Catching up With A.M. Homes


If you don’t know who A.M. Homes is, you should. A former writer for The L Word (Season 2) and author of eight books, she is notorious for exploring the darker side of the suburbs, family and sexuality. Several of her novels have been turned into films, including her first book, Jack, which was adapted into a 2004 Showtime movie starring Stockard Channing, and The Safety of Objects, which was adapted and directed by Rose Troche (Go Fish) in 2001. Troche is also working on an adaptation of Homes’ 1993 novel, In a Country of Mothers.

Though Homes is famously private about her sexuality and her personal life in general, she recently stated in the Washington Post that “I’ve dated men and I’ve dated women and there’s no more or less to it than that.”

It is because of this evasiveness, however, that many people were surprised by Homes’ recently published memoir. The Mistress’s Daughter, which was published last month, is about Homes’ experience growing up in an adopted family and the impact of meeting her birth parents — a mother who looked more like a “prison matron” than the Audrey Hepburn she’d long imagined, and a father who insisted she get a DNA test despite an uncanny resemblance.

In the book, Homes recounts how she managed to negotiate “the divide between sociology and biology: the chemical necklace of DNA that wraps around the neck sometimes like a beautiful ornament — our birthright, our history — and other times like a choke chain.”

Homes recently spoke with about The Mistress’s Daughter, writing for The L Word, and maintaining her privacy even after she has written such a revealing memoir. You’ve said before that you don’t like memoirs. What compelled you to write The Mistress’s Daughter?

A.M. Homes:
It was the hope that the book would have meaning for other people, not so much about documenting my memories.

AE: Was the process of writing a memoir different from writing a novel?

One is fact and one is fiction, so it’s completely different. One is like picking at a wound and seeing what comes out of it day after day, and the other is crawling inside your imagination and seeing where you can go. It’s an expansion. For me, the goal is to tell the story as best I can and in some ways as honestly as I can, regardless if it is fact or fiction.

AE: One of the things I found most interesting is how structurally and emotionally The Mistress’s Daughter is divided into two books. Did you write each book at a different time and place?

AMH: I wanted to do something different, to have the first half be the conventional narrative that people are used to reading and a very standard, straightforward story. Then with the second half, I wanted to smash that with essentially a sledgehammer and look at the fallout, the way there are these different fractures and how they are expressed. To me, the second half is really the more interesting half.

AE: What has been the reaction to The Mistress’s Daughter?

There’s been an enormous reaction across the country. There’s been the critical reaction — most interviewers or reporters think of me as a very private person, and there is the attempt to reconcile that [with the memoir]. It’s very different from a novel because people come and present themselves to you and their issues and their relationship to the material and their own stories, so it’s a much more emotional and delicate kind of a thing.

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