By Anna-Marie McLemore
When did you start writing fiction?
From a very early age, like most writers, but seriously and with concerted effort at age forty.
What inspires your writing?
My community, and the difficulties of my own growing up years. There were few lesbian and gay books when I was growing up, and I value beyond measure our books and writers of today, and our literature.
What inspires your characters and stories?
The issues that matter to my community are my passion as a writer and I weave them into stories–my first obligation as a writer of fiction is, after all, to tell a good story. As you can tell, the closet is a prime issue, and my mystery series featuring LAPD Detective Kate Delafield is an eight-book (so far) exploration of the closet through a character whose profession presents a best-case scenario for being in it.
Which of your books was hardest for you to write?
Probably the futuristic lesbian utopian trilogy that began with Daughters of a Coral Dawn. The three books present the kind of world women might build if we were left to our own devices, and the stories of the women who would build it. Constructing a world in a place different from ours presented many challenges. The trilogy also represents my thinking over a lifetime about the nature and possibilities of our female gender. It was also one of my most rewarding writing experiences–creating the portraits of the strong, resourceful women in those novels was exhilarating.
Which work means the most to you?
I learn more about my craft with every book I write, but each of my books has integrity- each one was the very best as I could possibly do at the time. I will never write a book I love more than Curious Wine.
How did you start writing lesbian fiction?
I found as many lesbian books as possible, but for me none of them conveyed the passion and beauty of our love and how very beautiful women are together. So I wrote the book I wanted to read- Curious Wine.
When did you discover your identity as a queer woman?
I knew I was queer when I was five. As to coming out, for me it was a process, not a calendar date. Like most people of my generation, I handled it badly, and hurt a lot of people till I got my act together.
What advice do you have for college-aged students in the coming-out process?
Come out, however difficult you perceive it to be and whatever you perceive as the cost. You will never in your life do anything more important for yourself than being true to yourself and honest with all the people in your life. If they cannot accept who you are, then why do they belong in your life? The alternative-remaining in the closet-is more destructive than anything else you can do to yourself The closet kills. It kills us emotionally, spiritually, and often physically. Coming out is freedom. Coming out is proof positive that if you tell the truth, the truth will set you free.
Describe your LA experience.
I first arrived in the early sixties, and for the next three decades lived in all different areas of the city. I love and honor the city. To this very day LA pulses with energy and creativity, it remains cutting edge, it’s one of the great cities of the world.
Any lows of living in LA?
Probably the same as everyone else’s-those practicalities of living with umpteen million people, all of whom seem to have cars.
What should LGBT college students know about LA?
That you have a strong community. LA’s spread out seemingly to the moon, but it has a vibrant community and many activities. All you have to do is read the local gay press to find everything.
In your novel Curious Wine, Lane and Diana are two women who defy gender stereotypes. What are your views on gender in today’s world?
I’m fascinated by what’s happening today with gender. I love that a fluidity of sexuality is becoming ascendant in our relationships, that our young people are tending not to be locked into any roles. As to my writing, my views can be polar opposite to my writing-my characters do what they do, and it can be nothing like what I would do.
What can progressive Americans do to improve life for the LGBT population with the current state of American politics?
With the current administration and its ilk using our legitimate quest for equal rights in our own country as a divisive wedge issue, we must strike back. The one thing all of us can do is be out, proud, and strong. To believe fully and firmly and without reservation that we deserve recognition and protection under all of our laws, and refuse to concede that anything less is acceptable.
What advice do you have for LGBT college students?
My generation accomplished a great deal but there’s much left to do, and as you fight on we’ll be watching you with hope, love, and pride.
What advice to do you have for aspiring writers?
Learn your craft. There’s a lot of information out there today, and it’s far more accessible than it was in my day. Get yourself into a writers’ group. The single biggest problem for aspiring writers is receiving credible feedback on their writing. A good writers’ group will provide supportive colleagues and will help immeasurably with that one crucial question: Does what I’ve written “work?”
What unusual thing would you like AngeLingo readers to know about you?
The one unusual thing is my abundance of luck. To have been so much in the right place at the right time that I ended up with my partner, and that I’ve been 25 years a writer for my wonderful community.