interview by Shristi Jaiswal
A new day begins and you go by living it like you did yesterday, while all this time the earth revolves just the same. Every so often you read something riveting, the kind that casts you through the cosmos. You feel the words echoing through and suddenly, the world is nothing like you once knew. Like looking through a kaleidoscope, you recognise things in brand new colours even though nothing material’s changed and well, the world revolves just the same.
Stories and poetries have the eminent power to alter our reality. The words may well describe something as trivial as driving past the ocean, but a pen in the correct hands, through captivating analogies can evoke emotions secluded within the deepest realms of our hearts.
Orion Carloto, an L.A based author is one such writer who through her mesmeric writings about innate feelings has managed to create a tight knit community of readers. She has previously worked with many major brands and has been successful in establishing her presence as a writer who also dabbles in singing, photography and all things fashion. During our call, she talked about her upcoming book Film for Her, due to release this fall, along with things, people and places that define her best.
What drew you to start writing when you were younger?
I have this early memory of when I was in the first grade and my teacher had read us Shel Silverstein. I was thoroughly fascinated by his poetry and I think that definitely drew my interest towards writing at a young age. From then on I always found writing- whether it was journaling or just writing something in my diary- quite therapeutic as a kid. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until High School that I began to learn more about poetry and the era of Romanticism. I felt really drawn to it and found that to be an ideal place where my heartbreak could live. So I would say when I was sixteen or seventeen was when the journey truly began for me.
Did you always know that you wanted to publish your own book of poetry or was it something spontaneous?
A little bit of both! I always admired authors but that profession seemed unrealistic for me to pursue as I grew up in a really small town where people graduated, went onto college and did traditional things. Therefore, writing a book seemed like a distant dream that I couldn’t accomplish. All the same, I wrote regardless. I knew that I wanted to do something with my writings and not just let it live on the internet. I kept trying to the best of my ability to use my platform and luckily, I ended up booking a deal with my dream publisher. Therefore that distant dream felt more like a reality to me and it didn’t seem as unrealistic as I had made it out to be in my head.
What excites you most about film photography?
Oh, I love film photography! Taking photographs and not knowing what the outcome will be only adds to the admiration for the unknown. Then there’s always the surprise you get once you get your film back! Hence for me, film always holds this nostalgic and romantic feeling that makes the captured moment all the more special.
“Materials things will never matter unless you are a truly, genuinely kind person and not just to people around you but to yourself.”
So you recently spent a month in Paris. What would you say was the highlight of your trip?
Well, I lived in a routine while in Paris- woke up at the same time, went to the same café, ordered the same thing- so a part of me wants to says that a highlight would be the friendship that I had come to share with the waiters working in the cafe. I didn’t know anybody there so this sense of closeness was a much welcome break from the monotony. Another highlight for me was that Paris made me learn so much about myself. I went to the city thinking that that I would have a great time being alone and spending time with myself. However when I got there, so much of my time was spent being miserable as earlier I hadn’t realised how alone I would really be. So there lay an opportunity for me to understand myself more and be okay with that loneliness that I felt and I grew from it.
What inspired you the most about being in Paris that significantly contributed to your writing process for your upcoming book Film for Her?
I spent a good chunk of my time there observing everybody around me. I didn’t understand anyone and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t understand me so that sense of unfamiliarity was very inspiring. Also there comes the cliché of every writer going to Paris and writing something, so that felt really cool- being a writer in Paris felt pretty romantic.
How is Film for Her different from Flux in respect to the forms of writing?
I taped more into short stories in this book so you’ll find a collection of longer pieces in there.
What message do you seek to give through your new book?
Film for Her definitely takes a different turn than what Flux did. There’s growth in respect to the writing but also, I found myself being a lot more vulnerable in terms of sharing my experiences. I wrote Flux when I was heartbroken so the book hovered on feelings of anger and resentment. However, over the past three years I learnt to not look at heartbreaks in the trials and tribulations of my life with anger and angst but to rather find peace in that. Overall, the message is that we are young and we should seek to romanticize every moment in our lives. Life isn’t just about the highs and lows; I strongly believe that the most important moments are those that happen between them.
How would you describe your typical day in LA?
Right now it’s very slow. Given the current circumstances, I wake up at around eleven everyday though I have been trying to work on that! Honestly, I’m all for sleep as I get most of my work done during nights. So during the day I like to sleep in a little, make coffee and tend to my cats. I had been neglecting reading the past year so I have taken this time to recalibrate my brain and read more. If I’m lucky I get to see a friend or two and hangout with them. Furthermore I have a projector at home so I have been spending a lot of my time watching Criterion Collection films!
“I fiercely stick by the rule that we should write with everything we have within us. True writing comes only when you are deeply in touch with your emotions.”
One thing you are thankful for?
I’m thankful for my parents. I have always been so grateful for how accepting they have been in terms of everything that I do- my sexuality, my choice of career, etc. Being a kid of an immigrant parent there’s this pressure to fulfil the American dream and be something that they couldn’t be. Though I didn’t go to college to become a doctor or a lawyer, they have always been very accepting and proud of my choices.
A subject/topic that you are passionate about?
This is so ridiculous but anything that has to do with crime and mystery- I absolutely love! It’s all so intriguing and only last night I stayed up till four am watching this YouTube account called Crime Scene Clean up! These people were cleaning up crime scene and though some would say it’s gross, I found it so cool!
A poetry written by you that is your absolute favourite?
It’s probably some of the stuff from my new book Film for Her. But one that I have shared online and I really like is called Patron Saint of Letting Go.
What is your remedy for a writer’s block?
Two things- one is definitely read a lot. Every time before I write, I always read something just so my brain is in that mode. Second, I read this quote that said writers block isn’t real, it’s just fear of writing bad things. So every time since I had writers block this quote had helped me a lot. Whenever I’m in a rut I make it a point to write something, anything- doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. Looking back, even if you write something substandard you can always pull something useful out of it.
If you could live anywhere in the world except for LA where would you go?
I think I would probably live in Italy; probably a little cottage by the beach with a garden or something.
A book you believe has changed the way you look at life?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho was the reason I moved to New York which then soon led me to Los Angeles. Basically it got me out of my hometown and nudged me to go explore the world.
One form of art that you think is underrated?
I think Baroque paintings and Renaissance art aren’t as popular as they should be nowadays. I don’t think anybody has a deep appreciation for it anymore as they used to. People today, I feel, are more for contemporary and modern art.
What do you like to do in your time alone?
If I’m alone and doing absolutely nothing, I would spend an unhealthy amount of time surfing You Tube and Vimeo finding unnecessary videos to watch. I’m all about the most random part of the internet!
Road trips or plane rides?
Definitely road trips! They are more fun.
Do you have any secret spots in LA?
I have one little spot, it’s in Malibu. I actually found it during the quarantine. I was out for a ride, looking for a place to read when I came across it. It’s this spot along the PCH where there is this massive tree. I sit underneath it and it’s perfect for just looking out at the ocean and reading.
One thing your readers don’t know about you?
Not a lot of people know that I’m the youngest of my five siblings. They all have kids and I’m the fun cool aunt that travels and comes back every holiday!
What artist, living or dead would you say you look up to the most?
Amy Winehouse! I even have tattoo as a tribute to her. My dad would play her music a lot so growing up I always admired everything about her- her authenticity, her writing, her music, etc.
Three words that describe you best?
I would say sensitive which would then go along with tender but also effervescent. I know there’s juxtaposition between the two but I believe that nobody’s two dimensional.
“When I feel sad or depressed I try to remind myself that I have people who love me, a roof over my head, cats whom I love and that there’s nothing detrimentally wrong with me.”
You are passionate about design, how would you describe your aesthetic?
It’s kind of all over the place. I just moved into my new home and I’m in the process of designing my house. I do like to mix French, baroque, mid- century, seventies- ultimately it’s a mix between everything.
If there was an autobiography written about you, what would it be called?
I often think what that would be like one day when I’m old and grey and I’ve just sat down to write about my entire life. The answer may change, but I’d like to imagine that the title would trace back to my childhood. So perhaps something as simple as “Vanessa” or more poetic as “Honeysuckles on Rivermill Drive”.
A motto that you wholeheartedly follow as a writer?
I think there’s a certain sensitive embarrassment that people feel while writing in a journal. Being that those are particularly personal they get caught up in a fear that someone might read them. Nonetheless I fiercely stick by the rule that we should write with everything we have within us. True writing comes only when you are deeply in touch with your emotions. Even if you feel ridiculous writing it, just know that your future self will thank you.
At this point in your life do you feel at content?
I think this year in particular has been a year of growth. I have been spending so much time with myself and have thus learnt a lot of things that I hadn’t yet acknowledged or habits that I now recognise limited my potential. People think that a year of tangible growth is all about meditation and finding your highest self but it’s actually going really low and coming out of it better than before. I still have a lot to learn but at this very moment in my life I would say that I feel at content with what I know and who I am.
When did you realise that you were truly happy with everything that you have achieved so far?
There are times when I’m not truly happy with everything I have achieved because there’s still so much that I want to accomplish. But when I look back and dwell upon the circumstances that I grew up in I realise how radically my life has changed. So I’m very grateful that I don’t have to go through the same problems that I used to. I desperately try to not take that for granted. When I feel sad or depressed I try to remind myself that I have people who love me, a roof over my head, cats whom I love and that there’s nothing detrimentally wrong with me. Thus, I try to sit back and really enjoy the moment that I’m in at present.
What qualities do you think a person must have in order to succeed in life?
Kindness, always! Materials things will never matter unless you are a truly, genuinely kind person and not just to people around you but to yourself. There was a time when I was kind to everyone but never to myself. I now realise that being kind to myself was the missing puzzle piece that finally led to me find happiness and be okay with the obstacles that I face knowing that that is the way of life.
Any quote you want to leave us with?
This is my favourite quote by Patti Smith: Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful — be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices and protect your work. And if you build a good name, eventually, that name will be its own currency.