Contributor Spotlight:
Interview With Beaumont Sugar 

Rappahannock Review Nonfiction Editors: We admire how “The Lion-Tamer” addresses deeply sensitive and heavy themes of identity, power, and sexuality. How did you approach writing through such personal experiences in this essay?

Beaumont Sugar: Once I allowed myself to write, it was easy. 

The time before was difficult. Until recently, I had not allowed myself to consider any of these events in a critical light, and I had not allowed myself to consider that maybe not every aspect of these events was positive.

Looking at things straight on can make them easier to see, and easier to understand. I want to understand the things that have happened to me.

RR: You mentioned in your cover letter that “The Lion-Tamer” gave you back a piece of yourself. How do you think writing can be a form of self-healing?

BS: Every version of myself that ever existed still exists. Every time I’ve been exuberant, that voice still speaks. Every time I have tried and won, that voice speaks. Some voices get to speak out loud all the time, and they get to be received with praise and agreement, and all sorts of other positive responses.

There are versions of myself that don’t usually get to speak, though, and never really did. I have voices that wail and snap and snarl.

Writing allows those voices to speak their piece, and when they do, I become more fully realized.

The frightened and angry and fierce parts of me are real, too.

RR: We thought that the ending to your essay was very compelling. Did you know how the essay would end before you started writing? What was your process for writing that? 

BS: For better or worse, a lot of unbelievable things have happened to me. All I need to do is write them down.

I am a planner, and I knew I wanted this story to discuss truth vs. what people accept, specifically in terms of relationships.

Sometimes people attribute a communication breakdown to “you didn’t tell me,” or “you didn’t work hard enough to tell me in a way I could understand,” and we forget there is work to be done on the part of the listener/information-seeker.

From that angle, the ending works to solidify one of the main themes of the piece, which I’d express as “it’s right there, if you’ll look at it.”

RR: The title of this story immediately caught our attention. How did you decide to name it “The Lion-Tamer”?

BS: I’ve never had a harder time naming anything; I’m so pleased to have hit the mark!

I wanted to be deliberately ambiguous, specifically to play with that element of power. 

Life is complex, and humans are complicated. Everyone is the lion, and everyone is taming the lion. Everyone is both.

RR: We noticed a theme of hearts in your visual art. Does that theme carry over into your writing? 

BS: I hope so. I use hearts in my visual work because they’re virtually universal as a symbol, and easy to build on or manipulate. You can put a heart shape in a little cage, you can replace the head of a humanoid figure with a heart, or you can give a heart terrible claws, and people will have some idea of what you’re saying.

In my writing, I try to do something similar. I like to take a familiar element, such as love or fear, and communicate some aspect of my own experience with that element. 

Sometimes the end result is pretty comfortable for a wide audience, sometimes it’s upsetting or offensive, and sometimes it’s just unrecognizable.

Beaumont Sugar’s work appears in Issue 10.1 here.