I feel a certain kinship with Susan Van Dine, a woman who ducks into an antiques shop to escape a downpour and discovers a scrapbook of photos of women from the 1920s. She becomes intrigued, just as I would, and starts a journey of trying to find out more about them.
The main difference between us is that Susan is fictional. She’s the main character in Paula Martinac’s novel Out of Time, a lesbian classic that won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Fiction and was a Finalist for the American Library Association Gay and Lesbian Book Award. Twenty years later, Out of Time is being re-issued by Bywater Books as an e-book.
Paula says she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t writing. ‘I started when I was seven years old, using a Tom Thumb typewriter. My second-grade teacher, Sister Antonia, had us write a short story; mine was about a little girl enamored of a nun. Eventually, I graduated to using my older sisters’ Olympia portable, tapping away on weekends, in the summer, anytime I could. At eight, I created a newspaper, filled with stories about my neighborhood. By age eleven, I was writing novellas; in my teens, chapbooks of poems.’
At the end of this post you can read the first paragraph of Out of Time and you can win an ebook copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and telling me in 25 words why you’d like one. I’ll pick the most imaginative. Let me know your preferred format.
Give me ‘You’ in 25 words.
Artistic, Bitchy, Cute (so my partner says), Diva (so my partner says), Earnest, Flirtatious, Genuine, Homo, Introvert, Jealous, Keen, Liberal, Mindful, Nutritionist, Opinionated, Passionate, Queer, Reader, Survivor, Tenacious, Unabridged, Vintage, Wishful, Yogi, Zealous — no “X” because it’s too hard and I’m only allowed 25!
If you were a book, what would it be and why?
Great Expectations – it’s just too fabulous a title.
Why would a reader love your book?
It’s got drama! It’s got humor! It’s got ghosts! It’s got New York City! It’s got sex! … It’s got sex!
When did you decide to be a writer?
When I was seven. My mother and father bought me a Tom Thumb typewriter. Later, I graduated to an Olympia portable.
What’s your most humiliating moment as a writer?
Once I was visiting a college literature class that was reading Out of Time and a student asked me about a plot point that I forgot was in the book! Now I’ve even forgotten what the plot point was she asked me about…
When, where and how do you write?
In fits and starts wherever I can. Always at the computer, although I wrote “Out of Time” in longhand in quadrille-ruled notebooks and a friend (OK, ex-girlfriend) transcribed it to a disk.
Did you find it hard to get published the first time?
For several years, I sent short stories to journals and never got accepted. But once the first story was accepted, the rest kind of fell into place.
Are you over-involved with your pets?
You mean my child, Lucy?
What writers do you admire most?
This question always trips me up. I immediately forget the names of any writer I ever read and admired! I’ve always been a Carson McCullers fan. More currently, I like Julia Glass, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Emma Donoghue, Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, Richard Russo, Louis Bayard — I’m an eclectic reader.
What’s your favourite writing form?
Fiction and nonfiction are probably in a dead heat for me. Plays next, screenplays after that.
What inspires you?
What’s your favourite procrastination when writing?
Checking Facebook. You gotta keep up!
What are you working on now?
A memoir in essays. Or maybe it will become more seamless and less essay-like as I go along. I am trying to write some tricky stuff about taking care of my parents, who both suffered from dementia. But I’m trying to do it with humor…
Opening paragraph of Out of Time
For a long time, I forgot the date that I walked into the antiques shop, but now I remember it again. For months, I was not even sure which shop it was. I could see the inside clearly— the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lining one wall, the homey scattering of bric-a-brac over creamy lace doilies, the black silk evening gown trimmed with jet beads draped casually across a velvet-upholstered settee. But when I tried to find it again, I always ended up in the wrong place, with concerned salesclerks asking if I was looking for something in particular. No, I answered, because I was not sure what I was looking for, or what I thought I would find by being in the shop again. I ended up apologizing to them for my confusion and standing helplessly out on the sidewalk, looking north and south, and wondering if it was Sixth Avenue I was on that day and not Eighth.
For more about Paula Martinac, check out her blog at http://queerestplaces.wordpress.com/