Armistead Maupin is a powerful storyteller with the ability to draw from his experiences good or bad and describe them to the world leaving us hankering for more. Born to a conservative family in the Deep South, he was born at a time when being gay was considered abnormal, sin and even a mental illness. He experimented with conservatism and even dabbled in politics before making his way to San Francisco to become a true pioneer for LGBTQ rights. His activism has helped the community immensely while his stories have entertained masses for decades.
October seems to be a busy month for one of our favorite authors. Maupin’s newest book, “Logical Family: A Memoir” was just release this week to rave reviews. A new documentary of his life (so far) is premiering as the opening film for TWIST Seattle Queer Film Festival, “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” this Thursday, October 12th. Oh wait there is more; he will be hosting “A Conversation with Armistead Maupin” at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall on October 16th.
If you attend opening night of TWIST Seattle Queer Film Festival to see “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” this Thursday, October 12th, you have a chance to win tickets to meet Armistead Maupin in person at the Benaroya Hall event on the 16th!
Are you excited about your new book?
Yes, I am. It has been a long time coming. There are a lot of chickens coming home to roost at the same time right now with the documentary, the Netflix mini-series in the works and the book. I am having to do a lot more coordinating than I normally like to do but I am a lucky man.
How did the new “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin” come about?
The director Jennifer Kroot approached me about two months after I saw her documentary about George Takei (To Be Takei). I was very impressed by that film. I felt almost a little bit envious of George when I saw the movie. I remember thinking that I would love to have someone do that for me. Low and behold, she asked and I said yes.
When you wrote the original serialized stories, “Tales of the City” for the San Francisco Chronicle did you ever imagine them becoming book, then movies and leading to where you are now?
Certainly not (laughter). I was mostly just grateful that I got to write for the newspaper every day and get paid for it. At certain point, I was aware that I had a good story on my hands but I had no sense of what its longevity would be.
How did it feel switching from writing fiction to writing your personal memoirs?
It is a little trickier as a writing proposition. You don’t get to retreat into fantasy. You really have to talk about what happened. It is easy to become self-conscious in the act of writing a memoir. So, I did my best no to do that and just tell things the way I remembered them. I didn’t want to glamorize although I do have lots of things in my life that have been quite unusual. I knew I had some good storytelling material. I just let my memory take me where it would.
Was it hard to create a timeline and just start writing the memoir?
I was somewhat prepared. I have spent many years anecdotalizing my own life. I do tell stories about things that happen to me. I just had to figure out what stories I had to tell for this project and how I would use them to create an arc. I had dinner, oddly enough, a few years back with Patti Smith. I was expressing my admiration for her memoir and asked her what advice she could give me about writing one. She said “just picture every scene in the movie and write it down,” (laughter). She meant look at your life as a movie and define what is most interesting to record. So, that is what I tried to do.
What was the hardest part about writing the memoirs?
Figuring out how honest I wanted to be, well honest isn’t the best word. I made a rule with myself that I didn’t want to write about anybody who had given me a bad experience. I didn’t want use the memoir for revenge. Leaving those moments out was something of a challenge but I think I succeeded really well.
What would you like people to get out of the book or movie?
I hope they can find something in my life that is of value to theirs. I just tried to tell the truth at every turn and record my own reactions to life in hopes that it would let other people see how they might find the way through theirs. I am seventy-three years old now and have learned a few things. My effort was to share them.
How do you envision your appearance in Seattle at Benaroya Hall?
I generally just talk to the audience. I am going to read a little bit and then I tend to get conversational with the audience. I am really surprised at how people are willing to participate in the process. It becomes a big chat fest normally, if I am lucky. Believe it or not, I didn’t plan for all of these things to happen at roughly the same time. They have all been in the works for a number of years. The timing has been such that I am able to come to Seattle at a time when all three of those things are happening. I can’t come to the film festival (TWIST Seattle Queer Film Festival) because I am on the road with the book.
What is your favorite part about meeting your fans?
It is fun hearing their stories. Often, people will tell me where they were when they first read “Tales of the City” and what it meant to them. It is always a surprise, what I am going to hear and that is nice.
Could you tell me a little about the new Netflix mini-series?
A new “Tales of the City” is under development by Netflix. It is starring Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis.
What most excites you about the new Netflix series?
I am really excited that my old friend Laura Linney is coming back to play Maryanne one more time. The new series is going to open in present day San Francisco during Mrs. Madrigal’s ninetieth birthday party. Maryanne is returning from twenty years in Connecticut with something distressing her. We do have to wait to learn about it. It is as full of mystery, adventure and fun as the earlier series but set in the modern day.
Are you working on anything else?
Hell no (laughter)! I am the executive producer of the mini-series. That involves a lot of phone calls and discussions about where the story is going and how we are going to get it there.
Don’t forget! If you attend opening night of TWIST Seattle Queer Film Festival to see “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” this Thursday, October 12th, you have a chance to win tickets to meet Armistead Maupin in person at the Benaroya Hall event on the 16th! Get ticket and info here!