Monica Nolan is the author of Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary (2007) and the co-author of The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2002) with Alisa Surkis. A collection of eight stories of girls who love horses…and other girls, the book was nominated for a Lambda in the humor category and was awarded the coveted Diagram prize, given annually by an association of British booksellers to the oddest book title of the year. Out Magazine described it “as vibrant, juicy and pulpy as the sexy cover illustration.” Monica has also written articles on film and pop culture for Release Print and Bitch Magazine. Before she realized that paper was cheaper than film, Monica wrote and directed a number of short films, including Lesbians Who Date Men and World of Women.
Monica is currently working on the second book in her planned Lesbian Career Girl series, Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher.
You can learn more about Monica...and Lois Lenz at www.loislenz.com.
Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary pays affectionate homage to the lurid pulp novels of the 50s and 60s. A sexy, titillating spoof of the illicit world of lesbian pulp fiction, Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary tells the steamy story of a former cheerleader with a penchant for filing. When Lois finds a job in the big city and a room at the Magdalena Arms women-only boarding house, she discovers just how seductive the society of other career girls can be.
“Tell me about your favorite filing system,” Paula whispered in her ear before trailing her warm mouth along Lois’s neck.
“Well, I’ve been experimenting with a method that combines the alphabetical with the chronological—ohhh!”
“Am I going too fast?” Paula murmured.
In this tongue-in-cheek melodrama, which weaves sex, mystery, and mayhem into a decidedly entertaining romp, Lois encounters women from every walk of life, from cutthroat executives to spoiled debutantes, earnest schoolteachers, aging child actresses and ambitious copywriters—all of whom share a secret.
How have your works been received by readers of all orientations?
I don’t have the answer to that question. It is an ongoing mystery. I only know what the people I know who’ve read it think (and I always wonder if they’re just being polite). Many of my friends (mostly gay, some straight) claim they enjoyed it. My sister Annie (married with children) liked it. A woman (who I believe is a lesbian based on her blog) put it down after reading a few pages and wrote that it didn’t seem interesting (oh, the things you find out, googling your title). Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-, so go figure. I suspect that enjoyment of Lois is based more on having a camp sensibility and an appreciation for the artifacts of the 1950s, than any particular sexual orientation. Hmmm, how can I reach that Mad Men audience…
In the stories you write and are planning to write, what ideas and themes do you see recurring that shed light on homosexuality?
First, I have to rewrite the question a little bit—I never use the word homosexual and would feel silly using it seriously. For me the term carries overtones of the 1950s attitudes towards gays and lesbians. I think of “Homosexuality” as medico-legal jargon used in headlines warning about a homosexual plague or the cover blurb for those pseudo-sociological books promising “a searing portrait of today’s homosexual.” This is the kind of language I try to parody in the books I’ve written and am planning to write. For example, I have my heroine, Lois, exclaim in a moment of self discovery, “I think I’m a deviant too!” In my book, of course, this is a positive thing.
One of the themes that recurs as I write about my somewhat fantastical 1950s lesbian community, is the sense of same-sex attraction turning people into outlaws in the pre-stonewall era, and how what is “normal” and legal gets constantly redefined over the years. Yesterday’s crime is today’s wedding (and perhaps tomorrow an illegal activity again). In Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary, it was fun to tease out the parallels to other activities of that era that were once universally considered shocking and forbidden, and no longer are (pot smoking, interracial dating, even communism). These topics also place Lois squarely in the tradition of the pulp novel, a genre I love, and hope I honor with Lois.
At the end of the day, if there was one thing you wanted your readers to remember in regards to homosexuality, what would that thing be?
As a founding member of the anti-oversimplification society, it is, alas, impossible for me to reduce my tale of these fun-lovin’ lesbians to one take-away nugget on the topic of lesbian life. Ideally I want my readers to be left entertained and stimulated (intellectually, of course). Seriously, in our society, where people experience being gay in a whole spectrum of ways (from “I don’t know any gay people, which is good because it’s a sin” to “All my friends sleep with each people not genders, we don’t think in terms of those old fashioned definitions”) what readers get from the book will differ wildly based on where they are in their own evolving understanding of what it means to be gay.
What attracted me to the pre-stonewall period that is the book’s setting, is that despite the repression and prejudice, gays and lesbians were still finding each other and managing to have some good times. Don’t misunderstand—I’m not saying the 50s were all fun and games for the queer community. However something a panelist said at a presentation on gay and lesbian history has always stuck with me (the nugget I took away, if you like). She said what she was most struck by in the interviews she was doing with people who lived through that period was that they had such positive memories—that they were actually having a really good time during those dark days, when the media mostly portrayed their lives as miserable and lonely. That contradiction is something I explore and exploit in my books.
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