BookLife Talks with Esther Mollica
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'The Queen of Gay Street'
How was writing The Queen of Gay Street different from the other writing you’ve done?
I think the tone is darker, with a more aggressive and seductive vibe than things I’ve worked on in the past. In my column-writing days, I was assigned dating topics because I was “the fluffiest writer on staff.” It was a perfect match because they needed lots of sexual innuendos and bad puns. So my style always had a girly sense of cheekiness and flirtiness. However, I realized when I finished this book that my energy had shifted to the theme of what this work is all about: that raw, animal, late-20s energy of when a girl discovers herself and becomes a woman.
When writing about past events, how do you refresh your memories of the people and experiences?
If someone says something hilarious or life-changing, I try to write it down as soon as possible. What they said, how they looked, everything I felt. My greatest fear is forgetting the pivotal moments I’ve shared with people I care about. When it’s time to write about whatever happened, I go back and look at my notes and play music relating to that era—this time, it was pop and club music from 2008 through 2012.
Was there anything you wanted to include in The Queen of Gay Street but had to cut?A lot of people say that the book reads like a movie. That’s because I went back to an exercise from when I studied screenwriting. I looked at where plot beats hit on a 90-minute screenplay and outlined my book chapters during revision to match that narrative rhythm. Doing that meant making a lot of cuts. There were a lot of terrible dates that read like Sex and the City episodes, like one where I slept with a virgin and compared the terrible sex to the quality of a Papa John’s pizza. Truthfully, it didn’t move the story forward and I barely wanted to revisit it, so why would the reader?
How do you think readers will connect with this book today versus 10 years ago?
The world’s changed a lot. I realized as I wrote that I sound like a boomer when I talk about dating now. I’ve been with my wife for 10 years. We met pre-Bumble and just as online dating was starting to become popular. The queer scene has also changed significantly because gender is less binary. I used to get trashed a lot for being either too femme or not femme enough. Still, when I mentored a girl coming out last year, I found that some truths still hold universally: it’s challenging to find someone you love when the selection in our community is smaller than in other communities. Society is also much more open about sexuality than when I first came out in the aughts. My greatest surprise in writing the book was that many straight women liked reading about a gay SJP and wanted more. I didn’t anticipate that at all.
Do you have any advice for other authors who want to write a memoir?
Hold nothing back, and don’t worry if your writing is embarrassing or weird. Someone in my family told me to stop “writing about the gay thing.” You can see from my title how far I took their advice. Also, allow yourself to show your weaknesses and let the reader come to their own conclusions about your strengths. I struggled with writing this book for years until I got real and revealed the most flawed parts of myself, which were needy, lonely, toxic, and compulsive. I had to lean into the dark feminine in my work and personal life and defeat it to set myself free.