5 Questions for Writer, Laura Albert

Laura Albert is the author of three extremely popular novels – Sarah, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, and Harold’s End – published under the name JT LeRoy. JT was Albert’s avatar, freeing her to craft a new voice in fiction, until 2006, when The New York Times revealed her to be the actual writer of the books. Albert had ingeniously hacked the literary establishment, and today enthusiasm for her writing – as JT and under her own name – continues to grow internationally. Jeffrey Deitch’s characterization of the JT LeRoy saga as “one of the most interesting contributions to art and literature of the past 20 years” is supported by such recent activities as Albert’s speaking engagement at The Moth and the hit Brazilian musical “JT, A Punk Fairy Tale.” Proclaimed “the indie fashion fighter” by the SF Chronicle, she has attended literary events and judged at film festivals worldwide, including Diane Pernet’s A Shaded View On Fashion Film. Laura Albert responded to LASTBLOG’s questions, emailing from San Francisco about her experience writing as JT LeRoy, some of her upcoming projects, and how her creative process has changed since she began publishing work under her own name.

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1. LASTBLOG: What do you think it was about LeRoy that the audience connected to so fiercely?

Laura Albert: Because the narrator in those books is someone who has everything taken away from him, right down to his gender and his name. People identify with that experience of loss and helplessness, no matter how much they may possess at the moment; and they empathize when the books try to transform that suffering. JT represents an archetype of the transcendence of suffering, and it resonates with people.

Hair & makeup by Mike Potter

Hair & makeup by Mike Potter

2. LASTBLOG: Do you think you would have eventually revealed yourself as LeRoy? Do you wish the reveal was on your own terms?

LA: Looking back on it, I realize now that I was ready — I had come out to a bunch of people. But at the time, I couldn’t imagine life without JT. We could be separated only like they separate conjoined twins: with a knife.

“Art is the opportunity to change the way you think, which means you can never be fooled…” – Laura Albert

3. LASTBLOG: What do you think of the notion that you “fooled” people by writing as JT LeRoy? Does writing under another name automatically mean you are trying to fool your audience?

LA: It had nothing to do with fooling anybody about anything. In most of the important ways, JT was more real to me then than I was: I understood him better and loved him more readily and forgave him more easily than I did myself.

And no audience for any work of art needs to worry about being fooled. Art is the opportunity to change the way you think, which means you can never be fooled — you either have that experience or you don’t, and you can always tell too! Everything else is just packaging, and packaging is the first thing people throw away.

4. LASTBLOG: How did writing as JT LeRoy effect your creative process? Has it changed since you’ve stopped writing as LeRoy?

LA: Writing as JT LeRoy used to BE my creative process, at least when it came to writing fiction. Now it’s a whole new ballgame. In order to write without JT, I have to be willing to listen to myself, as open and free of judgment as I would listen to a stranger. I have to be willing to let myself into a state of grace. And it’s still a struggle.

Makeup is by Sunny Barry, hair by Rudy Rivera

Makeup is by Sunny Barry, hair by Rudy Rivera

5. LASTBLOG: Can you tell us about any projects you’re working on going forward?

LA: I’ve reissued my novel Sarah as an e-book and I’m writing a book about my experiences before, during, and after JT.I am also the Director of Strategic Development for Project Level, the San Francisco arts program for at-risk youth, which was started by the multi-talented “Big Rich” Bougere and Danielle Banks.



8 Comments to “5 Questions for Writer, Laura Albert”

  1. I enjoyed the intelligence of the questions and Laura’s answers! Two responses
    spoke to me, particularly: “Art is the opportunity to change the way you think, which means you can never be fooled — you either have that experience or you don’t…”;
    and, “In order to write without JT, I have to be willing to listen to myself, as open and free of judgment as I would listen to a stranger. I have to be willing to let myself into a state of grace.”
    Brave writer….I can’t WAIT to read Laura Albert’s next book, the one she is now writing!!!!

  2. The act of writing as JT helped create a character who had lost everything, and thus was empathetic to us all, regardless of our personal backgrounds. Great work Laura, I look forward to reading more!!!

  3. I agree with Ms. Riva and find it very gratifying to hear an artist discuss such important topics. Thanks for running this!

  4. Provocative work, a needed infusion of the trickster into the discourse of fiction. After all the novel is supposed to break “new” formal ground. Probably the new forms of fiction will include extra textual elements like video content and hyperlinks. I read a lot on tablets, never thought I would like it, but there are some interesting ways that JT as a character works when put in the context of “connected” text. Laura’s backstory no longer in the shadow, but a part of the reading. That’s frosting on the cake!

  5. Laura Albert has a great talent to transform herself with descriptive
    language and to immerse the reader so they can visualize the story.
    Her raw narrative of a child stripped of an identity and emotional care
    parallels in some aspects her own life story. Writing through an avatar
    freed her to expose a hidden underworld in our culture where children
    are broken down, used, and exploited. Blending anthropological
    themes with tales from this isolated landscape, she rendered survival in

    this world as vivid, worthwhile, and fragile. We all need to read more
    from Laura, so that we can unravel, heal, and embrace children who
    lose their innocence through no fault of their own. Far too many of
    these children end up on our streets as runaways, tortured souls with
    no respite from abuse. Children wounded by relationships and a
    pattern and practice of abuse remain a secret shunned by the
    mainstream. We seem to need to tuck them away out of sight, so that we
    do not ponder the enormity of the problem and the injustice of it all.

  6. Laura is an amazing soul, I’m excited to read the new JT stories, I feel like I’ve been waiting a lifetime for these releases.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful interview. I love Laura’s brave and creative approach to life and art. I’m excited to hear about her new projects.

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