Writer vs. Writer Interview: Lauren Sapala

In this post, I had the honor to interview Lauren Sapalam the author of Between the Shadow and Lo, a transgressive novel based on her experiences as an alcoholic battling her alter ego in Seattle in the early 2000s, and its sequel, West Is San Francisco. She also teaches classes and online courses for introverted, intuitive writers and blogs regularly on creativity, writing, and transgressive fiction at laurensapala.com.

I'm always fascinated by finding other female authors in the genre of Transgressive Fiction. I was searching transgressivefiction.info and I found Lauren, searched her book, and bought it to read. As it was the type of book I adore, I decided to email her and see if she would accept to have an interview with me, and voila! She accepted. Let's see what we have discussed.

Hi Lauren. It's such a pleasure to be able to talk to you. To start with the questions, may I know when did you decide to become a writer in the Transgressive Genre as I see this is normally a genre mainly male dominant.

I didn’t actually decide to become a transgressive fiction writer, it just happened. I wrote my first novel, Between the Shadow and Lo, in a silent writing program (we met once a week and wrote for one hour together, silently), and I didn’t plan the novel at all. I just wrote down the experiences I had gone through as an alcoholic over the past few years. As I was revising the manuscript I began looking around at agents and publishers and as part of that process, I looked at other books that were similar to mine. I realized that all of them were transgressive fiction.

I understand. I have the same experience. What about Transgressive Genre attracts you?

I like the darkness of transgressive fiction, and the absurd humor, but most of all I like the way it breaks through boundaries. In fact, that’s how I define transgressive fiction, as not just “boundary-pushing” but “boundary-breaking,” because a lot of good literature pushes boundaries, but the mark of true transgressive fiction, in my opinion, is that it explores actual societal taboos. And those boundaries and taboos change over time, which is another aspect of transgressive fiction that I find compelling. Some of the transgressive fiction of the 1950s feels tame by today’s standards, in regards to discussion around gender, sexuality, drugs, spirituality, etc. But then there are other concepts and stereotypes that were normalized during that time (how people of color were portrayed by white authors, for example) that are now considered taboo. I love that dynamic of the ever-changing boundary.

What do you think makes a good story?

Honesty. And this holds true for any piece of writing, whether it’s the Great American Novel or a blog post on a better way to clean your kitchen. There are so many writers out there who are afraid to truly express themselves, or they haven’t discovered their true feelings, and so they’re writing things that unthinkingly express the opinion they believe will be accepted by the mainstream population (i.e., the blog post that gets the most clicks). While this might be a great strategy if you’re an advertising copywriter, it will ruin any piece of writing that you actually care about.

I define transgressive fiction, as not just “boundary-pushing” but “boundary-breaking,” because a lot of good literature pushes boundaries, but the mark of true transgressive fiction, in my opinion, is that it explores actual societal taboos.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? And as a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

When I was six years old I wanted to be a poet. I went through a few more career aspirations after that time, but I ended up at 15 or 16 years old having no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but a very clear idea of what I DIDN’T want to do. I didn’t want to have a normal job. I didn’t want to work for the government or a corporation. I didn’t want to work somewhere boring, or where I was bored. I didn’t want to feel like I was a slave to someone just because they paid me a lot of money. So, I settled on working in a bookstore in my early 20s and this felt right for a time. Then I went to work for a private detective and a few different tech startups between Seattle and San Francisco. That felt right too. The entire time, I still wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t dead set on it bringing me any sort of income or being a “career.” I just wanted to write books because it sounded like it would deeply fulfill me.

How long does it take you to write a book?