The Sloane Crosley Interview
Hey, want to read about my pop-culture-induced anxiety over at the AV Club?
Today's interviewee has two neato jobs, one as a celebrated literary publicist in New York, the other as the author of two popular books of essays, I Was Told There'd Be Cake and her new one, How Did You Get This Number. In addition, she serves on the Advisory Committee of The Moth Storytelling Series.
So you've just wrapped up a pretty major book tour and my first and most important question is, what turned out to be your best outfit for readings and signings, and why?
I did put some thought into when packing. But my plans for Lily Pulitzer in Minneapolis, Chanel gladiators in New York and head-to-toe hemp in Portland quickly gave way to "what won't get wrinkled and smells the best." By Boston - last stop - the outfit that fit that criteria was a dress from a company called Mjölk, some black tights, a gap cardigan and these intentionally heinous Rachel Comey shoes I love. If you distract people with layers, they won't know you haven't washed your hair in two days. Fact.
Were any parts of the tour unexpected or you felt pretty well prepared for each stop and event?
I felt pretty well prepared, having gone on one before and also being responsible for sending people into the bookselling trenches myself.
What did you read for fun on your own during the tour?
I caught up on the New Yorker fiction issue. And Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.
Can you tell us about a piece that didn't make it into How Did You Get This Number, and how you/your editor came to that decision?
Actually, there's an essay in there that he wanted out but I kind of insisted on keeping. I don't regret it but he's been pretty kind in not rubbing it in when the reviews say, "Hey, these are funny and good. Except this steaming pile of off-base-ness right here..."
What's the hardest part about recording your own audio book?
For me, it was having a slight cold, which provided me with a scratchy throat (good) and a nose I'd have to take breaks to blow into a tissue as two engineers listened on the other side of the glass (bad).
Was the experience of writing first book very different from second?
Yes, but in ways which are hard to articulate. If my second publication had been a big novel or poetry or in 13th century Hungarian, it would be easier to enumerate the differences.
Can you please tell us about the cover, and the punctuation of the title of the new book?
The cover is great because it really wraps around the pages and protects them and on both sides. So we've got that going for us. Also, there's a bear on it. It worked out well that there's a large bear presence in the book but it's more of a coincidence. We all fell in love with Jill Greenberg's animal portraits and then it was just a matter of finding one who really looked like he was thinking the title. Speaking of which - yeah, no question mark. It's more rhetorical and less hostile and potentially bitchy this way. Which is how I mean it.
When it comes to working on the next thing, have you been doing that already? Or do you move on once the main push for the new book is over? (I am trying to steal ideas from writers who practice good time management).
Oh, well my time-management cupboard is bare so the cat burglar in your head should search elsewhere. Having two jobs, I just really try to write whenever I can. And you're right - the creativity slows quite a bit during book promotion time. Most of the writing I've done in the past month is in the form of to-do lists just so I can keep everything straight. But I look forward to get back to actual writing as soon as I can.
What's the status of the HBO's pickup of I Was Told There'd Be Cake?
I am writing the pilot and then we'll see. It's incredibly flattering and a pretty awesome vote of confidence that HBO wants me to do it. Of course, now if and when it doesn't get picked up I'll assume it's not an internal decision but directly related to my inability to master Final Draft.
How is script writing going? Do you feel like you're basically writing your essays in script form or you have to invent a Sloane Crosley character?
I had to change the main character's name to something very different in order to write dialogue. Otherwise I feel like I've made a sock puppet of my head and am sticking my on hand up through my neck. That's uncomfortable.
How much do you read your reviews or comments on articles about you/by you?
I go through fits and stops. I'll read every damn blog one week and then be so distracted the next week, it'll take me three days to read the LA Times review. That happened.
How did the big ass message portion of your website come to be?
It was one of those temporary things that became permanent because - why not?
Are you still working on fiction? Is "voice" an issue for you when it comes to fiction, since in your essays you have developed a distinctive Sloane Crosley tone and style?
Not really. Fiction is kind of freeing. Of course, you pay a heavy price in the fact that no work is done for you via reality so absolutely every choice is up to you.
What was one of the most memorable stories you heard at the Moth?
My favorite was Lewis Lapham when they were still doing events at The Players Club and he told this story about witnessing the literal end of the beat generation at a bar in San Francisco. A film crew came in, cleared out everyone dressed in black and replaced them with actors in cardigans and boat shoes and pearls.
What do you do when you're feeling writer-blocked or just generally wondering what you're doing? (It's possible that you never feel that way but let's just pretend).
Do something else. If you feel like you can't write, trying to make yourself write is like trying to scare yourself out of the hiccups.
Other than your own, what was the most fun book party you ever attended? You don't have to name names, just tell us what made it so fun.
Any book party where there's a great author and good friends. So, recently, Josh Ferris's book party. Or my friend Paula Froelich's for her novel, Mercury in Retrograde. But also just crazy ones hosted at circuses or graveyards or eccentric apartments or fancy museums, in one case, an OTB.
As a publicist, what typically is the best advice neurotic first-time authors can hear?
Book publishing, for all its many flaws, is mostly fair. Sometimes great books go unnoticed or snubbed by the readers and sometimes mediocre books get rewarded for nonsensical reasons. But for the most part, your book will find its audience.
How does it feel to be the 259th person interviewed for Zulkey.com?
It feels a hell of a lot better than being the 258th, I'll tell you that much.