Women of Lynch: A Chat With Courtenay Stallings of The Blue Rose Magazine

Image © Blake Morrow (via Twitter/Blue Rose Magazine)

It was my great pleasure to catch up with Courtenay Stallings of The Blue Rose Magazine to chat about their upcoming Women of Lynch issue. You’ll find all the exciting details here, and be sure to pre-order your copy of special edition magazine over at today and take a sneak preview of the making of the cover art by Blake Morrow here!

LS: So let’s just dive in here. We really want to talk to you guys about this Women of Lynch issue. So what is the Women of Lynch issue? What’s the story there?

CS: Okay so the story behind the issue is it actually started with Scott Ryan. When Scott was developing the idea of the magazine, the Blue Rose Magazine, it started with John Thorne, then [he] reached out to me, and then kind of built it from there. He knew right away that he wanted to do a special issue completely dedicated to the women of Lynch. That’s something he wanted from the very beginning. [We] didn’t know exactly when we were going to do it, and we didn’t do it the first year. So we’d already kind of [decided] “Let’s dedicate an entire issue to the complexity of these Lynchian women.” And then he later on when it became a reality that we were going to do it in the second year of the magazine he reached out to me and said “Hey would you like to — sort of as the associate editor — kind of spearhead the issue?” You know it’s gotten done, I’m still [an] associate editor again but they kind of want me to take the lead sort of as a woman taking the lead with the Women of Lynch. So I said “Yeah! I’d love to do it. Love to be a part of this, especially in this way.” And we’ve brought on — we have right now ten female writers writing about 40 female characters from Lynch’s TV shows including Twin Peaks and On the Air, and several of his films. So that’s how it started.

LS: Wow. I love that idea that that it’s all women — women are running it, you’re writing about women. It seems like a very important conversation to have in general. But also just because Lynch has been dogged by this accusation of misogyny, which I’m not sure I agree with. And so to have this conversation happening and to highlight these important women is so vital and I’m wondering if that — I mean obviously you guys were talking about it before this happened but you know, with the #MeToo stuff and everything, is there an element of timeliness to this? Do you see that playing a role in in how you’re approaching this now?

CS: I would say probably indirectly. […] What’s behind it is we just need more women voices and women to be represented in interesting and complex ways. And so some of the women’s takes on the characters, they’re shorter pieces, and they have their own voice, their own kind of take, their own approach to it. So we didn’t really want to dictate to them how they should go about it. We gave them some parameters, you know, like it shouldn’t be fanfiction, and we really want to approach it with analysis — like how are these women complex, interesting, Lynchian? Because we kind of approached it from the idea that Lynch’s characters in general are quirky and interesting and complex and not sort of simple characters, and that’s kind of what makes them interesting […] But there is there is sort of this idea of “Let’s elevate women. Let’s elevate women’s voices. Put them out there.”

One of our writers is actually transgender and she is writing about Denise Bryson, and Denise Bryson’s journey. And it’s actually more of a personal piece than some of the others because she’s talking about what the character of Denise Bryson meant to her, seeing that representation. Particularly when Denise comes back in Season 3 and she is at the top level. She is she’s Gordon Cole’s boss at this point. And so that style is another important voice that we wanted to include in there too. It’s just […] different perspectives of women and their take on Lynchian women.

LS: Oh that is so fascinating. I was going to ask for a sneak preview. You kinda gave that already. That’s really cool to hear about because that’s something I hadn’t seen a lot of outside of places like Tumblr where it tends to skew more critical of these things. So hearing that you’re going to have a transgender woman perspective on Denise is fascinating. I’m so excited to read that. That’s awesome.

CS: We’re excited to have her voice in there […] A lot of us feel really a personal connection to Lynch’s characters, both female and male. And so this is a voice that we always hear, you know — we don’t always hear from the transgender community. And when we do it’s often in the news and it’s, you know, something negative or violent that’s happened, because violence is really prevalent in that community, and here’s a voice is that like “Hey, here’s representation,” and I’d love to see more of this too. You know we’d like to see more high profile representation of transgender people in TV and film and everything.

LS: Very very cool. You kind of touched on it a little bit but I just want to dig a little deeper — what is it about Lynch’s women that inspires so much debate and discussion, in your opinion?

CS: Well I think Lynch is not shy from exploring violence and not even the usual violence. You know, in America’s culture, in the US, we have a lot of violence on television and film, and we have sort of our love affair with the gun. […] But he goes beyond that, the general violence that we are kind of numb to. You know we’re kind of used to it. He digs a little deeper and it puts it really in your face. And he has done a really amazing job of revealing the trauma that it does to women on a psychological level, on a physical level. And so I think […] when people don’t dig really deep into his work, they just do the surface level trauma and they think he’s sort of fetishizing violence in a way. But a lot of us — females and males included — when we dig a little deeper we see that he’s really holding a mirror to society in terms of rape, trauma, the psychological abuse, incest…a lot of things that we don’t talk about it openly, they’re still kind of taboo, he’s explored. And it’s dark stuff, it’s heavy stuff, and it really resonates with a lot of people.

LS: So how did you approach the writers to come aboard and write about this? Did they pitch you ideas about things that they were passionate about? Or did you actively seek out people who had written or had talked about things that you thought would be interesting and brought them aboard that way?

CS: Kind of a combination of things. When Scott had conceived of the idea he was already thinking of the people in the community who would be great writers and who also he thought could speak to the characters. You know we wanted people who are knowledgeable about Lynch’s characters and Lynch’s work, but who also could write well, could communicate well. Some of the people we know through the community from different Fests that we’ve gone to, or who have written different sites, who’d written for the Blue Rose or 25 Years Later. And some people we did reach out to but could not commit the time. You know, they had a bunch of other stuff going on. There’s a couple writers — one writer in particular that I wish we had gotten, that she had a lot of wonderful stuff she has going on as an editor and so we didn’t get her. But that’s how that came about — […] people in the community, again, who could speak to this, who we knew, who had worked with us well.

LS: And you said it’s 10 writers writing about 40 Lynch characters across the spectrum of Lynch’s entire career. Can you give us an idea of which characters are being discussed?

CS: Sure and this is something we’re going to kind of introduce in the magazine is… I know people you know, once you choose characters like this, first of all I never wanted to rank characters. I cannot stand rankings. But one of the things we didn’t want to do was rank the characters. Some pieces have a little more — a higher word count than others because of the nature of how much… I mean, Laura Palmer’s going to get a higher word count because you know she’s you know been in two seasons — THREE seasons — and a film for example. And the other thing is we have a print magazine so we know pages cost money. And the great thing about that is we have to be really particular about what we include; the downside of that is that we can’t include everything. So we said “Okay, 40 characters.” And then at first we were going to do everything. We were going to do all of his films, including the short films too, like The Grandmother. And then we said “There’s no way that we can afford to include all of this.” So we started shoveling it down. […] Even with the other films, we tried to concentrate on the ones that he at least was the writer on, or a co-writer on, so we couldn’t include everything. And so we’re going to kind of explain that in the magazine.

You know I know people are going to say “Well why didn’t you include Dune?” or something like that. We would have loved to have done that. But we had to kind of pare it down in terms of spacing. We also really wanted to make sure it was Lynchian characters and our focus was on Lynch. And the other part about that too is even though some of these characters are co-written with Mark Frost or Robert Engels or others, we wanted to make sure we kind of focused on sort of the Lynchian aspect of it. So we didn’t include — and this was kind of like a difficult thing to do — we didn’t really want to include a lot from The Secret History or The Final Dossier because that’s purely Mark Frost. So we really want to focus on “Okay, what was what was Lynch directly involved in?” You can’t always you know pick out exactly what he wrote or didn’t write or what he developed but that was our focus.

LS: That’s probably a good way to divvy it up because if it does get dicey when you have, you know, “Adapted from this novel” or you know…there’s only so much that a filmmaker can do to inject personality or his own take into something that’s adapted from something else. So that that makes a lot of sense.

CS: Yeah. And you mentioned adaptations. So we did include Wild at Heart. And so that was one of the conversations we had. So it’s not a perfect formula that we used. We thought that was really important to include Wild at Heart even though it’s based on a book. And actually for Wild at Heart we have a special contributor, Amy Shiels, who played Candie in Season 3. She is writing about Marietta Fortune from Wild at Heart and it’s fantastic because she’s an actor…played a Lynchian female character, writing about this other sort of iconic you know female Lynchian character so it’s a lot of fun.

LS: Very cool. That’s awesome. Are you also doing Lost Highway then as well?

CS: We are doing Lost Highway.

LS: Okay cool. Oh I’m so excited to read this! This is going to be so great!

CS: I’m glad you’re excited.

LS: So…just a personal question. What is it that drew you personally to Lynch in the first place?

CS: Well I’ll tell you a story. Everyone has their first encounter with Lynch, right? And my first encounter with Lynch’s work — and it was was actually before I even saw it but I had heard about it — was when I was a child, my parents never went to the movies. So I don’t know how I developed a love for film and TV because I never watched TV and I never went to the movies, but they had been invited by their friends to go to the movie Blue Velvet. […] So they came home and they said “We just saw the weirdest movie we’ve ever seen.” And I was a child, I was curious, so I was asking them about it and they said “Well this man finds this ear and it’s like infested with bugs, and this is how this starts this whole story.” And I was fascinated. I was like “Oh my gosh I have to see it.” Too young to see Blue Velvet, I’m sure, but I was like: “I want to see what this weird movie is!” I was attracted to the weird and the strange and the dark. So I really wanted to know what this movie was. That was my first sort of memory of hearing about a David Lynch film. Didn’t even heard David Lynch’s name. And then eventually — I didn’t see it right at the time, but eventually I saw the movie and of course got in to Twin Peaks as a teenager and all the other stuff, but that was sort of my initial attraction was just my parents had been so…their minds were blown. And I was so curious about that because I think I wanted my mind blown too, I was attracted to that.

LS: How old were you when when that happened?

CS: Um…gosh. I must have been like 10 or 11 years old.

LS: That’s cool because a lot of people I talked to have had that a similar experience. It’s like their parents were into it or their parents talked about it or their parents were watching it and then that’s how they got into it which I don’t know…there’s something there about that. You know, experiencing David Lynch somehow through contact with your parents is a common theme that I’m discovering as I talk to more and more people about their experiences it’s just really cool to hear. So Blue Velvet was the first thing you watched. Do you have a favourite Lynch woman? It could be from anything not even one that you’re covering in the magazine. But do you have a favourite Lynch woman and why?

CS: Well it would have to be Laura Palmer first because her character’s always resonated with me and I thought she was so complex. She started out as this plot device where she’s wrapped in plastic on a beach, and, you know, “Who killed her?” […] The way she’s developed by the time you get to Fire Walk With Me you realize she was a really complex person and she’s — you know, she’s had to deal with abuse and trauma but she’s also super strong too and just interesting you know someone that you might want to be friends with you might want to just get to know. She’s an interesting person. I think because her character, you know — there was the time to really develop her. And because I saw her as a teenager, I mean, she was a teenager, I was a teenager. I think she stayed with me because we were both teenagers dealing with intense stuff. So she’s she’s always been my favourite. Definitely.

LS: No I think it’s hard to argue against that. So many people have said the same thing that she just resonates and there’s something about her, her struggle and the strength that she has that is so unique. And it’s it’s really cool that it’s a a male director and a male writer who created that that voice and so many people say it’s so true to the reality of their situations. I just think that’s so special and we’re so grateful to have her as a character in this community I think just because she can speak to so many people in so many different levels.

CS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

LS: So last question really quick when is the Women of Lynch issue coming out and how can we get our hands on it?

CS: OK […] it’s published and shipped in August, this August. And there is the print issue, and it’s available on The print issue is going to be a little more expensive than a regular, standalone issue, because we’re doing sort of a glossier finish, we’re trying to make it sort of a more of a keepsake since is a special edition. It’s also a little bit longer too so you’ll be getting more pages. We have some fantastic photos by Blake Morrow who is a member of the community who just had an art show in Europe based on his David Lynch and Twin Peaks photos that he sort of recreates scenes with models from Lynch’s work. And he’s also doing the cover of the magazine we haven’t released the cover yet but I’m really excited about the cover and what it’s going to look like. And we’re also doing some original art by Wayne Barnes who has been an artist with us. He’s got some art available on Etsy and he’s a really really incredible artist. And Jill Watson also is going to be making some art for us. She’s a really talented photographer and artist. So yeah, go to our web site — — to preorder a copy or if you want to get a bundle of the magazines if you want to subscribe we have special subscription prices as well.

LS: Cool. Is this going to be a Kindle edition as well or just a print issue?

CS: It’s also going to be a digital issue, It will be for Kindle as well.

LS: Okay Perfect. Oh that’s so great. I’m so excited and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. It’s definitely going to be one of those pieces that goes in the bookshelf. Maybe I’ll buy two and I’ll read one and keep one wrapped in plastic because it seems like this is going to be going to be these keeper issue. Thank you Courtenay!

CS: Thank you for the interview!

EDIT: An earlier version of interview incorrectly stated that Courtenay Stallings was managing editor of Blue Rose Magazine (she is associate editor). It also incorrectly listed Cheryl Watson as an artist providing exclusive art for this issue (it is actually Jill Watson).

Lindsay Stamhuis

Written by Lindsay Stamhuis

Lindsay Stamhuis is a writer and English teacher who also moonlights as 25YL Site's Executive Editor and Style Manager. In addition to editing and writing about TV and Film, she is the co-host of The Bicks Pod, a podcast currently deep-diving into the collected works of William Shakespeare. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner Aidan, their three cats, and a potted pothos that refuses to grow more than one vine.

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