Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Laura Goode Interview, Part 2

Laura returns today for the second half of her amazing interview with Fresh Ink reviewers, Sophie and Jenna. Read Part One here:

Sophie &Jenna: What sort of experience do you have with gay rights and hip hop? And did the two ever mix in your life before you wrote the book?

Laura Goode: Well, no, that unlikely combination was purely a product of my imagination, much as I wish I'd ever encountered a queer hip-hop discussion group before!

Gay rights are something that are really important to me, because I have a lot of friends who are GLBTQ, and because I identify as queer in solidarity with them. I've had a lot of fabulous Gay Experiences (by which I mean experiences with GLBTQ people) -- I've been there on the night that a friend came out to his family, I've had a lot of long, searching conversations about queerness and sexuality, I've seen friends fall in love for the first time or come into a new situation or geography where they felt okay about their gayness for the first time.

Unfortunately, I've also seen friends be shut out by families who couldn't handle their gayness. I've seen friends get beaten up because of their gayness. I've seen friends try to be someone they're not because they can't bear to accept their own gayness, or use drugs or alcohol to try to salve the pain that comes from not being able to love who you are.

What bothers me the most -- what's most urgent to me about the state of gay rights today -- is what I'm hearing about how many GLBTQ teens feel sad, or desperate, or hopeless, or even suicidal. It makes my stomach hurt even to type that sentence because I really can't bear the idea of kids in pain.

So I think writing Sister Mischief was my way of writing a letter to those kids, my way of telling them, "Hey, my friends and I have been where you are, and we know how much it can hurt, and we know there are terrible days when you don't even want to get out of bed and go to school, and we know there are even times where you might think about ending it all. But we care about you, and we understand, and we won't ever forget how hard it is to grow up, and we're here to support you. So please know that we think you're absolutely beautiful, that you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing, and that nothing you may desire is shameful or disgusting. Please keep on growing up even when it hurts, and we promise the pain you're feeling won't last forever. We know it hurts. We're listening."

As for hip-hop -- I think my fascination with hip-hop comes from my obsession with poetry. I think it's amazing that hip-hop has brought poetic language into nearly every household in America; I think the amazingness of that is under appreciated. I also think that writing about hip-hop tied into my desire to write about marginalized people and issues, especially in a white, wealthy context. That's the way queer issues and hip-hop are related in my mind -- the voices of the marginalized.

S&J: Do you ever write hip hop other then what was written in Sister Mischief?

LG: I can't tell you that because it might ruin my secret underground rap career.

S&J: What sort of responses have you gotten from the book and did those responses surprise you at all?

LG: I've had a great time hearing people's thoughts on the book. My favorite responses have been from young people like you -- telling me where I got things right and where I got them wrong, what they related to about the characters and the story.

A lot of the unexpected responses I've gotten have been from people I grew up with -- Holyhill is closely based on my hometown of Edina, MN, so a lot of Edina friends have reached out to tell me what they remembered about high school, how my book did or didn't correspond with their experience. It's been fun to have an excuse to catch up with so many people.

S&J: Are you working on another book right now?

LG: I am! I'm writing a noir mystery for adults about the death of an uptown Manhattan bartender and the eccentric detectives who investigate her murder. Spoiler alert: one of the detectives is leading a secret double life as a Diana Ross and Tina Turner celebrity impersonator.

S&J: Final question: Do you have advice for anyone who wants to become a writer?

LG: Write everywhere. Write when you're not supposed to. Write in the hull of a sinking ship. Write because you don't have a choice. Write past the rejections (and there will be many, I promise). Write past the self-doubt and fear of what others will think. Write on and write through and write around and write with and write over and write against and keep writing. There is absolutely no reason -- not glory, not wealth, not love nor fame nor greatness -- to become a writer unless you love the very act of writing more than anything, anything else.

The poet Rainier Maria Rilke says it much better than I can in his Letters to A Young Poet (and, fun fact, this passage is tattooed on Lady Gaga's arm in the original German:

There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

Nothing but writing makes you a writer. Keep writing. That's the only advice anyone will ever give you about being a writer that's worth a damn.

Thanks again to Laura for visiting us here at Fresh Ink and Porter Square Books. Check her out online at Laura Goode.

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