New York Times and USA Today Bestselling novelist, screenwriter, editor, namer, critic, movie addict and chocoholic
Friday, August 24, 2012
Emma Straub talks about Laura Lamont's Life in pictures, swimming pools, being a bookseller and so much more
Emma Straub wears great vintage dresses, works in a bookstore, and has one of the hottest novels out, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures. She's also one of the nicest people on the planet. The author of Other People We Married, she's also published in Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, Slate, The New York Times, and more, and she's a staff writer for Rookie. I'm thrilled to have her on my blog. Thank you, Emma!
I loved all the old world glamour--so are you an old movie film addict? Did you watch films as you were writing this? What was it about that era that entranced you so much?
I'm no terribly glamorous in my every day life--can't walk in heels to save my life--so part of it was definitely that silky sheen, that put-togetherness that attracted me. I do love old movies, though I'm not a true film buff--I have some friends who are real, true devotees, and I wouldn't put myself in the same category. Doing the research for the book did mean watching lots and lots of movies, though, which was fantastic fun.
The novel has a kind of modern sensibility, too, in that Laura Lamont has to figure out how to balance everything in her life while being in the most unreal atmosphere on the planet: Hollywood. Do you think it's possible to balance everything, or should we learn to make peace with the chaos?
You know, I used to think I was good at balancing everything, but right now I'm more of the mind that balance sometimes means only doing one thing. Right now, for example, I would really love to be working on my next novel, but there are simply not enough hours in the day. It's been such wonderful, lovely chaos, everything leading up to Laura's release, but chaos nonetheless.
What was it like growing up with a famous writer dad? Did it influence you at all in how you work? Do you show him your drafts? Does he show you his?
When I was younger, I would show my dad every thing I wrote in its very earliest stage, but nowadays I like to wait until something is more polished, more fully formed. And he just gave me the first hundred or so pages of his new book, so that was exciting. It's really great having a writer parent, I must say, but both my parents are incredibly supportive boosters. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a couple who cares more deeply about books.
Has being a bookseller informed your view of the publishing world? Do you feel like you know things that other writers don't about how things work?
I do! And I think every writer should work in a bookstore, both to have the fun of talking about books all day and also to have the perspective. I'm standing in the bookstore right now, and there are thousands of titles here, thousands. I think it helps me keep my self-importance in check, and also to feel like a part of a much, much larger community.My book will be one of many.It's good to remember that.
So, what's the secret to being so beloved? I don't think I've heard anyone even narrow his or her eyes at the mention of your name.
I'm sure that even hearing that will make some people narrow their eyes! I have no secret. I am nice to people. I feel sorry for people who aren't. It's much easier this way.
What's obsessing you now and why?
Swimming pools. I have hardly left the city all summer--work work work--and for months, all I've done is fantasize about swimming pools. It's a very base desire, really.
What question should I be appalled that I forgot to ask you?
What I'm reading! Right now I'm reading Megan Abbott's Dare Me, which is so, so dark and fabulous. I always knew cheerleaders had hearts made of gasoline.
Stay tuned, THIS OTHER LIFE has sold to Algonquin, my beloved publisher and I am busy writing it now. My 11th novel CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD is an Indie Next Pick. IS THIS TOMORROW was an May Indie Pick. I'm also the New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU, a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick, a Costco "Pennie's Pick." a NAIBA bestseller and on the Best Books of 2011 List from San Francisco Chronicle, Providence Journal, Kirkus Reviews and Bookmarks Magazine. I'm the recipient of a New York Foundation of the Arts Grant in Fiction. I was a 2013 finalist in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and a finalist in the Nickelodeon Screenwriting Fellowship, four of my novels were optioned for screen, and I talked my way into writing the script for two of them. My essay, HIgh Infidelity, has been optioned for film. I'm a book critic for The San Francisco Chronicle and People Magazine. I teach novel writing for UCLA Extension Writers' Program, and Stanford online, do private fiction editing, and I am a professional namer! I live with my husband, writer/editor Jeff Tamarkin and we beam with pride about our son, an actor/filmmaker in college. Visit me at http://www.carolineleavitt.com.