Dear readers, tonight with us is your not-so-typical high-school junior girl. While invisible since third grade, a magic hat recently brought her back to light. She’s here to talk about her priorities: an all-girl garage band, and fighting bullies with miraculous super-powers.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I was born and raised in Seattle, WA, which maybe explains all the flannel in my wardrobe. Practical three seasons of the year; some years, four. You’ve probably heard that it rains a lot? Yeah, so good boots are also a must. I got these retro Doc Martens at the thrift store for only $10! Anyway—we’re lucky to have a lively music scene. All-ages shows are a little harder to come by than over-21, but my dad was great about finding shows and festivals he could take me to once he realized we liked a lot of the same bands. We saw the Sonics!!! After I was in high school, I insisted on going by myself, hoping to meet my people. I had this fantasy that I’d be at a show and I’d overhear some other kids talking about starting a band. I’d say, “I’ve been writing songs,” and they’d be like, “Cool, you wanna be in our band, too?” and I could be a backup singer. But I was still invisible then, so that didn’t work out so well. I’d go, enjoy the music, and never talk to anybody but the door guy.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
When I was 6, I got a toy electronic keyboard for Christmas. I had just started piano lessons and it was fun to plunk out the tunes I was learning with sound effects and drumbeats! And it had a microphone, too, so I could make little recordings! My parents are both music lovers but not musicians beyond singing in church. And I never really learned to play the piano, but I think they could see music was important to me from an early age. I still use that toy keyboard when I’m writing songs now, if you can believe it. It lives on the shelf above my desk, next to my snowglobes and bobbleheads.
What do you do now?
I’m a student. When all this started, I was still in high school. Now I’m going to community college. One quarter down! I’ll probably get some kind of nothing job next summer. Oh, what do I mean by “all this”? Well, the band was obviously a big part of my life the last years of high school. I write songs for and sing lead in St. Rage. We’re kind of on hiatus while everybody goes to college, but we’re not done. And then there’s the whole superpowers thing. Against all logic, I’m leading a superteam called The Rage Brigade. I did not see that coming.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
I was invisible—maybe literally—till age 16, when the most popular guy in school put a magic hat on my head and suddenly, I could be seen! That gave me absurd confidence, enough to start an all-girl garage band. The anger-fueled gestural superpowers were … unexpected. I try to use them for good; careless drivers, bullies, and misogynist jerks better watch out!
Then I started finding other young people with unusual abilities: a kid who punches internet trolls right there in the comments; a girl who can text her past self to undo mistakes; a guy who talks to bugs, and another who hears the soundtrack. We became the Rage Brigade. When we realized a fake pastor was using mind control on an entire megachurch, it was up to us to stop him.
What did you first think when you discovered you had superpowers?
Oh, wow. So, not gonna lie, the first time I used my powers terrified me, but also felt SO GOOD! These guys drove past me, yelling insults and I was like, how effing dare they? I made a fingergun and fired a bolt of pure rage. And their tire blew! They ran their truck into a fence and I had to call 911. I was so scared I’d killed them. They were OK, but I had so much guilt. How could I trust myself not to hurt people? I really wanted to get rid of the powers, but it wasn’t that easy. I had to learn to control them, control myself. It’s hard!
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
Other than myself? While I was still wrestling with how or even whether to use my powers, I got to school one morning right before Christmas and found a classmate outside with a gun in his hand. And I was supposed to be a superhero, right? So I had to deal with it. I was terrified he’d shoot himself, or someone else, or me. I was even more terrified I would have to kill him. But he was shivering, so I gave him my hat and held the gun for him while he put it on. And didn’t give it back. Then we both got arrested, which was pretty scary all on its own, but I got a bass player out of the deal, so maybe it all worked out.
What is the worst thing about having superpowers?
Well, besides the worry that I’ll do massive damage by mistake, the worst thing is I can’t tell everybody. Especially my parents. The first rule of superpowers is parents can’t know about superpowers. Because they would worry and get involved and make it a whole big thing. And when I did finally tell them (because I got caught on blurry video but they recognized me), they wanted me to quit. But I was 18 by then and already had my team. Mom and Dad are learning how to be supportive of this weird hobby, but I know they worry and I hate that.
What is the best thing about it?
I. Can. Fly.
Need I say more? Didn’t think so.
Tell us a little about your friends.
So you need to understand I went FOR YEARS without any friends at all. The friends I’ve made in the last couple of years mean everything to me.
Jackson started it when he plopped that first hat on my head and had a conversation with me like I was worth talking to. I already knew who he was. He’s this beautiful, talented, outgoing, popular guy who knows everybody and what they need. He says he’s our fairy godfather. But he didn’t know me until that day—invisible, remember? We used to have so much fun shopping at thrift stores and watching action movies, but now he’s off in New York studying costume design. I kind of had a crush on him for a while, even though I knew he was gay, because he was just so cool and nice. Now we both have boyfriends, so it’s all good.
Carol Anne is my other best friend. She’s a phenomenal, disciplined musician with this cool, vintage style that matches her pretty guitar that she inherited from her grandfather. I talked to her for the first time right after the hat incident with Jackson, when I asked if she wanted to start a band with me. She said yes! We went to an amazing show that weekend and signed up to be in the chorus of the spring musical the next week. She’s a lesbian, so for a brief time, all my friends were gay and I was fine with it. She wants to be kindergarten teacher, and she will be the best.
Our drummer Whitney is five foot nothing and the most intimidating person I know. She’s another amazing musician—I don’t think there’s a style she can’t play. She uses profanity and facial piercings as armor against racist and/or misogynist jerks, but if you show her respect, she’s got your back.
For a long time, I wasn’t sure Storm could be my friend. She’s pretty and popular and perfect … and she bullied me in elementary school. But she was going through her own stuff, and somehow singing backup in our little garage band helped her through it. She wants to be circus performer or a stuntwoman, and I don’t see any reason she won’t succeed.
Travis was riding in that truck I wrecked, and he was the kid who brought a gun to school. Our friendship got off to a rocky start, but now he’s my bass player. He always seemed like such a weirdo loser, but really he’s a sweet guy with a lot of problems, most of them not his fault. Once he started getting help and making friends, things started to turn around for him. He even reconnected with his dad and motivated his dad’s old band to finally release an album that had been gathering dust since the ‘90s. They even invited us to open for the album release show! That turned into the gig of a lifetime.
Any romantic involvement?
Ugh. Well, there was that schoolgirl crush on Jackson which he graciously pretended not to know about. And then it turned out Travis had a crush on me, which was super awkward. Things are never going to be not complicated between us, and dating just seemed like a bad idea. Olivia, the girl who texts her past self, is a better match for him, even if he causes localized power outages when she kisses him. Since then, I’ve gotten involved with Darrin, a great big teddy bear of a guy who communicates with arthropods. He was in my communications class at college, and we found out we liked a lot of the same bands and even knew some of the same people even though we went to different high schools. And then I figured out he could talk to bugs and invited him to be on my superteam. Things just developed from there, comfortable and sweet. He’s my emotional support human.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
I try really hard not to hate actual people. It’s tough when they’re distracted drivers, but I try. Nobody is purely all good or all bad. We’re all messy, you know? But I hate bullying. I hate abuse of power. I hate injustice. So if I see someone mistreating other people? I’ll step in. Especially if they’re using a superpower to do it. That fake pastor with his mind control was saying awful things, and folks were listening to him and donating money and coming back week after week, even when he was telling people they were bad and wrong just for existing. There were a lot of suicide attempts and hate crimes as a result. I managed to shut him up, but he’s not gone. I worry about that.
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
Have you ever had limeade? It’s the best.
I have a lot of favorite colors, but purple is right up there. My bedroom curtains have purple fringe that almost but not quite matches some of the stripes on my bedspread. And when I was 11, Mom and I tried to dye my carpet purple. It ended up kind of gray, but I know what it’s supposed to look like. And my favorite thrift store purchase of all time is a glittery purple dress. Jackson gave me a matching fedora for my birthday.
I read a lot of fantasy novels. There’s not much I like better than kicking back with a friend or two, eating pizza and wings, and watching superhero movies or comedies. And I get out to rock and roll shows every chance I get, which isn’t nearly often enough.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ve finished one quarter of community college, so I have a lot of education to get through. I haven’t declared a major, but I’m thinking about music therapy. In the shorter term, though, we’ve been invited to open for Trollrocket when they play in Portland! It’ll be our first out-of-town gig, which is cool all on its own. I’d also like to follow up on some rumors I heard about people with superpowers fighting monsters down there. It might be nothing but rumors plus Portland weird, but I’m eager to get down there and see what’s up.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
This might or might not be a secret. It seems like not a lot of people know that we have three EPs on Bandcamp. So if they want to hear what the music of St. Rage sounds like, they should head over to https://strage2.bandcamp.com/ And I’m still writing songs, so there should be more recordings in the future.
Here’s another one: on our first Valentine’s Day as a couple, I had a crazy dream that Darrin and I went through a portal to a fantasy realm and met a wizard from a book I was reading. You can read about that in a story called “Wizard in the Mosh Pit,” but you have to subscribe to Karen’s newsletter to get it. Hey, I don’t make the rules! Go here: https://kareneisenbreywriter.com/newsletter-signup/.
Karen Eisenbrey lives in Seattle, WA, where she leads a quiet, orderly life and invents stories to make up for it. Karen writes fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as short fiction in a variety of genres and the occasional poem or song if it insists. She is the author of five novels: The Gospel According to St. Rage; Barbara and the Rage Brigade; Daughter of Magic; Wizard Girl; and Death’s Midwife, all from Not A Pipe Publishing. Karen shares her life with her husband, two young adult sons, and one elderly cat.
You can find Barbara on the pages of The Gospel According to St. Rage and continuing in Barbara and the Rage Brigade.
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