Amy GuthAmy Guth just released her debut novel called Three Fallen Women. It has been described as “violent and shimmering… a story of three women caught in the vortex of breaking down.” I got the crazy idea to ask her a few questions about money with regards to her colorful characters and herself.

Amy is a feminist and we’re all about empowered women at Queercents! I have no clue if she “likes” women, dates men, is gay or straight. Perhaps, that’s part of her mystique… but she jumped at my request to be interviewed. Besides I’m a sucker for anyone that is a sassy brunette and wears smart glasses. So here goes:

1. As a feminist archetype, what does money mean to you?
To me, money means independence, pride of earning and safety. It means I can take care of myself when life happens. It means I am taking care of myself. It feels empowering to check in with myself and make sure I have a healthy financial thing going on.

2. What is your worst habit around finances?
I feel like I had really positive financial examples around me growing up, so I feel confident financially, mostly. I believe that you get what you pay for, so it’s important to buy quality things and surround yourself with a few things you love rather than clutter up on bargains.

I could probably stand to take more risk and be less practical at times, though, that’s certain. I’m always reminding myself to take a breather and do something fun or something that just makes me feel good without justifying it. Tattoos are an excellent habit in that way. Not practical at all, not inexpensive, but insanely fun.

3. How does money play into the demise of Helen, Carmen and Frieda (the characters from Three Fallen Women)?
Wow, that’s a great question! I think Frieda is an obvious place to start. Frieda makes the decision to end an abusive relationship with a successful partner. She hides a little money to take with her and leaves in the middle of the night and she ends up making a conscious choice to work in lower-paying jobs in search of a life she find more realistic. But, in doing so, she also frees herself up from such (financial, emotional) dependence, which is what she seems to need the most. When the novel begins, Helen has just found her footing after coming into a more self-aware, self-valuable place and so she’s really, I think, just learning to let prosperity, in all its forms, flow in and out of her life. Carmen isn’t nearly as evolved, so she isn’t in a state of being open to prosperity or success, I think because she doesn’t have much of a sense of her own value and worth.

4. If you could buy one thing right now what would it be?
A really tricked-out GPS navigator. Oh man, I really need it. I used to be really good with directions, but I became so open to adventures that I take them a little too often anymore.

5. What is your most significant memory about money?
Back in the “tooth fairy” days, my folks used to fold a dollar bill into a pair of pants and stuff the tooth into them. I always thought that was a little bit freaky. Teeth inside pants? For a six-year-old? Hello? I remember after my first tooth was out, waking up and running to my parents saying something about teeth and crotches not working out together and my dad nearly peeing himself with laughter.

6. Have you ever felt like a starving artist? How did you cope during this period?
In the sense of working a crummy job while painfully aware I wasn’t yet making a living doing the thing I loved, absolutely. And, it is impossible to invest yourself in a job you are only doing to get by so, invariably, it has crummy pay to go along with it. It’s frustrating to be unable to afford to pay for the things you want and even more so to not be able to pay for the things you need. But, the golden part of “starving artist” is “artist” and creating wonderful ideas to make ends meet or occupy yourself when you’re feeling the pinch… that sort of thing. Luckily, writing doesn’t cost anything, so I tended just sort of tucked in and wrote myself silly when I was poor.

My dad was in the hotel/restaurant business, though, so I grew up consistently exposed to people waiting tables to support a creative goal. But, I also grew up watching a lot of hard work and went to work for my dad starting I high school. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I, quite thankfully, learned a lot from him about work ethic and focus. That helped me not lose my mind when I had more than one job, which was often, and it also taught me to multi-task and have more than one iron in the fire at once. Oh, and being poor and working in restaurants was usually a pretty sweet gig because you can always scrounge up a little something to eat if you move fast. Kidding, I’m kidding, that would be a health code violation. (Pause) Okay, I’m not kidding. I totally did that.

7. Three Fallen Women has been recommended for anybody who thinks that the patriarchy needs a suckerpunch to the ballsack. We’re all ears… what else can you tell us about your feminist voice?
I wrote Three Fallen Women at a time when I was seeing a few people around me unable or unwilling to enforce their personal boundaries in various ways. I think most of us learn this lesson through trial and error, sure, but suddenly I was noticing a lot of people who didn’t see to have a grasp in that direction at all. The more I saw this, the more I started noticing things people were enslaved to. Food, pain, drama, clutter, money, misery, people, rotten partners”it was everywhere! So, I ended up writing a lot about the freedom that comes from setting boundaries and practicing self-reliance and ended up doing it through the mouthpiece of these characters.

In other writing work I do, especially in non-fiction, I try to make points about social paradigms and gender roles and such through humor. You can explain something to somebody all day, but if there is an ounce of resistance in them, nothing else matters, you might as well talk to a jar of mayo. But, if you can disarm your point with a laugh or two, then I think you stand a better chance of being heard and having it sink in.

8. Is there a cash prize for your “What I did With Her Book” contest? If not, what does the winner get?
Unfortunately, no. But, the winner does get some decent publicity, a lot of gratitude and– what else?– oh, right. Bragging rights and a lapel pin with a quote from Three Fallen Women (“Never fuck a pro-lifer. It’ll complicate everything.”). Hmm, that seems pretty crummy now that I think about it. Okay, I’ll write the winner a haiku, too. How about that? What else do you want from me? I could probably serenade the winner (um, via email), too. But that’s it. Seriously.

9. What did your mother teach you about money?
My mother is really, really practical, probably to an extreme. So, not to speak ill of her spending habits at all, but she never did anything silly or indulgent for herself, so in a roundabout way, I know I got that practical nature from her, but, as I said, I try to check in with myself and make sure I’m smelling the proverbial roses.

10. Does money buy happiness?
No, you can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t go out and live, have some adventures and do things with some heart behind it, you’re just existing. What good is that?

More about Amy Guth:
Amy writes “Eleuthromaniac”, a monthly socio-feminist column in Outcry Magazine. She has worked as a freelance writer for the past several years, with publication credits including The Believer, Monkeybicycle, Chicago Free Press, Four Magazine, The Complete Meal, Hungry Chicago, B’nai Say and PerformInk. She also is the author of the well-visited “riot grrl comedy blog”, Bigmouth Indeed Strikes Again.

Upon completing both the improvisational comedy and comedy writing programs at Chicago’s Second City Training Center, Amy wrote for various shows within the center and around Chicago (Uterine Wailing Wall, Anton Chekhov’s Bastard Child). While around the improv community, she was involved in several improv groups for a handful of years and fondly recalls the evening she did improv-coke off of a dead improv-hooker and claimed to be the “Kill Whitey Crayon” before a sold-out audience.

Claiming home as “back east”, Amy Guth, with her gypsy streak, has lived everywhere, but abandoned Manhattan a few years ago and now calls Chicago home for herself and her cat.

For more information, visit Guth-A-Go-Go or her blog.

Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.