Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lauren Lipton, It's About Your Husband

Lauren Lipton and I could be great friends. She writes with a warmth and humor that I recognize, a friendly tone that resonates with me. It's About Your Husband is a terrific debut novel that kept me engaged from the beginning until the very end. Iris Hedge leaves her husband and heads to New York City to make a go of life in the Big Apple. What better place to start over, right? Things don't exactly go as planned when Iris loses her job and ends up broke, without friends, without a husband and with a dose of low self- esteem. She stumbles upon a job spying on a husband named Steve who may or may not be doing something naughty. Iris is hired to follow him around the city, track his movies and make sure he's not cheating on his insecure uptown wife.

But of course there are complications, romantic entanglements and mix-ups plus a few crazy hair color incidents and haven't we all experienced those? Iris is likable and fun and what a super novel to lose yourself in! Reading about New York City is always a welcome treat beause isn't New York just the best city in the world?

What did you do today? Do you plan out your days or are you a fly-by-the seat-of-your-pants girl?

I am a regimented, borderline-compulsive girl living a seat-of-the-pants existence, if that makes sense. I work best with a very strict routine. But the reality is having to squeeze writing in-between all the other tasks that seem to come up. (Laundry! Doctor checkup! Buy a new coffee filter to replace the one I accidentally tossed in the trash! More laundry!) Today was perfect, though: Nothing to do but dismantle my new book, which isn’t quite right yet, spread it out metaphorically like so many engine parts across a garage floor, and try to put the pieces back together so the thing actually works. Five hours later, I may be getting somewhere.

How would you describe Iris and is she anything like you? Was she driven into being a detective because she needed the money, she was curious, or was she just bored?

Iris is a nice, normal person who’s gone completely loopy, thanks to the triple whammy of a failed marriage, a cross-country relocation and sudden unemployment. She thinks working as a detective might be a great way to keep her mind off her troubles and earn much-needed cash. She turns out to be terrible at it—it’s hardly a job for someone whose judgment is off. Though I’ve not found myself in quite this situation, I too have been known not to think things through. I could see myself saying, “How hard could it be to follow some guy?” and then realizing in the midst of it I had no idea what I was doing.

Have you ever listened in to a phone call or conversation, peeked in a medicine cabinet at someone's house or read a diary that wasn't yours? I consider those to be relevant detective skills.

Uh, yes, yes and yes. My only excuse is, I’m trained as a reporter, and for reporters these are also relevant skills. But, please, nobody tell my sister about the diary.

Did you know how the story was going to end when you began to write it? I have heard of some authors writing the ending first and working backwards. What is your method?

Really? Some people write the ending first and work backward? Do they then have to go back and change the ending when they finish the beginning? It almost sounds like the literary equivalent of a Rubik’s Cube. I definitely work in plodding, linear fashion, though I did plot out how the book was going to end before sitting down to write it. It helped to see the finish line out there in the distance.

You've worked at Cosmopolitan and InStyle. How fun and cool! Did you get to hang out and chat about boys with Helen Gurley Brown? What was the environment like at InStyle, hopelessly good looking and edgy fashionistas strolling through the feng shui-ed hallways?

Work at a women’s magazine is a delightful cocktail of the fabulous and the mundane. On any given day you might arrive to find a forest of models in the foyer, a pastry-tasting in the conference room and 200 gleaming pairs of next season’s shoes lined up side-by-side against the walls. Then you walk into your office, where your mission is to make sure the story you’re editing doesn’t repeat the word “hair.” (For some reason word repetition is an anathema at women’s magazines.) You spend the next hour scraping for adjectives: “tresses,” “locks,” “mane,” “crowning glory” and so on, realizing there’s truly no better word for “hair” than “hair.”

Ideally, I’d now coin a clever women’s-magazine term to describe the job. “Drabulous”? “Glam-notonous?” Can anyone think of something better?

You grew up in Southern California, now you live in New York City. I grew up outside of New York City and now live in Southern California. How do you think the two places compare? What inspired the move east?

This makes me want to Q-and-A you! Where do you live? Which place do you like better? Do you know any of my friends?

I came here because in seventh grade I had a vision. I saw myself walking down a New York avenue on my way to some amorphous job in publishing, holding a clever handbag and wearing a boucle suit and a pillbox hat. Obviously, destiny had called.

I think New York and So-Cal are almost incomparable; they’re on such opposite ends of the lifestyle spectrum. But the crucial difference is this: I have never worn a pillbox hat—why my vision put me in Manhattan circa 1959 I have no idea. But in New York, if I wanted to, I could.

Trying to find an agent is like being set up on a blind date, you don't know them and they don't know you. You are being judged you solely on a short paragraph about a novel and judged not on your wit or sparkling personality or cute shoes. Tell me about your agent search.

It was surprisingly straightforward. I subscribe to the publishing-industry website, a database of every deal that’s made, every day. The site lists each newly purchased book, its author, a quick synopsis, the editor who bought it and the agent who sold it. While working on “It’s About Your Husband” I spent months scouring those deals for books that sounded similar to mine. When it was finally time to find an agent, I knew exactly which ones to send that sparkling, oh-so-witty one-paragraph description of my novel. If only I could remember which shoes I wore to meet my now-agent for our first lunch.

When you are writing, what is your schedule? Is it an all day commitment to the computer?

I love writing and if things are humming along can happily sit at the computer for ten hours, or until my eyeballs are popping out of my head, whichever comes first. (See “borderline compulsive,” above.) Generally, though, life gets in the way of these marathon sessions. I do write every day, including most weekends, for one to four hours at a time.

Iris feels a bit lonely and out of place in Manhattan. What is a time in your life where you felt out of place or like an outsider?

I felt like an outsider for much of my childhood, not because I didn’t have friends, but because my entire existence as a Southern Californian was just plain wrong. I was a pale, indoorsy bookworm in world of puka-shell-necklace-wearing beach bunnies. I had a surfer-girl skirt with a rainbow silkscreened across it and tried to incorporate words like “gnarly” into my vocabulary, yet knew I wasn’t fooling anyone. I always thought, “I must get to New York, to my people.”

What are you working on right now?

A new novel, set in New York City and small-town Connecticut. That, and the laundry.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Yay for Lauren! She's a fabulous person (and editor) and deserves all of the success coming her way. Thanks for posting this, Cindy! @ 7:42 PM  
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