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Sweet success for Ann Arbor writer

By |2003-12-18T09:00:00-05:00December 18th, 2003|Uncategorized|

By Kevin Riordan

Book Review: “They Say She Tastes Like Honey” by Michelle Sawyer, Alyson Books

ANN ARBOR – Macy Delongchamp has a name worthy of a “Sex and the City” heroine, and the style and sass to match. A rich and glamorous good-time gal of a certain age, she’s broken more than a few hearts in the fast-lane Manhattan milieu of “They Say She Tastes Like Honey” (Alyson Books), Michelle Sawyer’s terrific debut novel.
But Macy’s heart can be broken, too. All it takes is Faith, the luscious young woman who gets mugged at Macy’s doorstep, to sweep our narrator/heroine off her feet. Like the charming and wonderfully funny Macy herself, what happens next in Sawyer’s satiric but sweet-natured comedy of metropolitan lesbian manners is an utter (and utterly convincing) act of the imagination.
“I’m a 33-year-old portly square,” Sawyer said recently from her home in Ann Arbor, where she works in the field of human resources. “There’s not one piece of me in Macy. Although I did have a friend in New York who was fabulous, and she inspired me.”
The word “diva” is in danger of wearing out through overuse. But it’s irresistibly appropriate for Macy, who’s got a diva’s looks, money and talent – including a talent for self-absorption. Little did she know that my heart had been scotch-taped over and over again until it was a suspicious-looking package no one dared open. Not even me.
“When we meet her at the beginning of the novel, she’s reflecting on all the crap that has happened in her life,” explained Sawyer, who lets readers in on the vicissitudes of Macy’s decidedly dysfunctional background via flashbacks. “She kind of figures herself out,” as the book progresses, the author continued. “She grows up a lot.”
A loving and loyal best friend to Trish, who’s dying of cancer, Macy has her own vulnerabilities. She’s asthmatic, she smokes, and she drinks and drugs too much. She’s also using a cane (albeit, one composed of the petrified penis of a bull) because of a sprained ankle. And while she’s been navigating gay Manhattan’s gloriously seamy/steamy underbelly long enough to take on more than a few battle scars, she’s also had a chance to hone her splendid sense of humor to a glistening edge.
In that, Macy isn’t so different from her creator.
“I’m a big smart-ass,” Sawyer said. “A sense of humor was survival in my family. We had to defend ourselves against each other.”
Sawyer grew up the youngest of five children in a working-class clan in Jackson, Michigan, “home of the world’s largest walled prison, and birthplace of the Republican Party,” said Sawyer. She studied journalism at Jackson Community College on scholarship, but when the money ran out, she went to work, first in radio and then for Ameritech, the regional telephone company.
It was while toiling as a customer service representative that Sawyer began to write (“thanks, Ameritech!”) the book that became “They Say She Tastes Like Honey.” The process took three years, and after she sent the manuscript off to Alyson, it took the unwavering support of an editor, Terry Fabris, to bring the book to fruition.
Not only is “They Say She Tastes Like Honey” Sawyer’s first published novel, it’s the first novel she’s ever finished. Writing, that is. But Sawyer has an artist’s commitment, noting she’s always taken pride in her writing, even if what she was writing at the time was “a stupid memo.” And like most writers, Sawyer is a good listener.
A self-described good eavesdropper, too.
“I hear all these horrible things,” she said. “But I respect my sources.” Sawyer also makes it a point to read good writers.
“I’m a huge Truman Capote fan, and dig David Sedaris, Patricia Highsmith and Jim Thompson,” she wrote in an e-mail follow-up to the interview. “I just picked up a copy of Xavier Hollander’s ‘The Happy Hooker’ and it’s a stitch.” And there are other influences as well.
“Joan Crawford was always my hero,” Sawyer said. “Nobody would mess with her.”
Sounds a bit like…Macy, with whom the author confesses to having a passionate attachment.
“Writing her was like having this great friend,” Sawyer said. “I didn’t want to finish the book.” Might we look forward to the further adventures of Macy? “Absolutely,” Sawyer said. “I’m working on a sequel right now.”

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.