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Shining a Light on Dizz Tate and Her Debut ‘Brutes’

The allure of Florida’s extremes, its scorching climate, and eccentric populace forms the backdrop for Dizz Tate’s first novel ‘Brutes’, a story imbued with the fervor of youth against the enigmatic terrain of the Sunshine State. The book delves into the shared infatuation a group of young friends has with Sammy, a minister’s daughter whose vanishing throws their lives into disarray. Narrated in a mesmerizing and incisive style, ‘Brutes’ oscillates between the zealous search for Sammy and the mature reflections of the friends years later. Tate crafts an indelible image of a locale that’s as captivating as it is unfathomable.

In a candid conversation with ‘Our Culture’, Dizz Tate reveals insights into her novel, the complexities of adolescence, and the indomitable spirit of Florida.

Firstly, congratulations on the publication of your first full-length work! Transitioning from short stories to novels must be quite the experience. How are you finding it?

It’s a thrilling moment. Previously, I was engrossed in drafting a different story centered in Florida since I was about twenty, taking roughly five years to culminate. This novel felt like a continuous commitment. Although I wrote shorts as a breather, much of my life involved working—at a cafe, then as an educational assistant in Britain—before returning home to my real passion: creating stories. The book’s release is still sinking in, but I’m eager for readers to uncover this carefully hidden facet of my life.

The narrative’s unique viewpoint, told mainly by a collective of girls and occasionally by a boy named Christian, distinctively portrays their camaraderie. Could you share the reason behind this storytelling approach?

I attempted various perspectives before settling on the one that rings truest. Inspired by ‘Our Lady of the Quarry’ by Mariana Enriquez, the ‘we’ perspective encompasses the dichotomy of young girls’ lives; they’re as vulnerable as they are potent, beauties and beasts all at once. Recalling my own adolescence, I felt both invulnerable and unknowing. That strange phase of audacity and cryptic humor, fully understood only within the group, always compelled me. This collective voice captures the strength in their unity.

The girls show a duality: rambunctious among themselves, yet subdued around the older, cooler Mia and Sammy. Why highlight these contrasting aspects?

Such contradictions echo the unfilled yearnings for affection common in youth. When love feels unattainable, their requests for connection emerge in abrasive and spiky ways. Their seeming cruelty is performative to me; reminiscent of the defiance seen in the classroom. Adolescent vulnerability often masquerades as contempt, yet it resonates deeply with me. It’s authentic—I don’t envision these girls articulating their emotions as refined philosophers; their fierce love wouldn’t allow for it.

The novel ages its characters, depicting their divergent paths. Did you feel it crucial to expand on their individuality instead of presenting them as a collective?

Adding depth to each was a delight. Considering their upbringing, I explored how attitudes and toughness persist into adulthood. It was vital to show they could both break free into their own lives, yet remain imperfect. They discover an acceptance within that the outside world never afforded them; a form of liberation.

The writing style shifts from a vivid depiction of adolescence to a more contemplative portrayal of adulthood. Was this intended to mimic the blurred nature of memory?

My earliest memories begin at thirteen; it was a time of sensory overload with no past reference. The narrative reflects this: immediate and ongoing experiences for the teenage self. Transitioning to adulthood, time decelerates and introspection takes root, allowing for comparison and understanding.

Florida plays a central role in the novel. What compelled you to intertwine the story so deeply with this place?

Florida presents a stark duality; its polished veneer barely conceals an untamed wilderness. The girls’ hardscrabble existence is an apt metaphor for Florida’s contrasts. To me, the state epitomizes precariousness amid ancient wildness. Its propensity for extremes reveals a raw truth about nature and humanity’s response to it.

The community becomes engrossed in a local talent show called “Star Search,” a mirage of escape for the girls. What drew you to incorporate this element as a form of deliverance?

Youth is often constrained by geographical immobility, fostering dreams of expansive futures. The girls latch onto the prospect of fame or beauty as their only lifelines. It’s a poignant belief system, rich with inherent tragedy yet a beautiful testament to their aspirations.

Looking ahead, what’s next for you? Will you delve into more short stories or is there another novel awaiting us?

I am toiling away at another novel, narrating the life of an 18-year-old waitress. There’s a wealth to unpick about transitioning from scripted high school roles to bolder self-discovery upon adulthood. These transformative phases fascinate me, offering an abundance of depth to explore within my writing.

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