A Move to England Led Armistead Maupin Back to ‘Tales of the City’

What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It’s a primer in human decency.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t?

Well, I was warned but I didn’t listen. “Go Set a Watchman,” the so-called “sequel” to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is a muddy mess, in which Atticus Finch devolves into an old-school racist that my own father would not have found objectionable.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

There was a vibrant bohemian culture in San Francisco in the 1860s. Part of it was a response to artists fleeing from the Civil War, which was raging on the East Coast. The community was fascinating, including an actor who some have called a trans man, and other queer figures.

What kept you from returning to the “Tales of the City” universe?

Actually I’ve quit several times over the years. The first time was after “Sure of You” (1989) when Michael Tolliver tested positive for H.I.V. In those days that was a certain death sentence, and I was determined not to write a novel in which the gay man dies at the end. When the new drug regimens came along, I wrote “Michael Tolliver Lives” (2007) to celebrate long-term H.I.V. survivors. Three novels followed, and I expected “The Days of Anna Madrigal” in 2014 to be the last. Five years later, my husband, Chris, and I moved to England and Mona was feeling neglected, so I picked up where “Babycakes” (1984) left her, living in an English manor house.

What’s your favorite book set in a manor house (aside from your own)?

Dodie Smith’s “I Capture the Castle” enchanted me as a teenager and still works its charms when I pick it up. Sweet eccentrics living penniless in a grand old house. It had a definite influence on “Mona of the Manor.”

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