A multifaceted lady, Pennsylvania native Tiffany Apan began her affair with music and theater at an early age and has since built up quite an impressive resume. To drop a couple of names; her first dance teacher was Gene Kelly’s niece and she worked with jazz great Billy Harper in a production of Marta Effinger’s Whispers Want to Holler, where she played a freestyle jazz singer.
Also a prolific fiction writer, Tiffany’s Bloodlines series is another one of her works currently in progress. Originally intended to be “light and relatively happy with just a touch of paranormal mystery,” she said she didn’t like how the story was turning out and so she stopped to take a second look at it. After some refocusing, she then began uncovering things and just let the story flow naturally as it took a different direction. Not originally intended to be a series, the story expanded, and now it will be a four, or possibly five, book series.
It took a while, but I was finally able to get Tiffany to take time out to answer some questions for me. I had planned on doing an interview with her shortly after catching a very favorable review of her film, Driving Nowhere, (currently in post-production) and writing this this brief feature on it, but her schedule these days includes several irons in the fire, so I was lucky to get this in time for the Halloween season. In fact, as this goes to press, she’s appearing this weekend at Horror Realm Con as one of the featured guests.
CHRIS CHARLES: So, I understand you come from a musical family and started studying piano and then dance at an early age. Were you sort of pushed, or maybe coaxed, into it?
TIFFANY APAN: Ha! A little of both. While I enjoyed having my grandparents teach me a couple musical instruments in a very casual setting on our own time, it sometimes take some coaxing on my parents’ end to get ready to go see the piano teacher or go to dance classes when I would rather be out playing with friends or playing things like Super Mario Brothers or Legend of Zelda. But once I got to the lessons it was fun. It was just a question of getting me there! Now when I began voice lessons and acting classes at age twelve? THOSE I went to very willingly.
CHRIS: What was it like studying with Kathy Burke? (Gene Kelly’s niece)
TIFFANY: It taught me a lot about commitment, coming prepared, and being well-rehearsed. I studied with her from about age six to about fourteen. Of course when I was six, I didn’t quite understand who Gene Kelly was. But when I got a little older I understood and thought it was very cool.
CHRIS: As you know, I posted a short article on your film Driving Nowhere. As I mentioned in that piece, it’s gotten some good reviews at indie film screenings. Any projected date as to when it will be released for all to see?
TIFFANY: Yes, and thank you for that! Well, as we do this interview there are one or two, depending on how things work out, shoot dates left. We’ve begun the rough editing with the footage we have and I’ll be releasing the second trailer soon. As far as release dates go, I don’t want to set a definite one until we have this last one, or two, shoots out of the way. I’ll just say sometime in 2014 for now.
CHRIS: Well, I’ll keep and eye out. So, how many instruments do you play?
TIFFANY: Well really two and that’s voice and piano. I have been taught a little guitar but I would in no way call myself a guitarist. Same thing with accordion.
CHRIS: I see from your website, that you haven’t played many shows lately. Is that because you’re now focusing on film producing or you site just needs to be updated?
TIFFANY: I’ve been taking a break from touring heavily because we’ve been working on other projects, film, music, and writing, and it does get expensive. I am also working on getting my new website up and that will have updates on all my projects, shows, and the like.
CHRIS: Do you enjoy playing clubs and smaller venues, where you are more in touch with the audience, or do you prefer larger venues?
TIFFANY: There is definitely something to playing in a smaller venue and the connection one has with the audience that can get lost in playing larger venues. Both have different types of “energies,” if you will. I do like the smaller venues because of the better audience connection and it offers more opportunity to hang out with everybody after the show. But a larger venue and larger audience can have amazing energy and be quite exhilarating. Both have their pros and cons.
CHRIS: What was your first time on stage in front of an audience like?
TIFFANY: Well I was five years old and of course it was exciting. I don’t think I even had stage fright. I just got up there and did my thing!
CHRIS: You’re first album was Poet. Were all the songs written by you?
TIFFANY: I provided all the lyrical content and vocal melodies for the most part. There was one song titled, “Free” on the album that my partner in crime, Jason English, and I co-wrote. Jason also provided the lyrics for “Run Away and Hide,” which was actually the first music video off the album. We also did an adaptation of the traditional “Scarborough Fair” and “Whispers” is actually an old song my grandparents performed back in the day of their touring band. Jason also did a lot of the music composition though we did a lot of consulting together on those.
CHRIS: Do you have a formula for writing songs that you usually stick to? I mean, some songwriters start with a tune and write lyrics to go with it. With others, it’s vice versa. How about you?
TIFFANY: Most of the time, I do write the lyrics first and then compose music to go with it. But there are times when I have come up with a melody and built the song from there. Sometimes I’ll have lyrics or a poem lying around and then I’ll suddenly come up with a melody that I don’t know what to do with only to find later that the two missing links go well together. And then they find each other and are no longer missing links! Many songs have come to life that way.
CHRIS: Have you ever done any changes to any of your songs after you were in the recording studio?
TIFFANY: Of course you adjust a little here and there especially for live shows. A lot of times I do like to keep the songs ‘as is’ because I feel that there is a reason they came to life that way. But that also doesn’t mean that I may not make an adjustment to better accommodate a live performance later on.
CHRIS: When can we expect your follow-up album, Elements to be released?
TIFFANY: I’m at a different place now writing the songs to the follow up than I was when I wrote Poet. Actually, the title may end up being changed when all is said and done. A lot has happened even since I began writing and choosing the song list for the second album. The process needs to be organic and not forced. I won’t give the end product the title Elements if I feel its not appropriate. As for the sound? It seems to be shaping up to have a lot of influences from 1970s and 1980s rock but it will still have a good amount of the Gothic/Celtic folk rock sound prevalent on Poet.
CHRIS: You’re currently working on the first book in your Bloodlines novel series. You said it originally started out as a short story that sort of took on a life of its own?
TIFFANY: Indeed. It began more as a lighter fantasy romance which is a far cry from what it actually turned into. I tried to write something light and relatively happy with just a touch of paranormal mystery but the whole thing was starting to seem forced as I was trying to keep it light and not veer off into the “dark side.” I was getting frustrated as I didn’t like the way it was turning out though I wanted to continue writing it. Stephen King’s book On Writing helped me a great deal and I got to the point to where I just began uncovering things when I just let it flow naturally. It wasn’t supposed to be a series either at first and now it will be a four, possibly five, book series with how the story has expanded. Another thing about the series is that NONE of the main characters in the first book appeared in the original draft. Dorothy, Carl, Jimmy, Matthew, Tahatan (Those who’ve been following along on the Bloodlines blog would know who/what she’s talking about), were not even a thought in the original outline. Even the four patriarchs; Nicolae, Jonathan, James, and Hector, were also not present in the first outline. In fact, those four made their way to the surface one night when I was getting pissed off because I hated the way the story began. Once I had those four and their histories down, the rest of the story just came out and was much more comfortable to write and the other characters just started to walk on. The two main characters who were in the original outline? Their names are Everett and Joanna and they are still very much a main part of the story. Just a little different from who and what they originally were. Case in point: Never try to force writing. Stories are meant to be told a certain way and if you allow them to, they will tell themselves. And yes, the story did end up veering into the “dark side” once I got out of my way. I guess it’s just in me to write that way!
The story went from being a more whimsical paranormal romance to a dark fantasy with elements of Gothic, horror, romance, drama, paranormal, and just a hint of erotica. And the working title of Bloodlines also came about when the four patriarchs came into the picture, though I do plan to change it, hence the ‘working title reference. Until then, it was simply my “Untitled Project.” So yes, the story did take on a life of its own when I allowed it to. It has been very therapeutic and cathartic to write. A lot of what I write deals with human nature and what makes people the way they are. Why can some people rise up out of bad situations while others deteriorate? Those are things that do fascinate me.
CHRIS: Are any of the characters based on anyone you know personally?
TIFFANY: For the most part, everyone in the story is his or her own person, though there is a little of me in almost all the characters. For some of them, there also have been some personality traits I’ve borrowed from friends or family members and there is one rather obnoxious character coming a little later in the series who is totally based off of someone I know. CHRIS: So, who are some of your influences when it comes to writing?
TIFFANY: To name a few: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Rod Serling, George Orwell, L. Frank Baum, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, and I recently discovered a fantastic new author, Rebekah Armusik. Her Gothic Memoirs series is among the best I’ve read recently.
TIFFANY: Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Clara Bow, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicholson, Burgess Merideth, Vincent Price, Kim Novak, and Fay Wray. Again, only naming a few.
CHRIS: Music? TIFFANY: Pink Floyd, Rush, Tori Amos, Lorenna McKennit, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Rudy Vallee, and Glenn Miller. My musical taste has a pretty wide range and I have favorites and influences from a few different genres. But those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
CHRIS: Yeah, Iron Maiden to Rudy Vallee is a pretty wide range. So, which do you like better, The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery?
TIFFANY: I do enjoy both but I have to say The Twilight Zone hands down. It had Rod Serling’s imprint much more than Night Gallery did.
CHRIS: You’ve had some roles in some indie horror films. Would you say horror is your favorite genre?
TIFFANY: It is a favorite, yes. But I also like fantasy, sci-fi, drama, comedy, etc. I’m not a huge fan of Rom-Coms, but there are a couple I like. As an actor I do enjoy horror. I feel that horror can be a great challenge for actors as it often calls for tapping into a very wide range of emotions. Many are cautionary tales, some are about the battle between good and evil, some psychological, and there are some that are just good old-fashioned bloodfests. Horror is a reminder that not everything works out the way we want it to and sometimes horrible things happen. But it’s the one who fights and perseveres that survives at the end, or at least until the end in some cases. It may sound odd? But sometimes, horror can actually be pretty uplifting.
CHRIS: You’re going to be appearing at a fundraising event to keep the Hollywood Theater in Pittsburgh, PA open. Like the drive-ins, stage and single screen movie theaters are becoming a thing of the past. Do you think it’s going to be a tough battle to achieve your fundraising goal so that the theater can make the film-to-digital conversion?
TIFFANY: I did donate some merchandise items to the silent auction that took place at the event and it was a good turnout. I think there are still enough of us who do enjoy going out to a theater or drive-in or renting/buying from video stores to keep things like that afloat. But we have become a society of conveniences and in some ways it’s good and in others it’s not so good. The conveniences make it easier for people to just stay home and as a result, many are losing vital things like social skills and empathy for others along with putting venues that are a large part of our culture and history out of business. But on the good side, they do offer options if you want a night in. Having a balance is key.
CHRIS: Do you have any special talents or skills that you don’t include on your bios?
TIFFANY: I wouldn’t call it a talent, but I like antiquing and vintage items.
CHRIS: Well, thanks so much for taking time to do this, Tiffany. In closing, anything else you’d like to mention or anyone you’d like to give a shout-out to?
TIFFANY: Thanks for asking me to do this and I give shout outs to everyone I’m working with now and have worked with. Also, my new website will be up soon and that will be www.TiffanyApan.com.
Another of Tiffany in the studio by Mark Kapsha
With Tyffani Richards and Heidi Engel in a still from Driving Nowhere
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.