Peter Schorn

Art, Addiction, and Authenticity:

A Dialogue with Detroit’s own Lisa Vicious

In the world of literature, there is a place where emotions are raw and truth is unfiltered.  I had the pleasure of  doing a reading with Lisa Vicious at 27th Letter Books, in Detroit Michigan earlier this month. I enjoyed chatting with her before the book reading began. As she opened her latest work, “Love Letters and Suicide Notes,” to share excerpts with the audience, her presence held an undeniable allure.

In this interview, we explore the life, art, and spirit of Lisa Vicious, who candidly discusses her rise above addiction, unveiling insights into her creative process, grappling with writer’s block, and the influences that ignite her creativity. 

-x-

What is your favorite subject to read as a writer?

Psychology, dark fiction, vampires, memoirs. Strangely, I don’t read a whole lot of poetry. I really like Josh Malerman‘s books, he is also from Michigan. The unfortunate side of being a writer is, when I read I can’t just read one book at a time, so I will have three or four going, and I read like I’m cramming for the SATs!

About your sobriety now. Do you go to meetings?

As of this interview, I have 12 years clean from drugs and alcohol. I occasionally partake in the herb, depending on who you talk to, it doesn’t make me clean; but as someone with chronic pain who cannot take prescription pills anymore, it’s the responsible choice. I believe there’s a difference between abstinence and recovery. Abstinence is not recovery. You can stay abstinent from drugs and alcohol all your life but if you don’t change the way you think and figure out why you needed substances to begin with, it’s pointless. Recovery is never-ending, it’s using the tools you learn in meetings, from sponsors, and therapy, to make decisions that won’t land you in jail or the morgue. I do struggle with cigarettes. I don’t smoke anymore, but out of everything I’ve quit, that is the hardest – mentally to shake. And when you’re in rehab they don’t tell you to quit smoking, they encourage you to continue smoking when you’re trying to get sober. Coffee and cigarettes. Now, it’s green smoothies with collagen and ibuprofen every morning.

Recently I was talking with someone about being an addict and what it feels like. An example I used is: I see a Tic-Tac on the floor, immediately my “addict brain” analyzes the colour and shape to determine what pill it is or if it’s a Tic-Tac. Recovery tells me that this thought is fleeting and it doesn’t matter what it is and I don’t have to eat it to find out! Early in recovery I attended a lot of meetings then tapered off, it wasn’t a priority due to circumstance.

I have gone to a couple local meetings recently, after my cousin died. He struggled with addiction as well and ultimately it took his life, but he did die sober so I’m proud of him for that. It gutted me and I needed to remind myself of why I got sober. I always felt better after meetings. I don’t believe that they are the best way to stay sober, but they can help. I also belong to the Sober Faction of the Satanic Temple, which is a great source, it doesn’t promote the religious based steps, which I feel strips you of the power you have within yourself to succeed in recovery. I always hated that AA/NA tell you you are powerless over your addiction. The fuck you are! Your mind is stronger than you are led to believe. Once you set your mind to something and you decide you’re going to get sober and you want it enough – nothing nor nobody can stop you other than yourself.

What would you like readers to know about you, and what you have coming up?

As of now I’m getting in as many open mic nights as possible, I recently performed at the 35th Annual Erotic Poetry and Music Festival. I’m in the process of writing my fourth book which should be out in October of 2024, called “Paper Monsters”. This will be my first book of new material, it’s a lot darker than my previous work. It’s also much more lyrical. I’m working with someone to put music to some of my pieces and I’m aiming to do an audio version of “Love Letters and Suicide Notes” notes as well. I’ve also revived Vicious Aries, which 25 years ago used to be my promotions company. I will be publishing a book of poetry from a really talented punk poet from Pittsburgh, the end of this year if not early ‘25. I’d love to do a book tour at some point as well.

What inspires you. 

My inspirations are found everywhere. From my earliest loves, Jim Morrison and Janis, to Basquiat and currently, multimedia artist, Eden Aurelia. I’m a huge fan of Rozz and Maynard, Johnny Indovina, god bullies, X, and currently, Damien Youth. I love Slipknot musically, Clown’s perspective on art… I love his dark vision. My favorite bands are Supersuckers and QOTSA. Authors – Edgar Allan Poe, Anne Sexton, Tom Hansen, Jim Carroll, who was so underrated; Burroughs, who forever scarred me with Naked Lunch. I love the dark side of art. I love death. I have probably been stripped of my goth card by now, but still have my resume.

Let’s talk about your books

The Devil in Ms. Vicious 2008. The content was good but I threw it together in one of the worst active addiction episodes I had, so, it was s***. It’s a bunch of pieces about a certain time in my life and in detail chronicles these situations, with certain let’s call them “road friends”. I recently re-released it in March of 2024, with new artwork and revised pieces.

Take For Pain as Needed  2009. This was my second collection of poetry. Better time, better artwork, I actually used one of the sculptures I made as the cover of it. It’s a bit more light-hearted, personal but not detailing certain stories as much. This is out of print but at some point I will re-release that as well.

Love Letters and Suicide Notes 2024. This is my baby. Over a decade in the making. Szandora LaVey it was spot on about what this book is about, “[she] fearlessly confronts the darkest corners of human experience: the specters of suicide, child abuse, and domestic violence, while confronting mental illness and drug addiction. With unflinching honesty, she lays bare the raw wounds of her past, inviting readers to bear witness to the shattered fragments of her soul. Yet, amidst the wreckage of despair, there exists a flicker of hope—a defiant ember that refuses to be extinguished.” That seems to be the theme that everyone has taken from this book. I’ve been fortunate to have Exene Cervenka and Johnny Indovina and Rachel Brooke also review Love Letters, and then Johnny also wrote the forward to the book. It really is about going to hell and coming out the other side, being friends with your demons, learning to live with them, and realizing that you can make a positive out of any negative situation.

Where can readers buy your books?

You can buy my books on my website at lisavicious.com, also on Amazon, but I have a love-hate relationship with Amazon and I think the printing quality of KDP sucks. So if you get it from my website you’re actually getting a better quality book, signed, and with extras.  They print great full color books but I was not impressed with my proofs – at all. So printing comes out of my pocket, I want to make sure I give people the best experience I can from what the book looks like to the content inside of it. I am also on Facebook and Instagram @lisavicious313  and Patreon, when I talk more in depth about my writing and poems, as well as whatever comes to my mind. I prefer being on Patreon because it’s uncensored and eventually would like to just be on that platform.

Also, a portion of all sales gets donated to the Congregation of Everyone, which is a great organization that prepares and delivers 200 survival backpacks a month to the homeless in Detroit. There’s information in the back of Love Letters about the organization as well as a QR code to make a donation. You can find more info at CoE1.org.

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was 11. I had a Smith Corona I would type horrible short stories on. I didn’t know much about life from experience obviously, so writing based on music I heard was where it started. I once wrote a screenplay based on Tori Amos’s ‘Little Earthquakes’ album and a rock opera based on ‘Radar Love’; which turned out to be much more West Side Story than what I intended. By the time I was 13 I started writing poetry. It became something that I had to do, I would actually feel it in my bones that I had to write and if I didn’t, it would hurt. It was a coping mechanism.

Did you take any classes or professional development to improve your skills?

Writing, I went to college and I never completed my degrees. It was hard for me because I’m such a natural writer that the structure of the courses made me dislike it for a long time. My creative writing was beyond the scope of what they considered commendable. I did study at Second City in Detroit, and improv saved my life. It pulled me out of teenage depression. I don’t think it helped me as a writer but it definitely plays a part as a performer, which now after 24 years is finally being put to good use. I would love to have s*** hanging on my walls and vanity degrees to say that I did something special, but at the end of the day, my academic credentials are not going to change who I am as a writer or what I write about. I barely got through high school, college was not in the stars for me.

What does writers block mean to you or how do you overcome it?

Writer’s/Artist’s block is the most horrible thing an artist can go through. I think when you’re overcoming a block it needs to be the right environment, the right time, and you have to be open to all possibilities. Something has to spark the flame. Whether it’s a person, or a place, or song, if it’s in your soul to write at some point you will start writing again. It’s just a matter of finding that spark. Now that the floodgates have been opened I feel like I have endless possibilities; not only as a writer, but the topics I write about translate well to lectures and group talks in addition to poetry readings. I’m genuinely excited about my creative future!