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The Perfect Setting for a Novel: a Lesbian Bar

Cocktails and Chemistry

Genderqueer author M. Ullrich explores women's spaces -- and offline romance -- in novels like Love at Last Call.

Self-described "genderqueer, Gen-Y, lesbian author" M. Ullrich is a New Jersey native who also "identifies as a die-hard Madonna fan" and an elaborate karaoke performer (who incorporates complex choreography with backup dancers into her routines). Her fifth novel, Love at Last Call (Bold Strokes Books). comes out in July.

The Advocate: Tell me about your writing style.
M. Ullrich: I approach my writing in the way I approach myself. I don't force it into a set box or category. I'm always looking for a fresh perspective or unique spin. I want my readers to be left wondering what's next.

Does writing come easy for you?
If only you could see how hard I'm laughing! Every time I sit in front of my computer, I struggle.

Do you write genderqueer characters?
The closest I've come is Berit Matthews from Love at Last Call. She lives by female pronouns, but as a person, Berit doesn't fit into a gender box. I think I wrote a bit of myself into Berit because of how I identify.

Love at Last Call revolves around a lesbian bar. Do any still exist?
I do believe there's one still standing in New Jersey. It's a dream of mine to own a welcoming and safe space for queer, lesbian, and bisexual women. I was able to play into that dream a bit as I planned out The Dollhouse [the lesbian bar in the novel].

Is The Dollhouse like Ibsen's Doll's House or Joss Whedon's Dollhouse? Is it a metaphor -- or just a dollhouse?
Wow. The Dollhouse I've written about is going to sound so boring now. I'm afraid a dollhouse is a dollhouse in this case. A friend of mine sent me a picture of her daughter's dollhouse ... I joked that "The Dollhouse" would make a great name for a strip club. One thing led to another, and here we are.

How do you make falling in love in the real world not sound outmoded?
Focusing on the small things, the bits of chemistry you can't experience through a phone screen ... the brushing of hands ... the locking of eyes across a crowded space. You can swipe right 20 times in a minute, but it'll never replace that jolt.

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