Monday, November 2, 2020

Elizabeth Topp Interview - Perfectly Impossible

Photo Content from Elizabeth Topp

Elizabeth Topp penned her first short story in the second grade and has been writing ever since. A graduate of The Dalton School, Harvard College and Columbia’s School of the Arts, Liz co-authored her first book, Vaginas: An Owner’s Manual with her gynecologist mother while she worked as a Private Assistant, a job she still holds. Liz lives in the same Manhattan apartment where she grew up with her partner, Matthew, daughter Anna, and their cat, Stripes. Perfectly Impossible is her debut novel.


What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I have been a private assistant for many years and various employers, and each has been uniquely fascinating. The one thing that stayed the same over time was that no one outside of work has ever understood what I do as a Private Assistant. To be fair, I could never quite adequately explain the bizarre situations I had to navigate each day. I found myself spinning long tales about hilarious characters in preposterous positions held to an impossible standard; in other words, a book.

Tell us your latest news.
At the time of this writing, my debut novel Perfectly Impossible has over 1100 ratings on Amazon and has been its #1 bestseller in Contemporary Literature & Fiction since going on sale to Prime members October 1st.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
My mother indoctrinated me into a narrative culture from the moment I could speak. Meaning, stories were everything. First, they were like bits of candy she meted out to entertain me in restaurants. She worked through the bible and Shakespeare that way. She read Jane Eyre and Rebecca aloud to me when I was older. And finally, she introduced me to the trashy romances that I tore through in my teens. Throughout my life, our family history has remained alive in her animated, hilarious retellings. Stories make up the fiber of our relationship.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Seeing the nice comments strangers from all over the world about not only this book but in anticipation of my future work. It’s just the most amazing feeling to have people appreciate the book. I hope there are many more to come!

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?

I’d like them to feel carried away, amused, uplifted and entertained. I hope to leave readers with the sense of enhanced glamour in their own lives and relationships.

In your debut novel; PERFECTLY IMPOSSIBLE, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
This romp follows Anna, a struggling artist and Private Assistant to the matriarch of the uber wealthy Von Bizmark Family, as she tries to handle the demands of her artistic, personal and professional lives. Anna and the rest of the colorful staff must ensure that their employers succeed at the social event of the season, the Opera Ball where Bambi Von Bizmark will be honored. Meanwhile, Anna struggles to expose her paintings to the world at her first exhibition while also holding her relationship together.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
The election of 2016. It was hard to convince myself that my writing mattered at all.

What part of Anna did you enjoy writing the most?
I love her relationship to Julie. They are real friends as well as colleagues; they look out for one another. They fight and make up and learn lessons. They take care of each other. This aspect of the story was closest to real life, where I do in fact work with a very old, very dear friend who enriched our luxe work environment to the point where I could imagine this novel.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d introduce Anna to Edie from Luster by Raven Leilani (which, full disclosure, I’m 85% of the way finished reading). But I am gripped by Edie’s loneliness, how she teeters on the razor’s edge between what seems like a very unstable and unhealthy living situation into an even less stable, healthy place that is also extremely bizarre, and through it all, even with her last pennies, Edie is securing the materials and energy to paint. Anna could learn a lot from Edie, and Edie could surely use a friend.

  • 1. To laugh
  • 2. To escape
  • 3. To inspire those who have pursued creative endeavors while also holding a day job
  • 4. To travel back to a simpler time
  • 5. To “visit” New York City
  • 6. To read a story about a professional woman that does not end in marriage (spoiler alert!)
  • 7. To gain an understanding of the machinations of philanthropy
  • 8. To view the inner enclaves of otherwise impregnable wealth
  • 9. To see how the Park Avenue sausage is made
  • 10. To learn what a Private Assistant does
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
1 in 200 men alive today can call Genghis Khan a direct ancestor.

Best date you've ever had?
For my partner’s last birthday, which is in December, we went ice skating in Central Park at our daughter’s request and then took a horse-drawn carriage from the park to J.G. Melons, an iconic Upper East Side burger joint where they let her sit at the bar although she was only seven because there were no other seats. When they brought his cake out with a candle, everyone in the place sang happy birthday.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
Been so much smarter about my educational debt! For all you students out there: when they say ‘borrow as little as possible’ I strongly encourage you to listen.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
In 2003 I hitchhiked from Cape Town to Nairobi with a Taiwanese woman who didn’t think we could really be friends because we were of different races. Everywhere we went, awestruck strangers asked us, “It’s just you two? All alone?” And we’d have to remind them that even though she was Asian and I was white traversing Sub-Saharan Africa on a lark, we were in fact together. I spent ten years trying to write it as a memoir and ultimately put it in the drawer. But I think a film would be gorgeous: savannah, acacia, elephants, Kilmanjaro, malaria… the whole nine.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Fly to another country alone and with no plan and have an adventure.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?

Being stuck somewhere without anything to read.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
Seeing loved ones moved to tears when they read their acknowledgement.

I always thought I’d have to wait for my current employers to no longer be my employers one way or another before novelizing my ‘day job,’ but in fact, I realized that the world itself could be just as interesting without them in it. So the Von Bizmarks are an amalgam of characters I’ve encountered. This freed me up to write, which was truly so cathartic. After years of feeling like no one in my life could understand my job, it was like I could really give them a sense of the hilarity, inanity, and insanity—if not all the actual details—of what it’s like.

In this witty debut novel, Elizabeth Topp crafts a story that ventures behind the fanciful facade of Park Avenue and into the life of one lovable type A assistant.

Anna’s job is simple: prevent the unexpected from happening and do everything better than perfectly. An artist at heart, Anna works a day job as a private assistant for Bambi Von Bizmark, a megarich Upper East Side matriarch who’s about to be honored at the illustrious Opera Ball.

Caught between the staid world of great wealth and her unconventional life as an artist, Anna struggles with her true calling. If she’s supposed to be a painter, why is she so much more successful as a personal assistant? When her boyfriend lands a fancy new job, it throws their future as a couple into doubt and intensifies Anna’s identity crisis. All she has to do is ensure everything runs smoothly and hold herself together until the Opera Ball is over. How hard could that be?

Featuring a vibrant array of characters from the powerful to the proletarian, Perfectly Impossible offers a glimpse into a world you’ll never want to leave.

You can purchase Perfectly Impossible at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ELIZABETH TOPP for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Perfectly Impossible by Elizabeth Topp.