Posted by WCPLtn
In case you missed our July Twitter Book Club chat, we caught up with PRETTY IN INK author Lindsey J. Palmer and she answered some of our burning questions about her first novel, Pretty In Ink!
- What made you choose to use so many points of view?
I wanted to capture the many voices on the magazine’s masthead as a way to offer a 360-degree view of this complex world. The perspective of a newly hired assistant, for example, is worlds away from the perspective of an executive who’s afraid of getting ousted—so switching between various narrators felt like a rich and interesting way to tell the story while giving voice to this range of viewpoints.
- Which character do you identify with most?
The various characters are a kind of mosaic of my mind—they collectively represent all of the perspectives and opinions and feelings I had at various points during my seven years toiling in the magazine industry. So there’s not one particular character that I identify with more than any other. That said, I did very much enjoy writing the chapter narrated from the intern’s point of view. An office intern has such a unique perspective because she’s at the company but not of the company–she’s got more than a visitor’s pass, but she’s temporary, too, trying out this career to see if it fits. She may be naive about a lot of the inner workings of the office, but the fact that she’s less entrenched affords her a totally fresh viewpoint, which from a writer’s perspective was fun to inhabit after taking on the points-of-view of so many longtime staffers. Also, one might say that the intern in Pretty in Ink has more of a heart than the other characters, and yet she also commits what is arguably the least ethical act of the novel. For these reasons, she was an interesting character to develop.
- What real experiences inspired the various situations in the book?
So many! There are very few specific moments in the book that I pulled directly from real life, but obviously after working for so long at women’s magazines, I not only felt I knew this world like a native, I also believed it would be an ideal backdrop for a novel. So the feel of the world is real, even if the specifics aren’t. Plus, the particular era of magazines that I write about—one in which editor-in-chiefs gets fired when sales are down, setting in motion upheaval and staff reshufflings—is unfortunately quite real. The recession hasn’t ever really ended for print magazines, because of so much competition from blogs and webzines and brands’ own free online content. The basic shape of the plot that unfolds in Pretty in Ink is a fairly common one in the magazine industry.
- Why did you leave so many loose ends at the end of the book, not everything gets resolved for each character? Was this a reflection of one of your themes?
With such a large cast of characters, inevitably not all of their issues are going to be resolved or tied up in a bow. I actually like a novel that leaves a reader wondering a bit at the end. I think it’s fun to imagine what’s going on with certain characters beyond the last page, to make up your own endings.
- What was your reason for including a chapter from Ed’s POV, especially since his is the only male POV included?
A mail person has such an interesting window into an office place. He occupies a place there, but he’s also a visitor and thus can be a voyeur. I wanted Ed’s short chapter to be a vignette that’s a bit of a break from the inner workings of the staff. I hoped his perspective might add a different kind of texture and also provide a sense of scale.
- Why wasn’t there a chapter from Mim’s POV?
I wanted Mimi to remain a bit of a mystery—this was a story more about the staff than about its boss. That said, I did try to get a bit into Mimi’s head. Up until the point when she goes out to drinks with the managing editor, Mimi has been cast as a villain. Out to drinks, she becomes more empathetic and complicated. Despite her position of power, as a new boss she faces insecurity and loneliness. What better way to get her feelings out in the open, I felt, than to get Mimi a little drunk? It was a challenge to write, but a fun one.
- What do you want your readers to take away from this book?
There’s not necessarily a moral to the story, but what I do hope readers take away from the book is a closer consideration of the role of work and the workplace in our lives. Workplaces are worlds unto themselves, with their own rules (both official and unofficial), social codes, vibes, and hierarchies. And the people who populate these worlds have such a range of relationships to them — some see their jobs as merely a means to pay the bills, and others hinge their whole identities on them. There’s no correct attitude to have towards your workplace and your coworkers, of course, but for most of us, these are the places where, and the people with whom, we’ll be spending the majority of our waking hours for most of our adult lives. For that reason alone, it seems worth it to me to think about what that place and those people mean to us, and how we do or don’t survive or thrive in these settings. Offices are frequently depicted on-screen (i.e. in Parks and Recreation, Veep, and The Office), but more rarely on the page. Even if my readers have never picked up a women’s magazine let alone worked as an editor creating one, I hope they’ll be able to relate to some of the work scenarios depicted in the book and, as a result, put some renewed thought into the role that workplaces and coworkers play in our lives.
- Were any characters based off of yourself?
Not really—the cast of characters is a composite of many mixed feelings I and many others have had about the world of women’s magazines.
- Are you working on another book now?
I’m revising my next novel, If We Lived Here, which will be released in April 2015. It’s the story of a couple about to cohabitate for the first time, and they embark optimistically on a home hunt that quickly devolves quite disastrously. The story looks at how we make romantic relationships work over the long run, particularly during times of difficulty, and also how friendships evolve, especially as people’s lives diverge in different directions.
Thanks so much Lindsey!
Join us on TWITTER on Thursday, August 28 when we’ll discuss Allison Winn Scotch’s novel, THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME!