Rainbows Suck is a Bizarro novella published by Eraserhead Press as part of their New Bizarro Author Series. Rainbows Suck sucked me right into its lush surreal landscape with biting social satire and its layers of depth and heart. I found myself feeling deeply for the main character, Tilly, who is transformed into a live art object and catapulted into sudden celebrity status, in a strange world where you must outweird your peers in order to survive every single day. I got the chance to pry my sticky fingers into the author’s brain and found, as suspected, that Madeleine Swann is a one-of-a-kind weirdo.
She is also a British Bizarro fashion icon.
LEZA CANTORAL for CLASH: How long had this world/characters/story of Rainbows Suck been germinating in your head before you wrote it?
MADELEINE SWANN: The characters in Rainbows Suck had made a small nest in my mind for several years before falling onto a page when I leaned forwards one summer’s eve. I had previously been unaware of their existence, making many trips to the doctor complaining of headaches and unexplained urges to hump telegraph poles. After the fifth visit, in which she shone a light into my ear and told me to go home and get some sleep, I had resigned myself to hiding in the attic for the rest of my natural life when the afore-mentioned head lean took place. Colour and glitter issued forth onto the page from my ear, I rubbed it about a bit, and the book you see before you was born.
CANTORAL: What scares you the most?
SWANN: It’s a fact that a true writer can never feel fear, instead surging boldly into situations of terror. If you see an argument taking place, barge your way to it’s centre. If still they haven’t noticed your bravery, raise your voice in a single note of rage.
CANTORAL: Why do Rainbows suck?
SWANN: Rainbows suck because no one knows the true reason they are here. It’s all very well to be pretty, but what do they really do for us? Have they ever made themselves useful? The answer is no and I just can’t forgive them for that, I’ve been through too much.
CANTORAL: You are a British Bizarro fashion icon. What are you wearing?
SWANN: Well, thank you for the compliment! I’m wearing a gown of internet rage, shoes by wistful memories of Unholy Monks and a Venetian mask, for I am such an enigma that no-one can know the real me. They all want to, at parties people whisper about the mysterious stranger they’re so drawn to, but they are doomed to always be on the periphery wishing they can hang out with me but never quite being cool enough.
CANTORAL: What are the hot looks this season?
SWANN: This season’s must haves are a sense of impending doom to be worn at a jaunty angle over the eyes. Next is a cloak draped in the corridors of time. Currently the most popular era to display about the shoulders is the Cambrian Period, the sight of earth’s first fish is bound to get any prospective dates into a tizzy. All this should be followed up with shoes depicting the argument for and against the existence of God, with the argument for on the left and against on the right. Once the insults and grammar corrections crackle between them heads will turn!
CANTORAL: What is the purpose and meaning of fashion?
SWANN: Fashion is life. Fashion is air, especially the bits that are actually air and not buttons. Without fashion we would all be cold, or at the very least avoided in the street by people who didn’t want to see that thing on your belly. No-one needs to see that. Put it away. It makes me sad. It makes me question reality.
CANTORAL: What is a day in your life like?
SWANN: I rise, fully equipped with the day’s tales. I have merely to sit at my desk and scribble with the enthusiasm of one drunk on knitting and the words come unbidden, desperate to be unleashed on an eager and receptive world. Writer’s block is an invention of those who tell lies – filthy, disgusting lies. I then fling myself into a pool of icy water where I swim 400 lengths, all the while reciting Byron’s ‘Don Juan’. I star jump 86 times before dressing in the finest silks and crying for all the poor people of the world. Then I have cornflakes. I finish my day by reading several volumes of poetry simultaneously whilst listening to every single Man Booker Prize winner on headphones.
CANTORAL: Do you have any strange pets?
SWANN: I have no pets, though my neighbour’s cats make excellent fascinators.
CANTORAL: Do you have any bizarre fetishes or obsessions?
SWANN: A true writer is afflicted with a multitude of strange quirks and fascinating habits. Often, when in a quiet room of strangers, I like to stand up and announce my crippling shyness. If people don’t respond I often find saying it again only louder is the best way. If the response still isn’t quite what you hoped I advise shouting at them for being selfish and noisily leaving the room. Follow these rules and you will make friends wherever you go.
CANTORAL: Who is Madeleine Swan?
SWANN: A fascinating question and one too multi-faceted to answer in a single interview. She is woman, she is beast, she is feathered, she is scaly, she is quiet, she is loud, she is violent, she is on remand, she is settling out of court. She is all these things and more.
CANTORAL: What’s next for you?
SWANN: The more pertinent question would be, what isn’t next? I can assure you there will be no leaked internet stories of sweat shops writing my stories for me, such rumours are just that and should be given the attention they deserve. That is to say, not remotely looked into and all so-called proof dismissed. Thank you for accompanying me on my journey. I hope to still see you by my side as we reach the end of the road.
Bio: Madeleine Swann’s first novella, ‘Rainbows Suck’, was released as part of the New Bizarro Author Series of 2015 with Eraserhead Press. She has a collection of short stories called ‘The Filing Cabinet of Doom’ and has appeared in various anthologies.
You can find Madeleine Swann on Twitter and Facebook @MadeleineSwann