Roya Backlund, 24, Actress & Writer (Los Angeles US)

bellydancingsmoke.tumblr.com

@opal_sea

photo by Sabrina

interview by Emily

1. What first got you into writing? Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?

I actually don't remember. I'm trying to recall a defining moment for myself and I can't. I think I've been gradually receiving my identity as a writer in pieces since the beginning. I was creating alter universes and drawing on the walls and talking to imaginary friends and then one day, I started writing. Writing is just the medium that worked best for me to tell my stories. As for my inspiration... well, let's see. My style has been shaped by so many other artists. I know for a fact that pop and music icons like Syd Barret, Liam & Noel Gallagher, Kanye West, Chelsea Wolfe, Lana Del Rey, Depeche Mode, and Courtney Love are all super influential in the way I see the world. As for writers I am always going back to, there's Janet Fitch, John Keats, Aimee Bender, Warsan Shire, Megan Falley, Trista Mateer, and Kris Kidd but the list goes on and on forever. At the end of the day, I think it's my friends and family that inspire me the most. The lives they live, the art they create, the way they unknowingly help piece together a half-formed idea I have. My ideas come from loving and being loved, and all the darkness that it comes with. My ideas come from making a dent in others and being dented in. Punching and being punched.

2. How did you get into acting, and how do you think your acting ties into your writing?

I started getting into acting pretty much the second I turned eighteen. It looked like such an exhilarating experience... the story becoming part of your bones. I wanted to know what that felt like, your whole body existing in it. Acting breaks down your barriers and forces you to be vulnerable. You are required to absorb and feel everything. I think it has made my writing a much more immersive and honest experience. It's helped me face my emotions. I think the best art happens when an artist can show the world exactly how they feel without apology. It's not an easy thing to do and I'm still learning. It's humiliating and horrifying at times. It requires so much introspection and staring our insecurities in the face and learning how to accept them. As humiliating as it can be though, it's just as wonderful and it has helped me fall in love with myself, flaws and all. Acting facilitates just that. It fine-tunes your gut instinct. It helps you find your truth and then trust it.

3. A lot of your writing deals with love and relationships. What's your take on the connection -- or opposition -- between love poetry and feminism?

I think everyone should be able to write what they need to write. I mean, unless the writing specifically harms the world in some way, unless it's promoting hateful, violent thinking. I don't understand how writing about love, in all its ugliness and beauty, would be anything other than honest. We have to be allowed to write about it if it is what is clawing at our hearts. Maybe it reveals a certain weakness if we can't stop writing about it, maybe it's a certain strength. That's not for me to decide but I do know that it is human to love. And feminism, to me, is about fighting for all of us to live in a world where our most authentic self is respected, protected, and treated fairly. I feel the sentiment that people need to live up to any kind of standard, even within the feminist community, is not what the true meaning of it is. It's not about being perfect. If a poet wants to write about how they've never loved a man and they never want children, they should. If a poet wants to write about the man they love and the child they're about to have, they should. We have to be able to read all of it.

4. Do you think your exes have read the poetry you've written about them? How do you think your poetry has affected the way you feel about them, and the way that they feel about you?

All they have to do is look for my poetry. I mean, I check up on my exes' social media's every now and then, I don't know why they wouldn't do the same for me. I'm sure some of them think all my poems are written about them. I think a lot of them would be relieved--or disappointed--to know that while a lot of my poems are inspired by them, they're also totally fictional. Yeah, some of them are very pointed... but I wanted it so. It's like shouting everything you couldn't get through to your ex into the void and hoping they finally hear you. I think writing about exes helps me give the relationship an epilogue. It helps me end the story... and at times, perhaps even continue it, make it more dramatic, more passionate, more deadly. If we're all the protagonists of our own story, writing about our exes just makes the story more interesting. It gives us an ending that satisfies us. I am on good terms with a few of my exes and I think they would appreciate my poems. I'm sure the rest of them just think I'm crazy, honestly. Crazy, unfair, selfish, desperate, clingy, intense... that's fine. I'll be the crazy ex. It's way more fun that way.

5. Your poetry is very personal, and reveals a lot of intimate details about you, your love life, and your family. Do you ever feel nervous about sharing so much of yourself to your readers?

Generally speaking, I've come to enjoy that vulnerability. It's kind of an adrenaline rush reading a poem about your biggest insecurity to a crowd of people over a microphone. I have come to a place where I feed off that. I'm excited by the thought that they've possibly judged me negatively or even positively. Pick me apart, I don't care at that point. If I'm reading the poem out loud, obviously I've come to some set of terms with it. There's something triumphant about that. I mean, there certainly are some poems I would be fine with my family, and even some of my best friends, never really knowing about. If we're going to be honest with ourselves, the things we feel have the ability to offend others, even if that's never our intention. There are just some things that you would never tell someone but you can't lie to yourself about it. In my art, I don't want to censor myself. I can't worry about that. I mean, I don't think my poems are usually very obvious in their specificity. Unless they're about my mother. I've got one mother, there's no doubt who those poems are about. My mom has the same understanding of art that I do, so I don't believe she's ever taken it personally. I hope no one ever take my poems personally, really. Not even my exes. It's just a small facet of myself that might not even be entirely true. It was just what I was feeling at the time.

6. You're currently working on a book of poetry entitled "Juice" -- what is the meaning behind the title "Juice"?

Juice is everything that's writhing beneath a taut, thin surface. The book is, so to speak, bursting through that surface and revealing the truth about my experience growing up as a woman. Each poem is titled as liquid form or an ingredient. There is "Honey," "Coffee," "Bourbon," "Jasmine Oil," "Gasoline," and dozens more. It was fun coming up with so many of them. I wanted the book to have a strong conceptual effect.

7. If you could go back in time and give advice to your five-year-old self, what would you tell her?

You are enough. You are enough. You are enough. I know you're lonely and I know it feels like you have to sacrifice parts of yourself in order to belong. But all of your parts are important. Not one should be sacrificed. Not one isn't beautiful. Hold onto all of them. You don't want to look back and wish for some of them back. I promise, you will find people that want you as nothing less than exactly who you are someday.