Author Hollis Gillespie: At Home in Atlanta

The memoirist and now novelist shares all the (not so) shocking and real life places she enjoys in her home city.

Photo by: Matt Schafer Gillespie said that she moved 18 times before graduating high school and lived in the occasional trailer park. 

If you haven’t met author Hollis Gillespie, one of Atlanta’s most treasured commodities, it’s fairly easy to get to know her – buy the books. To say Gillespie is candid and outspoken would be an understatement, and that is why we love her. 

In her first two-bestselling memoirs Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood and Confessions of a Recovering Slut: And Other Love Stories we learn that she is the offspring of an erratic mother who designs bombs (the missile fly-over-your-head kind) and an alcoholic traveling salesman. We’re the gnats in the margaritas that she shares with BFFs Grant, Lary and Daniel; we’re the cheerleaders on her sideline when she makes the brave decision to raise a daughter alone. 

Instead of reinventing herself and hiding from the truth that is her life, she holds her head high and wears each scar like a badge of honor. She recently penned her first novel Unaccompanied Minor with the sequel We Will Be Crashing Shortly due out this summer

Photo by: Grant Henry Gillespie feels most at home with her best friend Grant Henry who also owns Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium. 

With her busy schedule of book signings, teaching classes, mothering a teen and being fabulous, you might be surprised at how she spends her “spare” time. 

Q: Where do you go, what do you do in Atlanta to find inspiration?

A: I go to Grant Henry's porch and have coffee in the morning. Grant is the owner of Church Bar, and we've been friends for 18 years. I'm always inspired after a morning with him. 

When we first met we used to hang out at bars and get belligerent, but alcohol only works for inspiration until about your mid-thirties, then you have to take all that inspiration and start being productive with it. Otherwise, what good are you?

Photo courtesy the Georgia Terrace Hotel Located on the edge of Midtown going towards downtown Atlanta, the Georgian Terrace also hosted F. Scott Fitzgerald, Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding, Tallulah Bankhead, Charles Lindbergh, Elvis Presley and Walt Disney as well as our Hollis. 

Q: What is your favorite building in Atlanta? 

A: I have a few: I love the Georgian Terrace Hotel. I also love the Georgia State Capitol, it's quiet and spotless and open to everyone -- and it has free Wi-Fi, you can just sit in there all day working or reading and no one bothers you. I don't work at coffee houses anymore. I can't add to their burden by increasing the herd of computer zombies who camp out there anymore.

Q: Where are the places in Atlanta where one can go kick it Old School? 

A: The Majestic, The Clermont Lounge, Daddy D'z Barbeque

Q: Where is your favorite place to shop for vintage finds? Is there a special score that you’ll never forget? 

A: Doubletake Recycled Luxury Boutique, Scarlett Loves Rhettro, Highland Row Antiques, Paris on Ponce. The other day I scored a vintage wraparound cashmere sweater at Doubletake. Years ago I found a beautiful mint green 50's coat with silk lining from Scarlett Loves Rhettro. I got a bunch of mannequin parts at Paris on Ponce and used them to decorate my yard. Last time I was at Highland Row I got a Jimmy Hendrix vinyl.

Q: Why is good to raise a child in Atlanta? Why is it bad?

A: It's good because it's diverse, colorful and still affordable. It's bad because, on Georgia's list of priorities, education is about fifty points below syphilis. What are we? Third to last among the 52 states this year again? Wow, what progress.

Q: For someone who has never been to Atlanta, what is the quintessential must-see, must do? 

A: Church Bar and Clermont Lounge. I don't even suggest the Clermont for the strippers anymore; it's where all the celebrities and rock stars go after a filming or concert.

Q: Do you watch any home shows? 

A: I love Curb Appeal. Why won't they come and do my house? And Rehab Addict. I am dying to knock out the ceiling in my house. And anything to do with gardening. I'm horrible at gardening, but I want to learn.

Q: What are some of your favorite household items? 

A: My cordless power drill, leveler, AppleTV, step stool, that reacher thing you use to replace high-up light bulbs; I love extension cords for some reason, can't get enough of them, and I recently bought, from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore store, a plug-in outlet doo-hicky that is remote control, so I don't have to go outside every night to unplug the twinkle lights on my porch anymore. I keep the remote by my bed. Click on click off. I feel like that lady on the Clapper commercial.

Q: Have you ever taken on any DIY projects?

A: Oh, hell yes. I bought a vintage camper with the idea to renovate once. I got in the interior pretty cute, but then a tree fell on it and I sold it to the guy who came to cut the tree off it. I build shelves all the time. I love shelves. I'm an expert Ikea assembler of any difficulty level. Last Feb. I built six long conference tables for my classrooms at Shocking Real Life and I've had Tennis Elbow ever since. My coup de grâce is the outdoor cat coop I built using nothing but wooden lattice panels and plastic zip ties. It's an extension of the house structure and allows the cats to go outside while still being enclosed so they don't get killed by cars. 

I love to build and fix things. I took my leaky toilet apart and fixed it and sometimes I just flush it for the hell of it because it is so NOT leaking anymore. I think it's good for my girl to see we aren't helpless.

Q: Do you remember your first apartment in Atlanta? 

A: It was a studio in an ancient apartment building in Buckhead across the street from Houston's on Peachtree. It had hardwoods and high ceilings and fixtures in the bathroom from the forties. It's gone now. Replaced by new-built penthouses. 

Q: You write a lot about living in a dangerous neighborhood. How do you manage to make it work/stay safe? 

A: I keep a used shooting-range silhouette taped to my window so the light can shine through its bullet holes at night. That there is a message. And I have an alarm system. And a big dog.

Still left wanting? 

Read Hollis's column at Atlanta Magazine

Study with Hollis: Shocking Real Life writing courses.

Read her blog, Inappropriate Conversation.




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