I feel like I talk a lot about how in so many ways Roving Pack was not the book I thought I would find myself working on after Kicked Out, though if I’m being honest (which I strive to be in my writing) I really had no idea what I would be working on next. Kicked Out was a book I dove into honestly without any idea of what I was doing, other than a whole bunch of old duct-taped together dreams, a bunch of luck, and the kind of posturing that might only come with being a former zinester who did things like illegally sell queer zines out of hir backpack at downtown markets. Kicked Out really taught me about this world. It gave me access to communities that I’d only (literally) read from for years, and it truly was a collective process with all of the incredible contributors to bring to life these collection of stories. When the book released in between the fairly intense touring schedule I immediately launched into I began thinking a lot (panicking really) about what I would be working on next, which of course made thinking about writing downright impossible.
My partner had given me the restriction (Someday I’ll write more about the positive ways Leather intersects with my art and living a life in D/s keeps me from self destructing by taking on too many projects at once) that I couldn’t begin a new book for at least a year. Kicked Out had nearly wrecked me creatively, especially the last few months of production where I felt like I was under tremendous pressure from every angle. For the first few months after the release I didn’t write at all, everything was about Kicked Out – promoting, touring etc, honestly I didn’t know if I would ever *really* enjoy writing again.
I remember being in Boston on tour the spring after Kicked Out released and sitting on Toni Amato (my chosen Uncle/writing mentor/good friend)’s back porch as he fed me berry pancakes and asked me about writing. I was probably crying, and I said I wanted to get my voice back. As Kicked Out became the success that it is, I learned very quickly that in some ways survival in this industry was dependent upon writing the way someone else wanted. I learned to play that game, but my creativity had been a casualty. With Toni’s help I spent the next year just playing. I wasn’t writing for a deadline, for an editor, or in anyone elses voice I was writing anything and everything that came to me without thought of how it was or wasn’t marketable. I tried to write like I had as a crusty zinester – fast and punchy without worrying about censoring things I know might be unpopular with readers. Slowly, over the course of the year I remembering why I liked writing in the first place, and was more than a little shocked to realize at the end of the year I had the skeleton of a book.
When I began in earnest to pursue this novel, to take those first beginning stories and transform them into a novel I made the commitment that while I wanted this to be the best book it could be, I didn’t want it to be clean. I was unwilling and uninterested in sanitizing my characters or the world they inhabit for the comfort of readers. To be worth doing, I knew that I needed to remain true to my vision for this book, and keep the grittiness of the world I grew up in and the queer/trans/leather lives I built around my characters. I fought attempts to tame or simplify my characters and their stories, and am so proud of the way the novel ended up coming together, especially when I’m able to put it into the hands of the kinds of gritty artists/writers whose work I’ve admired since I lived the crusty punk worlds of Roving Pack’s characters and have them respond positively! I’m thrilled to be able to say that Cristy Road whose work I remember finding at the Portland Zine Symposium in 2003 has blurbed Roving Pack!!!! Check it out:
“Sassafras Lowery brings us a tale of gender defiance, in a universe struggling to be defiant. Roving Pack introduces us to the whirlwind queer subcultures of Portland, OR in 2002; and the dizzying effects of fighting against the world at war,and the gender binary. Lowery takes us on a journey through dilapidated punk houses, sexual revelation, donut-filled dumpsters, cluttered bedrooms, and the ever-changing struggle to embrace your gender identity, through your own definitions.”
—CRISTY C. ROAD