Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bridie Clark, Because She Can

Because She Can is about Claire Truman, an eager editor who gets the once in a lifetime opportunity to work with Vivian Grant, the most powerful and successful women in publishing.

Claire’s delight and excitement slowly evaporate as she begins to learn just what an evil and unkind person Vivian Grant really is. At the same time, Claire meets and falls head over heels with a man named Randall who is extremely handsome and very wealthy and lavishes gifts on Claire- gifts that his secretary picked out because he’s too busy. Claire’s heart is being pulled in another direction to Luke, a handsome novelist with none of the money or flair that Randall offers. She must figure out where her heart lies- with the rich, extravagant businessman or the meager writer?

We have all had bad jobs and bosses from hell. I’ve had my share but no one as bad as Vivian Grant. This is a quick, entertaining, humorous read and I enjoyed every page. Bridie Clark is definitely an author to watch as I am certain anything else she writes will be a must-read.

I want to read your name as Birdie, instead of Bridie. What's the story behind your name?

I respond to either because I get called Birdie so much! I was named after my paternal grandmother, a feisty and inspiring lady who immigrated from Ireland when she was in her early twenties. Bridie’s an Irish nickname for Bridget.

I think the world of publishing has a glamorous connotation: fancy book parties and intelligent authors, literary geniuses working together while cute editors labor over the next bestsellers. Tell me about the seedy underbelly that we don't hear about.

It’s neat—and I guess, even glamorous—to work on books that you later see covered by the press, or read by strangers. Books can change people’s way of thinking, make them laugh out loud, help them imagine a slice of life they might not otherwise get to see. I think there’s some inherent glamour in a line of work that can have that much impact. But as you know, a ton of effort goes into producing a book – a lot of late nights, doubt, and discipline. There was nothing remotely glamorous about the two weeks before my final deadline, as my husband will tell you.

The comparison between Because She Can and The Devil Wears Prada is inevitable. What do you say to the critics who will compare these two books which both feature bitchy, demanding designer- clad bosses from hell and young ingénues who are eager to please?

I say: thank you! I loved The Devil Wears Prada – book and movie – and think Lauren’s a very funny writer, so the comparison is flattering. To the charge that it’s “just more assistant lit,” I’d say that there’s room for a few books on the topic. I think readers like fiction that’s in some way reflective of their own experiences. Lighthearted, entertaining books centered on the workplace – and making sense of one’s career – seem to resonate with young women who are heavily invested in their careers.

Are you or were you anything like Claire Truman when you began working in publishing?

Our backgrounds are similar. I grew up in a very close family, but was raised in Connecticut – not Iowa. My mom really is a natural beauty who favors flannel shirts and jeans (on the other hand, my dad’s alive and kicking, and a huge part of my life). I was an English major in college, then moved to New York… so yeah, our backgrounds are similar. But Claire’s much more laser-focused on her career goals – becoming an important editor – than I ever was. And I never had two hot suitors like Randall and Luke knocking down my door at the same time, alas.

What was your worst job and how long did you last? Mine was working at a day care center- I lasted one afternoon and never went back.

My worst jobs, in retrospect, are among the jobs I’m most grateful to have had. Being a waitress at a country club. No tips, heavy trays, a few memorable snobs. But everyone should wait tables at some point – it makes you appreciative of good service and tolerant of not-so-good. Substitute teaching was tough for me, too. It requires super-human multi-tasking ability to keep track of 25 third-graders. But if I have kids, I’ll be more grateful to their teachers because I’ve—very, very briefly—walked in their shoes.

What did you dream of being when you were a little girl? I doubt you grew up saying that you wanted to work for a ruthless boss with no integrity like Vivian.

Funny, my mom and I were just going through boxes in the basement, so I have these aspirations in writing. In second grade, I wanted to be a writer, a model, and a professional basketball player for the Celtics. Larry Bird was my first crush. I guess the model thing was just wanting to be pretty. And I wrote a ton of books when I was a kid. My parents had a whole library of my books, most of them bound very elegantly with duct tape.

Living in New York City, you have access to the best restaurants, Broadway shows and museums. What are some of your favorite places in the city? Where do you go to unwind?

I love living here. I wrote most of my book in a small west village coffee shop called Doma. Now I’m uptown with my husband, so it’s Central Park, yoga at the Reebok Club, and lots of dinners with friends. Telepan is around the corner from us, and usually our date spot. We kind of beat ourselves up for that – we have this feeling that we shouldn’t go to the same place twice because there are so many good spots to try out. But we love it.

Tell me about the Halloween Handbook. How did you ever come up with 447 costumes? The most creative idea I could come up with was dressing my kids as a washer/dryer combo last Halloween. (they refused, but wasn't it a great idea?)

Love the washer/ dryer idea! That could've been number 448. I can’t take credit for coming up with 447 – I co-wrote the book with one of my best friends, Ashley Dodd (now Phipps), who’s incredibly creative and funny. And most of our “brainstorming session” involved multiple bottles of wine. That kept the ideas flowing.

I hear publishing and Hollywood are both ruthless places. Full of villains who will slice your throat to get ahead. So what's the appeal? Many people would love to be a famous in some way but at what cost? Would you ever want to be famous?

I’d like my books to be famous. The nice thing about being a writer is that you’re not really in the spotlight. You’re just in competition with yourself to produce the best work you can. No office politics when you’re working from home by yourself. If there is, you might want to up your medication.

Are you still working in publishing? What is your ideal job- besides writing books of course, because that's a pretty awesome gig right there.

Writing full-time would be the best. I’d love that. But I could also see hopping back to the other side of the fence, if the right opportunity came up. I don’t spend much energy trying to plan, because right now there are so many variables.

How was the publishing experience working on the other side- author instead of editor? What will your next book be about?

It was great, mainly because my editor Karen Kosztolnyik was a godsend. Her imagination and humor came in handy countless times during the revision process. Being an author is easy and fun when you have an editor who does her job well.

Next book – welcoming suggestions. I have a few ideas brewing, we’ll see which one sticks.

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