Fans of Gillespie's "Mood Swing" column in Atlanta's Creative Loafing, her commentary on NPR, and her first book, Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch, are familiar with her colorful background: She's the daughter of an alcoholic traveling salesman father and missile scientist mother, she's been working as a flight attendant and language specialist for a major airline, and she loves to write about her crazy best friends, Lary, Daniel, and Grant.
When we finally caught up later that evening, Gillespie and her daughter were shooting pool in their Washington, D.C. hotel after a recent book tour stop. "I take her everywhere with me," Gillespie says of little Mae. "Before I had a child, I wasn't really motivated as a writer. I just wrote my column and worked my job as a flight attendant." She developed a cult following of readers who really pushed her to write more. "The only thing I know how to do is write," Gillespie laughs. "I've been impersonating a flight attendant for sixteen years."
How did she make the jump from alt-weekly columnist to published author? "It is terrifying when you have a child. Fear is a big motivator; I have to provide for myself and a child," Gillespie states. "Finding a home in a crack neighborhood is fine for a single idiot, but even the crackheads in my neighborhood were broken. It was terrifying." Rather than continuing to bullet-proof her baby's room with cake pans, she worked for that book deal and found a safer neighborhood.
But not everyone is a fan of Gillespie's tell-it-like-it-is writing style. "I get a lot of shit for what I write. But when people bitch and nag, you have to rise above it," says Gillespie. "If you're not inciting a passionate response in people, what's the point?"