Maria Dahvana Headley & Sxip Shirey, by Kyle Cassidy

So, it’s been two weeks since I’ve managed to blog anything. It’s because I got captured by a zombie. (Keep reading.)

Well, no. Unless my in-progress book is a zombie. Which…maybe. The Queen of Kings sequel requires in depth and intense research, and well, you know. Because I am working on a sequel, I’m also spending too much time on Twitter.  If you’re missing me, visit me there.  I talk all the time on Twitter, even in my sleep.

Quickly, early in this post: are you in the Pacific NW? You’d better be coming to one of these events in the next couple weeks. Powell’s on June 28, me, reading/signing. And in Seattle, Neil Gaiman in conversation with yours truly on June 26th. For which you’d better already have a ticket.

This, however, deserves an actual post.

A few weeks ago, I decided that I needed some new promo shots for Queen of Kings. It’s out in the UK on July 21st. (Yip!) I called the famous Sxip Shirey, who is not a photographer, but who knows people in all parts of the universe,(he’s how I ended up working with the remarkable Kerthy Fix on the Queen of Kings trailer) knows me well enough to know that I needed a)mad genius and also needed b) him to come with me.

There are things about me. I’m neurotic getting my photo taken.  I’m fine in life. It’s something about getting photos formally taken. There’s a famous photo from my childhood which is a studio portrait of my brother, sister, and me. Something about the whole situation, the little set, the flashbulbs, the bitchy photographer’s assistant who kept trying to offer me a stuffed duck, put me in a place. In the actual photos, I am rising up from behind my well-posed, smiling siblings like a wild animal, yelling some kind of sabotagey cry.  So, I need someone who can deal with that urge.

Just prior to Book Expo last month, Sxip and I embarked from NYC on a weekend trip to Philly, to Kyle Cassidy and (the lovely) Trillian Star‘s house. Kyle is amazing. He’s taken lots of pictures you’ve seen, no doubt – including many of Amanda Palmer (Amanda has the most extremely good taste in friends and loved ones. She’s the link that connects me to a ton of people I’m consistently crazy about, all of whom tend to be deeply generous, insanely smart, and balls out artists) including the photos from Who Killed Amanda Palmer, and also his book, Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes  and current project Warpaint:  Tattoo Culture and the Armed Forces – all of which are INCREDIBLE.  Let me just say, of Kyle’s work; it’s completely compassionate and clear-eyed no matter what he’s shooting.This is true of Kyle himself, as well. He’s funny and brainy as fuck, don’t get me wrong, but he’s also someone you would instantly, easily want to befriend, due to a surpassing and obvious understanding.

There’s that rather obnoxious Reader Of National Geographic Listener To NPR trope about isolated tribes thinking that photographs steal your soul. (Don’t get me wrong – I like the notion of soul stealing. A lot. Obviously. But that story, recited as a revelation – it’s old) I think Kyle’s the rare photographer who actually manages to depict souls in his photos.

Kyle blogged about the experience of making these pictures here.  Very generously, too. I love him.

The rainyish  morning we shot these, Sxip and I went for a wander in Kyle and Trillian’s neighborhood, searching for coffee, and discovered that our skillsets in this regard were completely compatible.  Sxip has a fierce sense of direction, no doubt born of being a touring musician for years upon  years. I do not. I lose my way all the time, mainly because I use people’s faces as landmarks. I really can’t be bothered to look at scenery and streetsigns, not if there are people to look at.  So, Sxip diagrammed our progress, and I found a coffee drinking person who told us where to go for caffeine. I regret to say that Sxip has quit drinking coffee, so next time we travel together, I’ll be the girl wandering the streets of wherever, directionless, hands trembling.We started out doing more traditional author photos – albeit, in a cemetery. I tried not to smile.

This is me not smiling.

Maria Dahvana Headley by Kyle Cassidy


Maria Dahvana Headley by Kyle Cassidy

There is no not-smile setting on my face, really.  But Kyle rocked these.  And look at the fantastic background. Mossy green glory!

And now, listen to this song, because it’s relevant: Dead Man’s Bones – My Body’s a Zombie For You (And yes, it’s Ryan Gosling’s band. Weirdly. I dig it, though. I love people who do more than one thing, unapologetically. Hyphenates.)

Then, because Kyle is creative, and because Sxip was standing there going, Headley, what is your deal with the smile situation? And because we were at a cemetery and it was starting to rain, and Sxip has that crazy badass hair, and Sxip actually IS a performer…  He was supposed to be my emotional support, but instead he ended up being my actual support.

And this (and the above) happened.

Maria Dahvana Headley & Sxip Shirey, by Kyle Cassidy

In my personal narrative, this’d be right before I sit up and bite the hell out of any zombie who dares snatch me.  Zombies, do not fuck with me.

All in all, it was a beautiful day. As Kyle says, I got dragged around in mud and wet and leaves, and I was WAY INTO IT.  By the time I left that cemetery, my ass was so covered with mud that I looked like I’d been doing something quite different than what had actually happened.

And hell, it was just about as good as that would’ve been.

My feeling is, fuck, write a monster book, get carried away by a monster. That’s how I wrote Queen of Kings. The monster picked me up and took me.

I love creative people.  I love crazy people. I love my friends.  And I love these photos. If you’re selling Queen of Kings in a bookstore, and no one knows that it’s crazy and rock & roll (it is, it is) feel free to take one of these and paste it up next to the book.

Here’s a quote from someone on Twitter (the awesome Maki Yamane – aka Tiny Concorde) who’s reading the book right now.

“Finally getting around to reading #QueenOfKings for real, past the first three chapters. @MARIADAHVANA‘s Cleopatra is fucking #metal, man.”

I love that.  And now, back to writing.


2 thoughts on “ZOMBIES, CARRY ME AWAY

  1. Maria, hi- I semi-reviewed your book on my blog http://donotparkhere.blogspot.com . so I’m sure the three people who actually read my blog have rushed out to buy it. For wyself, I found it to be more than just a good read-you are a fantastic writer and funny as shit in (so calle) real life! Keena Powers

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