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    Real Life=Bestsellers

    michelleBy Michele Karlsberg

    Michelle Karlsberg: In your books, are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

    Michael Gerhard Martin: In a sense, everything I write comes from my real life. It starts there, and sometimes people recognize the parts of them that survive when I turn them into fictional characters. I am always looking for what Richard Currey called “emotional knowledge” in fiction. I just finished a story about a newly sober, angry young woman whose mother dies mixing opiates and wine. I had to make up an enormous number of details; if the factual account is steak, the story is corned beef hash. But the woman who inspired it recognized herself, and her mother. She says she’s happy I’m making art out of her “vaudevillian existence.”

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    I write careful distortions of the truth; but they often take shape as retellings of stories I admire. Flannery O’Connor transported classical mythology to the green Georgia farmland she knew best. I gathered my mother’s anecdotes about her career as a professional gluegun-and-dried-flower craft lady, and modeled the protagonist and narrative structure on O’Connor’s “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” One of my mentors, Louis Nordan, used Shakespeare.

    I rarely write nonfiction, because I can’t stand the stricture of not making stuff up—my impulse is to lie and cheat and steal to make the story better. I love a chisel, a grift, a petty fraud. In Tobias Wolfe’s “The Liar,” the narrator sings in “what must surely be an ancient and holy tongue.” The song itself is a lie the narrator tells, but I swear, I have always heard it.

    Fay Jacobs: Absolutely. All of my stories involve me and the people I know. My father always said, “Nothing is ever so horrible if you wind up with a good story to tell.” And I’ve got stories— from zip-lining, to skunk attacks, relationship tales to animal rescue—and even illness, discrimination and aging gracelessly. It’s all fodder for the storyteller in me.

    And frankly, this legacy about taking lemons and turning them into typewritten lemonade was best advice my father ever gave me, especially since the rest from that era tended toward: “It wouldn’t kill you to wear a dress to your sister’s wedding,” and, “You’ll never find a husband if you buy a house with another girl,” although he was right on both counts.

    Over the past thirty-three years, my wife Bonnie and I have lived in one power boat, two beach condos, four houses and an RV; we’ve shared our space with a succession of Miniature Schnauzers, and have been domestic partnered, civil unioned and married—twice, actually, in two different countries, through a variety of convoluted paperwork in civil and religious ceremonies.


    Along with my almost 40 years of watching, participating in and writing about our LGBT march toward full civil rights, there have been four books filled with survivable events, large and small, that have gone on to become stories to tell. Come with me for the ride.

    Fay Jacobs has written four award-winning books. She also writes for “The Washington Post,” “The Advocate,” “Curve Magazine,” and more. She is now touring as the last comic sitting with her reading of “Aging Gracelessly: 50 Shades of Fay.”

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