you're fine

gina tron

wordsmith gina tron tells it like is… she’s fabulous, flamboyant and her confessional articles and bizarro tales have been capturing the attention of readers, including and my sweet self, for many years now. with fingers that glide across the keyboard and vital stories overflowing, what else could she do but write a novel. and that’s just what she’s done with you’re fine. recently published by papercut press, you’re fine is an extremely honest account of her time spent in rehab. ms tron, who’s been a longtime contributor to powder, took some time to give me the lowdown on the writing process and her time inside.
interview with i.t.a.

ms tron, we’ve all simply been captivated by your first novel/memoir you’re fine - - here at the powder studio. and might i say tis such a pleasure to get the time to chat with such an authentic writer as yourself.

Thanks! The feeling is mutual.

so without giving it all away, how would you describe you’re fine to the powder readers ? and what was the impetus for you to write the book?

It’s about my time at Gracie Square, which is a psych ward and rehab center on the upper east side of New York. I checked in on Christmas Eve of 2010 and stayed about a week. The book is about my time there, and events leading up to it (mostly late fall of 2010). There are also flashbacks from earlier times in my life that I put in that I thought were relevant to the themes of the book.

the narrative of the book begins with you checking yourself into gracie square. how hard was it to make that decision and was it the right one in retrospect?

It was an impulsive decision to pick that particular mental hospital, but at that point it was red mode for me. I wasn’t in any state to be doing any research. I could barely take care of myself at all, hence the choice to look for help. But, my decision to go to a rehab center, or something of that nature, was one I had made my mind up months earlier. I felt like I needed professional help. I wouldn’t say it was the right or wrong decision, maybe somewhere in between. I may have not received the help I needed at Gracie Square, but it did make me realize that I had to get my shit together: because I knew then that I couldn’t rely on any system or my support system at the time to help me if I was to go further off the deep end. I was scared to ever have to rely on a place like that. I don’t want to end up some vegetable getting molested by other inpatients while a guard pretends it isn’t happening.

you checked yourself in because of your cocaine habit. how did that all pan out?

I really feel like I became addicted to cocaine because I was unhappy. If I wasn’t unhappy I wouldn’t have been spending most of my time isolated and doing drugs to try to make myself feel better.

After my time in Gracie Square, and having gone to such measures to try to improve myself, I never again became the addict I was before. That didn’t mean that I didn’t slip up at all. I went to outpatient for a while after Gracie Square where I was given a lot of pharmaceuticals including one pill that the doctor told me mimicked cocaine. I wasn’t down with that. I didn’t want to replace drugs with legal drugs so I stopped going. Then I went to AA and NA meetings for a while, which were helpful. But, I stopped because I starting drinking socially again and I hated lying at meetings about it.

When it came to cocaine, I had some major relapses, a few binges, but it eventually tapered off. The times I did it, I beat myself up for it. I am now able to reject it when it is offered to me. I’m a happier person now than I was, and I have no urge or reason to self medicate anymore.

reading the novel, you’re taken by the eclectic mix of people you were inside with. who would you say sticks out the most for you today?

Who sticks out the most for me are the people that were severely mentally ill. They weren’t in the grey area of drugs and questionable mental illness. My roommate was schizophrenic, pulled her hair out, and would hear voices. She would lay in bed all day laughing. She didn’t take medication, and no staff told her to. When I think about her, I get really sad. I don’t know if she will ever get the right treatment or even be treated as anything more than an animal. Nobody respected her.

you’re fine and a lot of your other writing is marked by a very, honest voice. do you ever feel like you’ve overexposed yourself or said too much?

Never. I feel like if I’m going to be a writer, I should write honestly. The feelings and experiences that you are humiliated by, are probably the most important ones. There are two cheesy quotes about writing that I believe: “write what you know” and “nothing bad ever happens to a writer.” What’s the point of racking up all these insane experiences if I can’t write about them? I’ve written plenty of fashion articles and interviews with artists, and I like doing that. But, I don’t think there is as much to be learned with light topics as there is with the raw, dark, stuff. I don’t feel vulnerable when writing about personal things. I have plenty of flaws, and I’m not afraid to talk about them. I’m pretty stupid sometimes and make bad decisions, and that is what makes me a human being. It’s not hard or scary for me to write anything personal. I know some people won’t like what I say and I simply don’t care. Hell, there’s even an entire article out there about how I deserved to raped, and I’m not upset about it. If nobody reacted like that, then there would have been no need for me to have written about the topic: because that would mean that we are already past all that.

Writing for me has been the best therapy. The validation I get from writing about personal experiences has been better than any therapist. While many family members and therapists treated me like my thoughts were insane, readers and friends who have read my writings have told me they have felt the same way as me. I am not alone in my thoughts. It really puts things in perspective for me, and has given me more faith in myself. There were a lot of people I let in my life back then who were rooting for me to become a psychotic loser, because it made them feel better about themselves. I stopped letting other people write the script for my life: I’m in charge of my own story now. I think writing is a healthy option. I can cope with stuff by drinking myself to death or I can write about my experiences and try to make a difference in doing so. I’ve been able to heal from so many traumas through the publishing of them.

dream sequences feature quite often in the novel. what were you trying to convey through the images of the dreams? and do your dreams in general influence your writing?

I was having a lot of apocalyptic dreams at the time. One reason I wanted to include them is I feel like often when people are losing their minds, they dream about being the antichrist and the apocalypse. I’m really fascinated by this, and why this happens. Is it because religious imagery is engrained in a lot of our minds or is it our mind telling us that we are headed for a personal apocalypse? I thought it was important to show where my mindset was at during that time. Even though I was an addict, I was pretty good at hiding it, I think, and putting on a face of composure and keeping calm on the outside. (Except for maybe the few days right before I went to rehab.) But, inside I was falling apart and my dreams of destruction and disasters reflected that.

you had a rather peculiar event happen to you in your teens, which saw part of the population of your town believing you were planning to shoot up your high school. can you tell us a bit about that? and what’s it feel like today to look back on such a bizarre occurrence?

As a teen you are told that prom night is one of the most important nights of your life. In high school, I was accused of wanting to blow up my prom. Mostly because of a short story I wrote which took place at the same place my prom did. That and I was a weirdo outcast. It was a weird experience for sure, but it’s not too rare. I remember in the Columbine aftermath it happened to so many people across the country. That’s why I wrote it. Where are these people? Why hasn’t anyone written about this? I need something to read where I can relate my experience to? So fuck it, I wrote it myself. It’s a part of my life, helped make me who I am. I get weirdly nostalgic when I think about it. It seems almost like a dream or a movie. It was a totally different world than the one I live in now. I don’t regret it happened. I can laugh about it now, and I do. My experience could have been worse. I could have actually been in a real shooting.

which writers influence gina tron. who are the writers that speak to you? and what are your favourite books?

I like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I thought it was a great mix of journalism and the traditional novel style. I was inspired by Nelly Bly, she was a female journalist in the 1800s, who faked mental illness to be committed into a psych ward, so that she could report on how bad it was. That is pretty bad ass. I also like a lot of Hunter S. Thompson’s work. I like classics a lot, mostly depressing epics like Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations.

i know what i’ve been reading lately, you’re fine, but what’s the book on your bedside table at the moment?

Right now, I am reading The Acid House by Irvine Welsh and Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I go back and forth between the two because I have no attention span. They are both great though. After those two, I’m gonna read Watership Down.

what led you down the writing alleyway? when did you take up the pen? and how has the ride been so far?

I had always loved writing. I have always written short disturbing stories to entertain myself and friends. But, I never thought I could be a real writer. My decision to become a professional writer was birthed out of pure rage. I was such an angry person, and felt so alone. I figured if nobody was gonna listen to me, I’d make them listen to me through my writing. I was depressed, I think. I didn’t care anymore. Figured I would give it a shot. At least my pain wouldn’t be in vain. The keyboard is more powerful than the machine gun, and I could right some wrongs or at least point out some wrongs with it. It worked out really well. I accredit writing for maintaining my sanity.

and lastly, what’s next? are you working on a new novel? any new articles coming out?

Yes. I started a few different books at once a few years ago, the backbones of a few. You’re Fine became the book I decided to approach as my first attempt at writing a novel, because the social issues are important and I thought it was important to get those messages out as fast as possible. It’s not the kind of book I would want to linger around on my laptop for years until it gets outdated. Right now I’m looking over a few of my book drafts and ideas and am deciding what to write next. I may take a stab at a fiction novel, using real people and experiences to base characters and events on.

ms tron, it’s such a pleasure with you. i so dig your style. we look forward to catching your next novel and future powder collaborations.

Thank you so much!!

photos by chad howard


check the gina tron site

and gina tron's tumblr

more by gina tron

letters from a gentleman

letters of complaint

gregorio and the melon