Saturday, February 5, 2022

Q&A with Haley McGee


Photo by Thea Courtney



Haley McGee is the author of the new book The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale: Finding the Formula for the Cost of Love. She is also an actor and improvisor, and she hosts the podcast The Cost of Love


Q: What inspired you to write The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale?

A: When I moved to the UK from Canada, I quickly burned through my savings and found myself in credit card debt, in a lacklustre career situation and heartbroken.


In a panicked phone call with my credit card company, I blurted out that I would pay off part of my debt by having a yard sale. Then I looked around my apartment and realised the only things I could sell had all been given to me by my various exes.

But as I attempted to price my eight items from eight different exes, I got stuck – surely the ways we invest our time and emotion in our relationships should be reflected in the prices. And I became obsessed with trying to figure out if and how we might turn sentimental value into cold, hard cash.

I dove deep into my past relationships; I enlisted the help of a mathematician; I interviewed my exes, and a host of experts. And this study of relationships that “failed” became an illuminating journey about love, desire, heartbreak, and integrity.


Q: How did you come up with the book's formula for the cost of love?


A: I worked with a brilliant mathematician, who I call Gemma in the book.


First, I made a list of the factors I believed to be relevant to the value of each of my items (who broke up with who, how good the sex was, how long the relationship lasted, who paid for more things during the relationship, the ratio of fun to misery, etc.). There are 86 in total.


We divided the factors into categories, and then talked about the relationship between the factors; for example, I think romantic gestures are only valuable if they’re preceded and followed by reliable actions. Melanie figured out ways to represent my ideas and beliefs mathematically. We did a lot of testing (a lot), and now the formula, though not perfect, works!


Q: The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale is also a show--how do you see the relationship between the two?


A: I created the show before I wrote the book. I come from a theatre background and have worked as an actor since I was 21, so it was the natural way for me to explore the topic. But my first draft of the show was six hours long!


After getting it down to 90 minutes, I had an inkling there was a book in there, and after the show was featured in The Guardian (newspaper), a literary agent approached me with the same thought.


The book dives deeper than the stage show can, and includes much more information about my life at the time of creating the formula and my study of my past relationships—in particular, it charts my love story with one of my exes who shows up again and asks for a second chance.


Q: How have your ex-boyfriends reacted to the book?

A: A couple of them saw the show. One loved it, the other gave a tepid review. And a few have jokingly threatened to buy the book, but so far, no one has said anything.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on my first novel. It’s a story about love set in my hometown. And I’ve got a new solo show in the works, Age is a Feeling, commissioned by the Soho Theatre in London. Covid-permitting, it’ll premiere in 2022.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: If readers want to interact with me, they should come say hi at or @yeshaleymcgee on IG.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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