Friday, July 1, 2016

Book Spotlight: The Fangirl Life by Kathleen Smith (Author Interview)

Title: The Fangirl Life: A Guide to All the Feels and Learning How to Deal
Author: Kathleen Smith
Publisher: TarcherPerigee
Publication Date: July 5, 2016

Synopsis: You'd probably know a "fangirl" when you see one, but the majority stay relatively closeted due to the stigma of being obsessed with fictional characters. However, these obsessions are sometimes the fangirl's solutions for managing stress, anxiety, and even low self-esteem. Fangirling is often branded as behavior young women should outgrow and replace with more adult concerns. Written by a proud fangirl, The Fangirl Life is a witty testament to the belief that honoring your imagination can be congruous with good mental health, and it's a guide to teach fangirls how to put their passion to use in their own lives.

The Fangirl Life encourages you to use an obsession not as a distraction from the anxieties of life, but rather as a test lab for your own life story:

How can a character girl crush be useful instead of a waste of time?
How can writing fan fiction be a launching point for greater endeavors?
How do you avoid the myths that fictional romance perpetuates?

By showing you how to translate obsession into personal accomplishment while affirming the quirky, endearing qualities of your fangirl nature, The Fangirl Life will help you become your own ultimate fangirl.

About the Author: Kathleen Smith runs the website FangirlTherapy.com, where she answers questions submitted by fangirls struggling with their obsessions. She's written for websites such as Slate, Lifehacker, HelloGiggles, Bustle, and Thought Catalog. Kathleen is also a licensed therapist and mental health journalist, reporting for publications and sites such as Counseling Today, The Huffington Post, and PsychCentral. An out-and-proud fangirl, she read every Star Wars universe novel then in existence by the time she was 12 years old and was a blogger for the popular website What Would Emma Pillsbury Wear?, where she chronicled a year of not wearing pants, as inspired by the hit show Glee (before it was ruined beyond all recognition). She would never turn down a ticket to Comic-Con.


Author Interview:

1. What do you define as a “fangirl?”

There is so much gatekeeping when it comes to fangirling. So I try to keep my definition broad. I would say that if you really enjoy something and you want to call yourself a fangirl, then you’re in the club. In general, fangirls like a show, book, band, etc. enough to seek out a community of people who enjoy the same. Their enthusiasm is wonderful, creative, and contagious. They don’t want to experience something passively. They feel the urge to participate in a story as writers, artists, critics, advocates, and so forth. In short, we jump in the game, but we play by our own rules.

2. You are a licensed therapist who also deeply identifies as a fangirl. How did this combination help inspire this book? 

I think most people who are therapists or counselors have this innate curiosity about how people operate, both in their minds and in their relationships with others. Coincidentally, fangirls have a similar curiosity. It just happens to be directed at fictional characters or celebrities. As both a fangirl and a therapist, I love experimenting and finding techniques and ideas that help me live a fuller, braver life. Many of these ideas come from thinking about people who have been role models for me both in fiction and real life. This experimenting inspired me to write a self-improvement book that utilized the language and world of the fangirl. The book breaks down many of the topics relevant to fangirls, but it also has a lot of theory based in the mental health world. I take a lot of the knowledge I have as a therapist but turn it into fangirl speak. So in a way the book is a test-lab for fangirls for learning powerful life skills and creating a courageous narrative for themselves.

3. What do you fangirl about, most of the time? 

For me, fangirling has always been about swooning over fictional role models. Women who are older than I am who live big, brave lives but also aren’t afraid to make mistakes and pick themselves up after a setback. They’ve been women like Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica, Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy, or Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife. Yes, I cry about my OTPs (“one true pairing”) too, and I love any and all space operas, but for me it has always been about finding those inspirers who make me sit up and take notes.

4. So, even though you are a fangirl yourself, is your book THE FANGIRL LIFE making the argument that fangirls need to be “fixed” or “cured” in some way?

Absolutely not. I would never think of a fangirl or client I was working with as needing “fixing.” I love the idea of seeing my own life and the lives of others as a narrative. So I see myself more as an “unfinished” creature. Accepting your humanity means accepting that you are a work in progress, whether you’re a fangirl or not. So I think the book celebrates that unfinishedness, and it hopefully can help a fangirl to see herself as a person who is growing, challenging her biases, allowing other people to inspire her, and learning new ways to practice self-compassion.

5. Why do you think fangirling has gotten a bad rap, while being a “fanboy” doesn’t seem to have as negative a connotation? 

I think that fangirls are most often associated with young teenage women, and there has always been this societal bias that everything a teenage girl likes must naturally be “uncool.” I think women participate in this shaming as well, and we have to be more intentional about celebrating the passions of young girls, regardless of whether we like the band or the show or the book that they’re crying about. But I know plenty of men who might argue that “fanboy” is a term used just as negatively, so I’m hesitant to compare. I think we need to just stop shaming people for their passions in general, as long as they aren’t harming anyone else. I think that self-righteousness comes from our own insecurities and fears.

6. Can you give us an example of how you took your “fangirl life” and transferred one or a few of those fangirl traits into achievements? 

I could cite a lot of job skills I’ve learned because fangirling made me more internet or tech savvy, but I think my biggest achievement is learning to be more vulnerable in my relationships. Fangirl friendships demand almost instant vulnerability, because you’re choosing to share your life with someone you’ve never met, someone who knows how much you think about two fictional people kissing or how many Google alerts you have for an actor. I think learning to be a more authentic version of myself with my fangirl friends, a version where I could share my quirks and my insecurities and ask for support, helped me realize that vulnerability could benefit any relationship, whether it was a fangirl one or not. Especially in the process of writing this book, I had to be more vulnerable about my interests and my flaws with people. And guess what? The world didn’t end. So now I have less anxiety that people will “shame” me for being myself. And if they do, who needs them?

7. Finally, the burning question: what’s the best fan fiction you’ve ever personally written? 

Oh man. Once I wrote a fan fiction where my ship (aka favorite romantic relationship) ran into each other at a restaurant. Of course they were both there with different dates but they all ended up sitting together. The evening quickly descended into a comedic shouting match. I am really good at writing epic, funny fights in fan fiction. I mean who doesn’t love a bit of yelling between their OTPs?

Check out this QUIZ to see what kind of fangirl you are!

I got: THE SHIPPER


You are The Shipper. For you, fangirling is all about finding those two love-struck characters who make you cry unicorn tears. You spend hours daydreaming about your OTP and texting headcanon to your friends. You’re yawning at work because you stayed up too late reading fan fic. The shipper knows that if you look closely enough at any two people, you can find the spark and create a wildfire of chemistry. This makes you a hopeful fangirl, one who’s not afraid to use her imagination or to see the best in people.

-Kristen ♥

2 comments:

  1. I love this definition of fangirl. It's such an open broad concept as it should be. There's not one defining characteristic. Great post!

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  2. Love this interview! And that's such a cool idea for a book; I think it'll be much better than some of the other ones that have come out (*cough* The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy *cough*). Thanks for featuring this! I got the Creator on the quiz :D

    - Eli @ The Silver Words
    #commenting365

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I love comments!!! They mean the world to me! ♥

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