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    Experiences = Emotion

    michelleMichele Karlsberg: When writing your book, did you draw from your own painful experiences and emotions? Was it hard for you to incorporate them?

    James Magruder: As with all of my fiction, Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall comes from a very autobiographical place. Like several of my love slaves, I entered a PhD program in French Lit at Yale in September of 1983. I too lived in Hadley Hall, on the third floor, and AIDS was the monster under the bed. I don’t know whether I say this with pride or embarrassment but with two exceptions, every character in the novel–and there are scads–is based on someone I knew, met, took classes with, ate meals with, and/or slept with back in the day.combined 5.19_Page_29_Image_0002

    Though the book took nineteen years to complete, I found it easier this time to channel my past because I had already wrestled my mother and my father to the ground in previous, less overtly, comic novels. Love Slaves is about the crazy families you make with your friends when you’re young, clueless, and hot to trot. And the mistakes we all make in confusing sex with love. Because I came late to fiction–in my early forties, a fully forged man, for better and worse–I have no shame in ransacking my past for pain and humiliation. I think I use the act of writing fiction to understand what those past versions of myself were about. It’s an act of recuperation, analysis, and then, letting go.

    James Magruder is a playwright and translator, as well as the author of “Sugarless and Let Me See It.” He lives in Baltimore and teaches theatre at Swarthmore College.

    combined 5.19_Page_29_Image_0005Kellen Kaiser: San Francisco has a unique relationship to pain. As one of the American cities most associated with kink, we have an awareness that others don’t when it comes to the potential benefits of discomfort. For some folks, pain can be pleasurable, transformative, something worth seeking out. That’s how I justify my decision to publish a very personal book—exploring what happened when the daughter of four lesbians (me) fell in love with a man serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. I can’t help but cringe knowing that I am putting my business out into the world. I must be some sort of emotional masochist. What am I thinking exposing so many of my character flaws?

    In a more positive light, though, memoir can be seen as a medium for redemption, justice and truth telling. Memoir can be cathartic. As you write, you begin to process. You work on the narrative and the narrative works on you. So maybe writing is excusable, but why insist on making it public? Memoirists have been accused of being liars, manipulators, splaying themselves for cheap and brief attention. And writing coaches counsel that it must be more than therapy to have shelf appeal.

    In the sharing though, the real work of art begins. Vulnerability becomes assistant, touches others. The specific becomes universal. A great deal of art comes from pain. Pain is fodder and fuel. It is an expert of alchemy, turning sorrow to gold. One person’s agony becomes a legacy that may save another person’s life.

    “Queerspawn in Love” is Kellen Kaiser’s first book. More of her writing can be found at

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBT community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates twenty-seven years of successful book campaigns.