AUTHOR OF THE MATING RITUALS
OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP
Welcome to BOOKIN’ WITH BINGO Lauren Lipton. Thank you for doing this interview while I have THE MATING RITUALS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP on Tour. Maybe your publicist can tell us just who is Lauren Lipton?
Lauren Lipton is the author of two novels, It’s About Your Husband and Mating Rituals of the North American WASP. She is also a freelance journalist who specializes in lifestyle, fashion, business and trend stories.
Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, In Style Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Forbes Woman and many other publications, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She began her career at the Los Angeles Times.
She lives in New York City and in Litchfield County, Conn., where Mating Rituals of the North American WASP is set.
Her website is: www.laurenlipton.com
OK. Now, Lauren, what is the next or current book you are working on?
I am working on a novel of manners that’s more literary and ambitious than my first two. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s based on a classic American novel. My version is set in New York during the new Gilded Age—the decade between 1996 and 2006, before the economic collapse.
What have you just finished reading?
My first two novels are romantic comedies, but when reading for pleasure, I crave darkness and intensity. I’m in the middle of The Last Life by Claire Messud, about a French-American teenager in Algeria whose life goes to pieces after her grandfather shoots at one of her friends. On deck is American Pastoral by Philip Roth, because my dad just finished it and recommended it. The most memorable novel I’ve read in the past six months is The Plague by Albert Camus—definitely not a beach read.
What books would you say have made the biggest impression on you, especially starting out?
The list begins with every great children’s book set in Manhattan, including A Cricket in Times Square, Freaky Friday and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. They made this misplaced Southern California girl believe New York City was the most enchanted place in the world, the place where everything happens, which I still believe is true. They also taught me the elements of good storytelling, because I read them over and over, and analyzed them.
The adult books that have most impacted me as a writer are novels-of-manners that combine galloping plots, social satire and memorable characters who do terrible things to each other. I still love stories set in New York City, too. Off the top of my head: The House of Mirth and The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton, People Like Us and The Two Mrs. Grenvilles by Dominick Dunne, The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. Joan Didion’s exquisite, unsentimental memoir The Year of Magical Thinking is a masterpiece of emotional and literary restraint. And no one does hilarity and misery better than consummate New York wit Dorothy Parker. The Portable Dorothy Parker, her collected poetry, short stories and literary criticism, is a joy.
What gets you started on a new book? A character or story idea or….?
So far there’s no pattern. The plot and character came simultaneously for my first book, It’s About Your Husband, about a laid-off woman who decides on a whim to become a private eye, thinking, “How hard could it be?”—and is terrible at it. Mating Rituals of the North American WASP started with the idea: A woman enters into a mismatched marriage of convenience with a quiet, repressed Connecticut preppy. Then I had to figure out what kind of woman would be the least like a quiet, repressed Connecticut preppy: An anxious, talkative city girl, of course.
What is something about you that you would want people to know about you that we probably don’t know?
I take seriously every reader review on book blogs and sites like Amazon and Goodreads. I appreciate all of them, even the critical ones, because I always learn something that makes my writing better. So, to everyone who has taken the time to write a review, thank you. Truly.
What is your best advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers?
Approach writing the way you would any other job. Study it intensely. Get a degree in English or Comparative Literature. If a book really speaks to you, read it twice, three times, ten times, to figure out how the author put it together. After college, enroll in writers’ workshops so you can get feedback on your work. Consider the feedback without being defensive, especially if the same criticisms show up often. Study the publishing business: Sites like PublishersMarketplace and Publishers Weekly will help you learn what kinds of books get sold and who the major players are in the industry.
What is something you would like to share with us about writing?
Never try to write in someone else’s style. A true writer has a unique voice. When you find yours, your writing will feel natural, not forced. Be true to it. It’s who you are.