With an upcoming Netflix revival of Tales of the City, a bio doc on PBS, and the publication of his memoir, Logical Family (out October 3 through HarperCollins), legendary author Armistead Maupin shows no signs of slowing down and puttering in his garden, Anna Madrigal–style. Here, he talks to fellow writer Josh Kilmer-Purcell about Trump, Tales, and when to finally give up on family.
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Josh Kilmer-Purcell: After 11 novels, a memoir. Why?
Armistead Maupin: I’m 73. It seemed like a good time to look back on my life. And I wanted to get it out of the way. [Laughs.] I’ve always been very fascinated by
JKP: What were the challenges in writing nonfiction?
AM: If your instinct is to entertain—as it is as a fiction writer—there’s a temptation to be untruthful. I’ve always said I’ve lived my life like a magpie, collecting the shiny stuff and throwing away the rest. But when I sat down to compile my memories, many new truths emerged—especially about my childhood.
JKP: You write about your genteel Southern upbringing, which was also very conservative. You describe your biological family so lovingly, yet they’re excluded from your “logical family.” Why?
AM: While many in my family have always been supportive, others are forever lost to me. For years I would use cute expressions about some of them being “sweet at heart” to dismiss their continual support of politicians and platforms that harmed me and the people I love. But after spending 40 years explaining the beauty of gay life to the world, which has truly been my calling, it’s preposterous that it somehow continues to elude some people. It’s obscene and demeaning, and I can’t forgive that anymore.
JKP: From creating one of the first transgender characters in mainstream literature to outing celebrities, you’ve been ahead of the curve with almost every modern LGBT turning point. What’s our next milestone? Do we have any left?
AM: Most of my anger these days gets extended towards global situations. They’re still pushing us off roofs in some parts of the world. And the situation in Chechnya? When I see our own president not speaking out in the same way that Macron and Trudeau are, it sparks fears about the permanence of our own freedoms.
JKP: Netflix recently announced its development of a new Tales of the City. Any hints at what we’ll see?
AM: Plans are for a 10-part miniseries set in present-day San Francisco. Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney, and other original cast members are returning. The series is an entirely new creature but draws from the DNA of all of the novels. And everyone, of course, is coming home to 28 Barbary Lane.
JKP: Your memoir actually ends with a poignant reminder from Tales. Your real life inspired its characters. Have they inspired yours?
AM: In some ways my characters provide me with a moral compass. They are the better part of me. Anna Madrigal is someone I aspire to. Tales is a vision of the world that’s a vision of my own. When I have a darker, down moment in my life, I think, How would this work out if I were to write it? What better instincts would get me out of it? I think Tales reminds us that life is a beautiful privilege. And I remember that every single day.
Logical Family is available for pre-order on Harper Collins.