’t normally find together just to see what happens. Like putting Shakespeare, high art, pop culture and rock n’ roll together. With all the poetry and music, there’s a lyrical aspect to it as well. I think it’s commenting on the fact that art kind of transcends time and that everything is kind of connected, like art feeds off of art As a more literal definition, it’s a dark, paranormal romance. That would be the other genre that I would put it in.
DCP: How would you tell someone how to approach your book?
NM: Well, I think it can appeal to many different groups. I mean, there’s definitely an underground art vibe to it. It would definitely appeal to a strictly academic literary audience, but there’s also kind of a very free-spirited underground art scene going on in it as well. Since it is experimental, I would tell people to approach it with an open mind. Just approach it with a free spirit.
DCP: With the intensity of your story, how close to the edge did you become? How much did the story become your world?
NM: Yeah, I was pretty much living and breathing it. When I would sit down to write portions of it, I would just kind of go into this other state of consciousness and then, two to three hours later, I’d get done and I’d realize that I hadn’t eaten and was shaking … so, yeah, it was pretty much an experience. Sometimes I’ve almost thought … you live with these characters in your head for so long that they become real to you. I’ve thought that maybe if I travel far enough into the world, I will eventually run into these characters. So, in answer to your question, I was very much to the edge.
DCP: One thing that struck me immediately was your use of footnotes to reference other authors’ or songwriters’ works. Are the footnotes being used as a kind of extension of the book, so that the story will continue?
NM: Yeah, in one sense, they add a timeless quality to it. One of the people that read some of the different versions of the draft described it as a history of rock n’ roll. It’s also because I do quote heavily from other pieces of literature and music; it just gives credit to the other authors. I was just making sure that I was really careful not to just take their works.
DCP: It feels like that the book kind of originated in the middle and worked its way outward.
NM: Yes, it is very layered. It’s not as linear as most fiction stories are. It’s more multi-dimensional. I think that is a good way to describe it. It started out as a 10-page story that I had written, but in the writing of the book, the skeleton of the basic story that I started with is still there. Over the course of five years of working on it, it definitely evolved … like adding muscle to the skeleton.
You can purchase McCollum’s book on Amazon.com or you can order it directly from the publisher, Punkin Books (www.punkinbooks.com). It is also available locally at Ohio Coffee Co. (46 W. Fifth St. in Dayton) or Dark Star Books & Comics (237 Xenia Ave. in Yellow Springs).
Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at email@example.com