RH: How did you come up with the idea for the book?
LT: I was working at a publishing house and one day some
friends and I decided to amuse ourselves by coming up with ideas
for how-to books on subjects you wouldn't normally expect: How to
Be a Lesbian Performance Artist, How to Be an Anarchist -- things
like that. That was the germ of the idea, although the finished
product developed into much more of an eclectic, humorous book, as
opposed to being only a self-help manual or a parody of one.
RH: You do walk a very thin line between parodic humor and
LT: I'd worked previously with young people whose only
outlets for information are bookstores and the Internet, and I was
dedicated to putting concrete information into the book. But you can
still put humor into that -- for example, our section on coming out
contains important questions you should ask yourself -- and then
gives instructions for your coming out party.
RH: It seems like a lighthearted celebration of lesbianism wouldn't
have been possible even a few years ago.
LT: That's very true. We happened to hit a zeitgeist. If you
look at what's coming out -- there's H
elen Eisenbach's book, there's Robert's Rules of Lesbian
Living, and another book called The History of Lesbian Hair
-- everybody seems to have hit upon this idea at the same time. As
we wrote on the jacket cover, lesbian humor is no longer an
oxymoron, and it's great to see that there are other people who feel
RH: Although your approach to lesbian humor seems
quite different than, say, Helen Eisenbach's.
LT: I think Helen was giving a real nod to writers like Fran
Lebowitz. It's a very particular style of humor, very much involved
in the style of the writing. I, too, worship Lebowitz, but Sydney and I
tend to work with a broader palette. That way you have a good
chance of getting some readers with each type of joke. And I've been
really happy with the reception of our humor.
RH: Have you run into any flak from celebrities -- like Ellen
DeGeneres or Rosie O'Donnell -- who have refused to speak publicly
about their own sexuality, but whom you drag out of the closet?
(Editor's Note: This interview appeared several months before Ellen
Degeneres came out publicly.)
LT: Not yet. I think outing in general has become a non-issue
for many people, even in the mainstream press. What we have
gotten are responses from readers like "I thought so." I think people
are much less scared or up in arms about celebrities coming out than
they were in the past. People are more willing to make the
assumption that somebody like Ellen or Rosie is gay, but at the same
time very few of those people are following them at public
appearances screaming that they should come out. I'm comfortable
with that middle ground, myself.
RH: How has your background in 'zines helped you as a
LT: Outweek was my first real writing job, and when I
started there, it was a fly-by-night operation in every sense. What
was great was that you could pretty much do whatever you wanted
to do, which allowed me to stretch out and learn from my mistakes.
The same thing happens with 'zines; nobody's telling you, "You can't
do this, you can't do that." But you certainly learn from your
audience, which is a much better way to do it. We would get detailed
letters from readers of Dead Jackie Susann Quarterly about
what they liked and disliked, readers who had a very personal
concern with what they were reading. I love that so many people
have access to that kind of independent publishing, whether it's on
the Web or 'zine-based or some other format, getting their points of
view out and creating dialogues where there were no dialogues
before. For a writer, it's so important to see that and use it to build a
foundation on which your writing can grow.