Interview With Terry Moore

AE: Hatred of men is a really strong lesbian stereotype, but it seems like you and Katchoo move beyond that as the story continues.
Well, David kind of changes things. David allowed me to explore that position of a person who is going to try to walk with peace and some sort of faith, and how this person can actually affect people of all types and all walks. When I wrote David, I was thinking of this Hiroshima survivor who was an artist. After the war, he dedicated his life to his artwork, making art that would never hurt anybody but always bring peace and tranquility. I thought, this is a beautiful thing, and that’s kind of how I wrote David.

AE: Did you hear the collective groan from lesbians around the world when they turned the page and found David entering Katchoo’s life?
Oh, I got death threats. Maybe one death threat. I’d get letters, people saying, "Don’t you dare make this a straight-guy-turns-lesbian story." I knew in the back of my mind that wasn’t what I was going to end up with; it was just a provocative beginning.

There was one nasty letter I got from a lady in Seattle, so I tracked her down and called her at work one day. Scared the hell out of her. [Laughs.] "Hello, this is Terry Moore. I want to talk to you about your letter." [Laughs.] I said, "I just want to assure you, the story’s not really that way, and just give me time because I’m kind of throwing down gauntlets. Stick with me."

AE: I imagine those problems died down as people started to trust you more.
As the characters became more well-rounded, and readers began to know the characters more and more, we got way, way past all that. The characters are really complicated, the relationships become very complicated. It makes sense if you take the ride with them and read every single page. My whole point, right from the beginning and in the end, was love is bigger than genres and what type of walk you take in this life. Love is well above that. That inspired me, believing that.

AE: Francine seems at the center of the SiP world. Men adore her. Katchoo lives for her. She’s the girl next door, but she’s also running this whole world, in a way.
Yeah, she was the character the story was built on initially, though by the third issue, Katchoo took over because of the power of her personality. It’s always been a dual story line as they come together, drift apart, come together; it’s kind of a dance between two lights.

But, yeah, I did begin thinking I was writing a story about Francine and her wacky roommate, and then it turned out to be the other way around. But Francine is centric. She’s the nexus of these people in the same way the mother is the nexus of the family. She may not be the most dynamic character, but she is the hub, and they all revolve around her for one reason or another.

AE: I find it interesting what that says about modern life, that the woman who may not be noticed or stand out for her personal characteristics is running the show.
Absolutely. There are a lot of clichés to describe that, but I tried to think in terms of, if we removed this person, everyone else would spin off in their own directions — and very quickly. Francine has always been the matriarch of this cast, and Katchoo has been the patriarch — she has taken the aggressive role in so many ways, but she’s never been able to be the bond that holds them all together. That’s just some sort of innate, matriarchal thing that Francine fulfills, and there’s nothing flashy about that role.

AE: Music plays such an important role in SiP. Could you tell me who in the music world is inspiring you these days?
The most gifted musician I’ve come across in the last 20 years is Desha Dunnahoe. I got a sampler CD of hers, and it’s the CD I’ve listened to the most in the last two years. How pathetic am I listening to a sampler CD? But there’ll be something so gorgeous on there. … I’m working on this beautiful scene, and her beautiful voice comes in and just brings tears to my eyes. It paints the picture for me and paints the story for me. I’m listening to Desha Dunnahoe constantly as I work on the final issues of SiP.

AE: As you come to the end of SiP, are you pulled in different directions in terms of which genre you want to work in next?
Yes, I am pulled in different directions. I know in my heart that SiP, in one version or another, would make an excellent TV show. Even if they took some side story like the Parker girls, it would be good television. I’ve talked to Angela Robinson about that, and we’re both looking for the time to put toward it and see what we get.

AE: How do you hope SiP is remembered?
First of all, I hope that it is remembered, period. I hope that a hundred years from now, Strangers in Paradise is still relevant on some sort of timeless level, because it is a story more about people than the times they lived in. I think it is possible to write something that will be read a hundred years from now, if you write about people and what it’s like to be a lonely soul looking for another … if the story has something to say about life and reflects the courage and beauty of the human heart. I hope I’ve accomplished that in my stories.

AE: And yet, you know, I have to say I hope parts of the story are irrelevant a hundred years from now.

For more on Terry Moore and Strangers in Paradise, visit the official website.

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