Mapping Territory Off the Escalator: An Interview with Amy Gahran

City of Baltimore Topographical Survey, c. 1894 (George Peabody Library Maps 3.13 and 3.14)
Image by Matthew Petroff / CC BY

I’ve long been a fan of Amy Gahran’s work. Under her pen name Aggie Sez, Gahran founded the blog solopoly.net, where she has been writing for many years about the unique challenges faced by those who tackle “life, relationships, and dating as a free agent.”

One post in particular, “Riding the Relationship Escalator, or Not?”,  has inspired countless other writers (I’m one) and discussions.

So I was thrilled when Gahran turned this subject into a research project and earlier this year released a book (the first in a series of three) sharing what she learned.

One thing that sprung to mind as I read through Gahran’s book was that it seemed like she did an extraordinary amount of research and interviewing for it. I reached out to Gahran to see what it was like to author this impressive book.

Mapping Territory Off the Escalator? It’s Really Hard Work

According to Gahran, “It was WAY more work than I expected. I originally intended that the survey would get maybe 100 responses, I’d glean from that a couple dozen people to interview, and bang! I’d have it out the door in 6 months…but then… 300 people responded in the first week! And many wrote detailed responses, often 2000-2500 words each. Telling a much greater diversity of personal stories and insight than I’d imagined.”

“So after uncurling from the fetal position (that took a couple weeks) I re-envisioned the scope of this project and learned how to be an accidental social scientist.”

“Four years later, here I am. Yeah, it’s a shit-ton of work. But worth it.”

The Challenges

I asked Gahran what she found to be the most challenging aspect of the work. She identified the process of learning a whole new skillset:

  • How to build a database and analyze complex qualitative data
  • How to use Scrivener (a tool that helped her manage quotes from surveys and build 3 books “like a Lego project”)
  • Writing and editing a rather large book
  • Producing and distributing print and ebook editions
  • Setting up a publishing company and all the business infrastructure that entails
  • Learning how to market it when she was done

It was “tedious and hard,” Gahran states. “But I’m so glad I did it, this was an incredibly empowering experience.”

Gahran dedicated the book to her friend Michael, who “talked me off the limb more than once when I threatened to give up…I wish Michael had lived long enough to read his name in the dedication; unfortunately he died suddenly just as I was publishing this book. ”

The Joys

But overall, writing the book has been a very rewarding experience for Gahran. “I accidentally stumbled onto what has become my life’s work, and that’s thrilling and makes me very happy every damn day. Even when it’s hard. This is not just a sense of accomplishment — I know this project is helping lots and lots of people, every day. That matters to me, a lot.”

Gahran also states that she loves talking to people who have read her book, regardless of whether they’re contacting her to share their appreciation or their feedback about what they found challenging or incomplete.

Where to Get the Book

It’s available in paperback and Kindle ebook via Amazon.

However, if you want a signed copy of the paperback, Gahran recommends ordering it directly through her website. Use the first option (“add to cart”). And for a special 10% discount, used code SIGNED01 at checkout.

 

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