Gwenace II Society

MM) This book is in many ways Gwen Hilton full frontal, full disclosure. In a sense, Where the Breastplate Meets the Blade is an unpacking of the hallucinatory Sent to the Silkworm House through candid romantic and sexual history and angular mnemonic stabs. Rather than charting your evolution as a stylist, I’m wondering if your instinct to open up more and become more public-facing in general has to do with stepping outside of your comfort zone, and in what ways, positive and/or negative, it has affected you.

GH) Where the Breastplate Meets the Blade was written as an attempt to step out of my comfort zone. I don’t think many people want to read a 26-year-old pontificate on love. I don’t think people want to watch a 27-year-old prone to saying I’m gonna kill myself every single day promote that. People have told me any writing about love has daunted them. So I wanted to challenge myself to write about the one thing I know is always good in my life. I’m always thankful for the love I’ve felt, even when it’s gone sour. To write about what is good and what I still love is challenging for me. These are some of the few explicit intentions I had going in. Most people who have read Silkworm know I am the narrator character and the book is as true to life as you can get with an unreliable narrator like myself. Many of the people who weren’t sure asked me if that was the case. And many others have seen it confirmed time and time again because I don’t know how to shut up. The book was easy to write because it was full of frothing rage, or at least written with a base of rage. I will probably repeat this line, but when I wrote Silkworm it felt like there was something evil careening down the open roadway of my heart. It always feels like that. I wanted to write about that feeling so I would not feel so alone with it. I wanted to see if other people felt the same. They did. Some told me things that basically amounted to saying, “You wrote so much of what’s in my head and I was afraid it was in no one else’s.”


I wanted Breastplate to be something that felt hard for me to write. With my first two books I wrote mostly to forget. I have a constant running dialogue with myself in my head and it can become tiring. I am my own worst enemy. I am the one who never lets myself forgive myself and forget. I’ve been told by the people I let tell me to move forward. When I write I stop thinking about the things I write about. It’s unburdening for me. Being open and public facing with my thoughts, feelings, anything is a net positive for me, but I think it can create greater stress. A lot of people think they know me when they don’t, which is me just playing another hit before the sophomore effort. A lot of people seem to find comfort or security in having a public-facing self and a private self. I have a private self, sure, but not in the sense that no one sees it. My public self is congruent to my private self. My goal with myself as a person is for people to know what they’re gonna get. My writing is the same. Breastplate is a lung-clearing cough. Silkworm was still me trying to sell you something. I’m trying to sell you something here too, but it’s realer than real, just like Silkworm


MM) Your work is difficult to succinctly define. It’s extremely violent, dark and pitilessly stoic about it. It pulls the reader so close it’s infraforensic, and contains the kind of intimacy that transcends discomfiture in service of hard realism. It makes no exception to apologize nor concede to any rubric of expectation. It’s something of a psychosexual coming-of-age story. Like the ideal writer, you’ve led a fascinating life and you impart its lessons generously. Despite being similarly fragmented and episodic, unlike Silkworm, Breastplate coheres into a hopeful and longing culmination about love. As an exercise, did it feel more cathartic? Did it hurt more? Was it euphoric?  

GH) Breastplate was more cathartic, it hurt more, and it was euphoric. When I felt like I was doing things right it was a victory lap. At other times, Breastplate shook my confidence. Sometimes I’d look at what I wrote and ask myself if I was a bad or a dumb writer. There were lots of edits and expansions. I got my first-ever rejection from an online mag with a chapter from this book. I wrote the first draft in a month and tinkered with it up to this week basically. I wrote Silkworm in two separate two-week sessions (and some editing later). My books make me physically sick until I’m feeling done with them, which is not a good way to live. I had to learn to live with a long book in progress with Breastplate. Usually what people read is not much different than my first draft. My first draft is always a stream of consciousness. I know the form I’m going to use going in based on how much dialogue I want to have explicitly in quotes. Breastplate deals more with the stuff I deal with in my own life day to day. I see the people in this book sometimes still. I obviously still think about a lot of them. Most of the people in this book are people I think about very early in the morning when I wish I could go back to sleep easily and I hope they have what they want in life. A lot of people (friends, mentors, therapists, enemies, parents, teachers, professors, older hookups) told me I’d think about things less over time and it’s not true. Maybe that’s a problem with me. I think a lot of them have been dishonest in saying it. Maybe it feels like less to them now. I can see how it does. I wrote this book to relinquish myself of the nagging pain, hurt, and longing that comes with specific memories almost exclusively based around failed attempts at interpersonal connection. 


As far as how I write violence goes, almost everyone I know has been the victim of an unspeakable act of violence. Sometimes they are victims and have committed their own unspeakable acts. Sometimes you do something heinous to stop yourself from becoming a victim and give someone else their own victim narrative to cling to for dear life. Or it happens two times, or three, or twenty. And then they just shouldered it. You can go to therapy and talk to friends and try to get by, but if you don’t have a good crew it’ll just feel like shouldering it. I try to honor the hurt of living with something like that in my writing. The violence I’ve experienced/caused in my own life leaves me feeling like Billy Pilgrim. It leaves me unstuck in time. It’s probably the corniest example because it’s so extreme, but recently I’ve been waking up with the gun to my head feeling again. I said to my mother it’s been ten years and then I realized it’s been eleven. Maybe even that I’m wrong about, but I’m too tired to figure out the dates I’ll forget again. I felt ten year memory pain. That’s unstuck in time. That’s my writing. 


MM) What is a Gwen Hilton story? What is a Gwen Hilton character? Would you say Where the Breastplate Meets the Blade is the genesis of the Gwen Hilton universe? 

GH) A Gwen Hilton story begins with a miscommunication or an assumption. Usually, there’s only two people. The story feels like a repetition, even if you don’t know what’s repeating yet. They’ve known each other long enough to know how to not make mistakes, but everyone makes mistakes. Values clash. I know who I am, or at least I think I know myself better than the average person knows their own self. So often times a Gwen Hilton story is about Gwen Hilton (the character, based on the Author, based on (???)) encountering someone and feeling conflict in her own being about existing in the world. A Gwen Hilton lead that isn’t Gwen Hilton is usually based on a feeling, a physical pain, or a person I miss. It moves from blaming the self to blaming the other to feeling no real resolution. Careless words make people love people less. My stories are usually about careless words or careless thoughts or careless exchanges that lead people to think you don’t really care about them. 


A Gwen Hilton character is someone who appears to have a clear set of values and they don’t live in congruence with them. They often cast judgment from the secluded tower of their values, which is a problem I have too. This is why I think attorneys and doctors and soldiers are rich characters. This is why I don’t work in the counseling field right now. There are oaths and apparatuses and states and nations that define so much of our life for us. Watching people try to move independently beneath and within those structures or watching them try to take off the mantle in “private” is usually where the conflict comes. I think that’s how it goes for most characters and people. 


This is a book about my mom in large part and I’m always talking about my mom because I’m a fucking freak, so I’m gonna talk about her here too. When I was a very little child, like under four years old, my mom’s coworker said I was going to be on the news one day and she couldn’t tell if it would be for something good or bad. My mom raised me telling me this story. That premonition is haunting to put on a little kid. That’s a Gwen Hilton character. Some of my mother’s other coworkers have said they feel so bad for the children of a public figure. We didn’t get to have a “normal” life, which doesn’t exist. We grew up being observed by strangers aware of my mother and people tried to put us in bad situations to make our mom look worse. People targeted my mother in ways that still scare me. There are attorneys with nefarious connections connected to large businesses that she’s not afraid of that have tried to intimidate her. The people who run the law that break the law fight back most viciously. Connected to suburbs connected to friends connected to people connected to people. Always lurking around the corner. They think she doesn’t have people in her life that watch that and wait too. They think people don’t recognize their names and faces and the buildings where they work. Those are all Gwen Hilton characters. Most people in Chicago can be found on the street at some point. Most people can be found, right? When celebrities come to perform in the Loop they walk around. As a public figure, she made a lot of sacrifices in her own life that inadvertently hurt her family, even if it only caused misunderstanding. She didn’t take a lot of opportunities as a way to continue preserving her family. That’s a tough middle ground. Trying to be a steward to the public made it harder for her to have a family. She had to have a family to be a respected public figure. Being a public figure that gets a divorce is hard fucking core. People don’t let divorce just be divorce. As a judge, criminal attorneys (not attorneys that practice criminal law) have tried to put pressure on her in unconventional ways because they can hide more of their behavior from the public than her. That’s a Gwen Hilton character. I still feel the anger from that sometimes. I don’t know if I’d feel as guilty if my parents weren’t judges and attorneys. I was still raised Roman Catholic by people who hold dear their Irishness. I never got to just be my mom’s kid because of a lifelong commitment to public service. That’s a Gwen Hilton character. It’s probably why I write stories about unfulfilled professionals. 


During my clinical internship as a counselor I had a client tell me it was so much easier to see a ‘transvestite’ (I was wearing a jumpsuit) than a cis woman about making her daughter have an abortion. That’s a Gwen Hilton character. 


Is this the start of a Gwen Hilton universe? Maybe, but I’d like some more time to rest before I meet more Gwen Hilton characters. 


MM) It’s difficult to be human. It feels like a race to become unabashedly yourself, to crystallize some semblance of meaning and purpose from a locomotive velocity, kind of like your book. I have to wonder how your psychoanalytic background and past work/life came into play when it came to your narrator’s voice. You can’t hide from this book, it calls you a liar to your face if you read it dishonestly disposed. You don’t spare yourself any chaos. Is this a kind of personal growth dialectic? What have you sacrificed to attain wisdom, and how do you know you are more wise?

GH) I’ve been in treatment since I was maybe eleven or twelve. I became “treatment savvy” shortly thereafter. Then I received escalating forms of assistance culminating in spending some time at a Wilderness Facility. Well, I guess I was hospitalized once in adulthood too. When I was working on my master’s degree in Clinical Psychology I had a coworker tell me the only people who go to Wilderness Facilities are people who have parents that want them to stay broken. Then I told her I went to a Wilderness Facility. Then she treated me differently. Previously she told me about the person who successfully killed herself in front of her, how much she hates the job we both work at, how depressed she is and how she takes edibles at work, and until the Wilderness Facility comment – how boring her current boyfriend is. 


When I decided to step away from the counseling field my internship mentor and my personal mentor both understood and said this would be a major loss for the field. People have told me my skills are so inborn I cannot see that I’m using them. This is true. The counseling work and the efforts to make a connection come easily to me. I’ve had more than a thousand personal sessions of my own for sure. I knew how to talk and think like a counselor before I had to decide to do something after undergrad. Therapists encouraged me into the field which is funny. My feelings about the field and the practice and the philosophy that is psychology are shifting all the time. I recognize that I used tools and skills and help from within to eke out a life I can mostly live. I know I can help people develop those skills themself. I also know that there is a lot that is bigger than individuals and if you bring that up to a counselor most times they’ll freak out or tell you they already are a helping professional. They already help with all their time. It’s true. 


I think I wrote this book to help myself. I wrote this book to test the limits of narrative therapy. I wrote this book to poke holes in narrative therapy. I probably did the same with Silkworm. In a just world these books would get me a teaching position teaching narrative therapy or some form of skills or theory, right? Some of the greatest workers in that side of the field did the same thing. Go out, live, write, get hired later. Then we sat in a classroom and felt their pain because they had been accused of being sex workers and junkies and thieves and spent time in institutions themselves. Is that an appropriate job for a clinician to have? Pioneers of the field don’t pass character and fitness exams. 


It’s a bit absurd to call my writing theory fiction, but if Camus can be it, so can I. I can’t turn off my clinical lens. My mentor calls me a perfect participant-observer. It’s my greatest asset. This is a big problem in my life. It makes people like me less. It makes me like myself less. People watch me watch them and they feel something. I try to capture that in my writing. I think it’s essential to the Gwen Hilton cocktail. 


When Pat Benatar wrote “Hit  Me With Your Best Shot” she didn’t think she’d be singing it at 50. I try to write like that. I want something immediate. 


I wrote this book to grow, yes. I don’t know if I’m more wise. I know there’s so much I don’t know. That which I don’t know grows every year, more than me. I’m trying to be better to myself and others. Sometimes I wonder if this book is a cudgel in its own way. I feel bad for some of the people inside, but I refuse to change anything that makes me feel bad. I don’t know if that’s growth. That stubbornness always comes easy to me. 

MM) The hot wire stripped bare of so many missed connections, one thinks, how many times must I go through this to find something worth keeping? Trial and error, self-discovery, self-abnegation. Do you think you have slowed down and been able to anchor your personhood to a stable sense of self, goals, desires? Is that what growing up is? As someone who also grew up fast and got into a lot of gross, dangerous trouble in my 20s, I’d say I still sure have some growing up to do. What’s next for your writing, your music, and most importantly, what’s next for the Gwen Hilton universe I wonder. How have you found an extra year of clout treating you?

GH) I have slowed down now that I’m in my late twenties el oh el. Not everything is so hair on fire in my life. My sense of self is mostly stable, always changing, but slowly. I am volcanic, but this moment feels like smooth slow lava flow. I just want to clarify it further. This is due to external security factors too. My life is actually stable. I have a place I come home to every day and it is my home. Home is something you need to have and when home is where you are that’s not really a good feeling. For me, home is a place and it’s real. I have more goals than I can achieve. I have desires that plague me. I want to be satisfied with what I have, which is enough. When I was a child I walked into a large Cathedral (some record holder) with my mother and I told her I was going to build a church that’s one foot bigger on every side. I have always given myself trouble wanting more. I think I’ve only recently hit a stage of growing up well and that notion can be contested. I think I’m finally growing up a bit because I feel that way. I was too mature to the point of immaturity for much of my life. 


I have a lot of growing to do. I wanted to be an adult before I was ten and I rushed adult behaviors and I robbed myself of a childhood before anyone else could in some ways. Then I was eighteen and I wanted to be thirty. I was eighteen trying to fuck fifty. Now I’m 27 and trying to be 27. I’m trying to be someone in their 20’s. I’m letting myself feel that. I have so much more growing to do. I also wanted to write something about our highest needs during a transitory period of my life to see if I’ll feel the same in five years or a decade or thirty. If I stop growing, shoot me. 


My band is the next big thing. We’re working on something that I can take to the grave with pride. That is only the beginning. Being someone’s bassist brings me tremendous joy. My solo music and my personal music sucks. I want to make dub music, but first I need to trust I can live up to the legends. I don’t have the same confidence and trust in myself like with writing. I have a few projects in the pipeline writing-wise. They are fun projects for me. I am working up to my pirate story. Writing comes easy because I’m always telling stories. There will be things in between that help me build confidence. I’m trying to write fiction fiction in genres I don’t feel at home in. What’s next for the Gwen Hilton universe? If I have done my job right this time, hopefully a sense of peace.


I hate my clout. I hate clout. I hate the word. Recently I was accused of having clout and I haven’t been right since. I caught clout before I caught genital herpes. Shaggy 2 Dope said it was hard getting famous because he felt like the same loser he always was and in some ways he was even more of that loser, but now women wanted to fuck him because he was in ICP. RX Papi said bitches used to laugh and call him a bum. I wrote Silkworm in part so people would treat me differently. I had done something. I had proven myself. I got what I wanted and what I wanted sucks. I get treated to a new kind of shit. I am my own life’s eternal janitor. Sometimes a new kind of shit by the same old people. People reach out and they miss me or they want to see me. People I was into in high school who wouldn’t look me in the eye came out of the woodwork. It’s gross. Tinder dates that canceled on me have texted me. Clout doesn’t pay my rent. It doesn’t get me paying jobs. Clout didn’t get me any of the friends or perceived friendships people think I have. If anything, I stand to lose more of those meaningful connections every time someone else agrees I have clout. I made friends approaching people as if they were a person first. They did the same. I know how to fuck that up with someone that inspires you too. It’s scary when people recognize me. People try to fuck my life up. People try to catch me in shit. People watch every word I say. People watch every tweet I like. I go to the same places I’ve gone since I moved to Chicago. I got fatter. I play even more video games now. I’m a loser. Then I had clout applied to me and I’m something different. To me, I’m a loser. Drake says, “Don’t talk to me like I’m famous.” 


It’s disgusting having someone I haven’t seen in years say someone brought my book up at a party. 


No one I wonder about ever reached out to me. It’s always people I thought had forgotten me.


I’m very lucky I have the good things in my life. Clout is fake except when it’s fucking you over. People talk to me about the people that talk about me and the ways they talk about me. Ten years ago that’s all I ever wanted. Now that I’ve come to see how it feels I’m reminded of the times my mother told me one day I might like to toil in obscurity. I can’t go to my favorite restaurants with my friends who have been afflicted with worse levels of clout to clout circle jerk without people saying “Oh look, the clouted” when I’m stuffing too much of a gyro in my face. I can’t go out without people watching which artists I clap for. Fuck your bad art. Fuck your bad bill. Fuck you for asking me to show my face to legitimize your event. I won’t callous my fucking hands for you. Fuck all that shit dude.


MM) One of the things I was struck by in Chicago was how unencumbered I felt. There was an ultra sincere character to it, a decisive answer to any ironic navel-gazing about a reading as a viable good-faith gathering and conjuring, a diversion for the senses. You found New York City turbulent. You made me feel at home, albeit frightened, in Chicago. They’re both cities. Why is Chicago better than New York? And when are you moving to New York?

GH) I don’t really think Chicago is better than New York. I don’t think New York is better than Chicago. I think it’s better to live in Chicago right now. It’s cheaper, it is possibly the best food city in the world, the lake that is a sea is magical. Chicago is the city closest to where I grew up. I never really left home. I think my bias is informed by that. I can’t imagine myself living elsewhere. Each time I’ve tried I’ve failed spectacularly. Many people that pay exorbitant rates to live in NYC could purchase property in Chicago and live a richer life. I just want coasties to stop treating it like a flyover city. Stop here on your book tour if you’re still so real and gritty. For me, the refusal to acknowledge Chicago positively is a canary in a coal mine moment. When I went to Prague and London people said they’re trying to make it like New York now. If everything is like New York is that really what you want to live in? Obviously New York can’t be replicated, something I must admit now that I’ve been. Chicago can’t be replicated either. If anyone wants to go toe to toe with me I’ll convince them that the place they live in is a shithole first. That’s really all I mean by Chicago is better than New York. 

MM) (interjection) Actually the city that is the model for gentrification is LA, I believe. Like New York has become more like LA.


GH) I didn’t know that. When I went to New York to meet you I saw a real ship in a harbor. I see yachts in Chicago mostly. In New York you have to back your bullshit at every turn. In Chicago you can just be. I want to love New York, but I’m a bit too broke for it. I want New York to love me. I don’t need anything from Chicago. For me those are the essential differences. Obviously I feel a different way because I was visiting one place and living in the other. I could move to New York City because you’d be there, but if you left I’d leave. Leaving the things I love in Chicago is unfathomable right now. I could move there if my partner wanted to for work. Have I considered it? You can make your assumption based on my willingness to even write the idea. 


I will admit. I now look at the movies playing in New York as if I may trek out. I look at the bands playing in New York. I think about going back. When Garth said he convinced a guy to give him 1000 dollars it seemed feasible. 


MM) Anytime you mention being trans, it’s almost in passing. The LGBTQIA+ community might take issue with this, deem it unladylike. Do you think about masculinity and femininity and fluidity when reading your favorite writers? Some of my favorite female writers write masculinely, and I’ve heard it said that women are more naturally inclined to be good writers. Conversely, I’ve heard it said they are much better muses, or generative. Where action is masculine and reflection is feminine, where do you stand? 

GH) For a lot of trans people in my life, their transness is not the most salient point for them after a while. That’s how it is for me. I think it gets forced to the front whether I like it or not and transness will play into everything if you are. When I write transness I write it from there. There are a few members of my “community” I value the opinions of in a sacred way. Community is something you do off the computer if you can. Otherwise, buzz off. I challenge members of my community who take umbrage to speak to me in real life. I’m boring. Normal. Agreeable even. I listen but interrupt when I feel cornered. Until I get Pasolini’d, I’m not worried. I do think about masculinity and femininity and fluidity reading my favorite writers. It’s like Queequeq were my wife in my arms, or whatever Melville said. I think gender conflict is rich in writing and almost all good writing I’ve read deals with it in some way at some time. It’s in how you write whether you like it or not. So yeah I guess I’m thinking about it. I don’t know if old adages always shake out to be true. Women are my muses more than men, but a whole lifetime of shit will go into that until it’s sorted fully. I think everyone should try to see if they can recognize themself in the other. I think good writers do that. I want to walk the middle path. I think good writers do that too. Rumors start with a boulder of salt. Slogans and adages are kind of life’s rumors. Rumors can be pearls of wisdom. When I was just a little boy getting diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder for the first time they said I had a woman’s disease. Look at me now. 


One thing I’ll say about women writers having to write in a masculine way is that it feels like you gotta prove to the boys you can be tougher than them before you’re allowed to be soft. Not always. It is there. Fuck that shit with grown men. I will eat you alive and I’m weak. And let me be a woman on my own terms. Let any other woman do the same. 


People tell me I write with a lot of force. I’m probably a masculine writer. Now that I’ve written that I’ve sealed my own coffin. They say a lot of things that are compliments and use words that are warlike. My writing is warlike, explicitly in Breastplate at times. I’ve never been to war. I’ve been in a lot of different fights. Putting those two sentences next to each other tells you how far from a war I’ve been. I’ve been in a lot of different exchanges and altercations and encounters and conversations and agreements that can be called fights. I don’t want to fight much anymore unless Harmony Korine is casting me in Fight Harm or someone is kind enough to finally kill me. I hope my writing makes people feel really good sometimes. I hope they smile and laugh. I know what’s on the page. That might read as funny. It’s true though. 


I think the best writing on the planet gets at least two people in a room. I think that’s action. I think it leads to reflection, immediately and afterward. I read what my friends talk to me about. Any way that manifests it’ll send a ripple out until it happens again. Things are fluid. Things are fluid even with the most concrete individuals. In some ways, especially. If you don’t think that you haven’t seen it. 


MM) What books were you reading while you wrote this? Which authors inspired you the most this year? I know you’ve been putting away some classics.

GH) Something Gross by Big Bruiser Dope Boy was the first book I read this year. It was a reread. I have cribbed some of his ideas liberally here. Interpolated his lines. I caught up on One Piece. Reading an unfinished 104 volume series that’s equal parts freewheeling and impeccably structured has changed how I write. It’s changed a lot of things. I remembered how to have fun. If my clout gets you to do anything, read One Piece. And all the other shit I say people should read. I know what’s good. I read Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare. You couldn’t write that today, har har. But kind of. Bawdy and biting in equal force it’s one of Shakespeare’s darkest comedies. It’s about sexual manipulation and the law in part. It’s a power dynamics story. Definitely had an influence on Breastplate. I started reading Bolaño. 2666, especially “The Part About the Crimes” gave me a good look at the many ways in which a clinical distance can make something heavier. I then read just about everything else by Bolaño. He was with me while I edited the entire time. He makes me believe in the power of literature. You do too, Manny. I probably felt more confident about writing on the topic of writing. Now I’m working on The Savage Detectives and Typee by Herman Melville. In a lot of ways, this book is like Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz. I think about that book now more than I expected to while reading it. I saw too much of myself that I didn’t like in it. R.D. Laing’s Knots was a gift from a good friend, Thomas, and it helped me write the cycles and repetitions in this book. It helped inform the chapter structure and even chapter content. Everyone should buy Knots. I read everything by Cormac McCarthy shortly before writing this book. I read Vineland before writing it. I read Gravity’s Rainbow during editing. I read a large chunk of the Expat catalog. Faceless in Nippon appears in Breastplate. I read and reread everything I own by Sam Pink. I read some Krasznahorkai. I read and reread A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. You (reader) should buy and read that too. I finished final edits reading The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, which is the best book I’ve ever read. I read Ask the Dust and Thousands of Lies around the same time I was doing my first expansion on the book. I think about Ask the Dust more than I thought I would. Not Yet informed how I write relationships over time. 


I read many of the controversial buzzy names in the indie literature sphere’s books on love or something like that. I didn’t like them. 


MM) Do you think it takes some measure of controlled pathology to write, for you? Or do you have an easier time producing when you’re in a good mood? Curious for research purposes.

GH) I write best when I’m sick. I started writing during COVID and early reopening so I very quickly became a writer while bored, paranoid, and constantly looking for illness inside myself. When I’m actually sick I write like it’s final words. I want to be a healthy person. I want to write even better work while not sick. I want to live to see myself grow. When I’m happy I don’t write at all really. I get stressed when I haven’t written in a bit. Then I write. I need to learn to sit down and flow when things are good.


MM) What are you working on now? With two novels in the bag before 30, it feels like you’re going to be prolific. It also feels like these two books in two consecutive years were charged with urgency. You could do anything you wanted, you could go on tour for a victory lap. Just travel aimlessly. 

GH) These were urgent novels. Silkworm and Breastplate make a pair at this point. They are companions. They were the novels I had to write before I died. I talked about it that way when I talked to people who I think take me seriously. Now I have to learn to write for fun, which I’ve already been doing, until something I have to write before I die comes around again. It will. Right now I’m working on a sonic fiction novel(?) about college dropout car enthusiasts who do drift magic. I’m trying to write something you won’t expect after my first two, but I’ve already moved in that direction publicly. I’m worried I’ve put a curse on it by saying this, but I think this is a way for me to push myself. 


I am always working on other things. There are movies I’d like to make with friends, movies I’d like to make alone, albums I’d like to make with friends, albums I’d like to make alone. I want to be everything before I die.


I’d like to learn to relax. Nothing is ever enough.


MM) Where the Breastplate Meets the Blade, while certainly lewd, is almost spiritual about love and sexuality. Mostly the narrator longs for connection, to be seen, and gets caught in a lot of awkward interpersonal situations. Do you think casual sex and kink is a girlboss thing? Asking for a friend. I’m not a boyboss but I’ve heard boybosses are into BDSM. Is there a therapeutic potential for sex, or is it sacred and mysterious and not to be taken lightly? 

GH) Having sex with high powered professional women is one of life’s greatest joys. I am lucky I’ve had any. I’m lucky I still have it. Getting to fuck a woman who makes tough choices and decides all day is the height of being chosen. Talk about being invited into private time that feels valuable. Every second counts. I don’t know if girlbosses, as they can be lovingly known, are more inclined to kink. Lots of people tried things with me and maybe they aren’t kinksters anymore. I am just a yes and kinda girl usually. I think (almost) everyone’s kink and sexuality and whatever else associated barometer is off and has been for most of my life. Killing trans people, killing any kind of queer people for existing is absurd. I probably had friends who had parents who were swingers. It’s glass house bullshit. I’m not that kinky. Real fuckers would not call me that kinky. All my life I’ve wanted to fuck a lot of beautiful people. I think everyone does? I am also probably Hellraiser beyond the pale too kinky to like every other person I meet. Do high powered professional women like casual sex more often than not? Probably, but I am only one case study. It’s also a chicken and the egg thing. I pursued what I wanted. I mean if you want to talk about history it’s the middle class that upholds standards. The rich never actually lived up to them because women in rich families did accounting and other things on the side to make things easier in the manor or whatever. Poor women will always work. So is she a former “middle class” striver girlboss or an always secure eternal existential crisis because you’ll never have to work for a life girlboss striver? Is she something in the middle? Is she not that at all? Sex is a great way to blow off steam and women’s workwear is hot. Yes, I’d like to meet you for a cocktail by your office. I just knew the people I knew. Boybosses usually didn’t want to fuck me. I’d offend them in our first conversations. I ask too much of men too fast. I didn’t have a lot of boyboss friends to gossip about sex with. I’m an open person and people feel comfortable being open with me. I like weird sex so I won’t shame someone. I worked in a lot of jobs where it is assumed coworkers are fucking. You just don’t talk about it. That’s pretty hot to most of the people doing that. I never fucked one of my coworkers. That’s pretty saucy. Pretty stressful probably. I think there are a lot of girlbosses into kink just because it seems like everyone wants to say they’ve dipped their toe. I don’t know if everyone wants to dip their toe. A striver doesn’t have normal limits, doesn’t play within normal boundaries, it’s expected some of that might show up elsewhere. 


Absolutely sex can be therapeutic or healing. I don’t think casual sex often is, even when it is good. Expert communicators struggle. There’s sexiness in mystery. Too much mystery or not enough mystery. How will you think about that the longer this goes on? Who else are they fucking? Do I stack up?


I think you have the sex that helps the appropriate hurt with someone you love. You let go of shame or insecurity or hurt or fear of your own laughter or fear of someone else’s and usually only someone you love and someone that loves you can do that. I guess because I’m trans people on the outside think I have wild kinky sex all the time. I don’t really even when others would view it that way. They can be right if they want. They don’t feel it like I do. I like to say I love you. That’s the best part. I cum fast. Time flies when you’re having fun. I want to have sex with someone who really wants to have sex with me, every time I have sex. I want to enjoy it with someone who wants to enjoy me. That can look different in a lot of ways, but the kinkiest sex sucks if you don’t have those basic ingredients. Most people hang up somewhere well before there and it looks over simplistic on the page. When you’ve got it though everything else is gravy, right? It takes a lot of work to make sex very simple again.


I think sex also is serious and sacred and in some ways mysterious and not to be taken lightly. Sex is just something fun you can do is something you say to shake out anxiety, not take to heart. Our bodies are tremendously powerful and fragile at the same moment. You have to know what you’re doing and you have to be able to deal with how it feels to act like you know when you don’t. I’m not going to pontificate on how people should have sex. It’s okay to like it. Be good to the people you’re fucking. My body probably is a temple now, I don’t know about yours (the reader). I treat it like shit in all the ancient ways and I pay the price every time I do. Some people have loved that. I’m not always the one loving that. It’s something to sit with. It’s something you feel inside.


MM) The literary world is full of people. You can only keep one type of writer, everyone else has to die. Define your ideal person of letters. 

GH) I want writers that have something to say. Every writer I like has something to say, especially the ones that go to painstaking lengths to act like they don’t. The worst writing is done by someone who thinks they have something to say and that something is “I wrote a book.” You can tell right on the page. Often that translates to “I wrote any book.” Fuck you. So did I. Say what you have to say before you die. You can feel it or you don’t.