Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Laura Hankin Interview - A Special Place for Women


Photo Credit: Katie Tamaro

Laura Hankin is the author of HAPPY & YOU KNOW IT and has written for McSweeney’s and HuffPost, among other publications. The viral videos that she creates and stars in with her comedy duo, Feminarchy, have been featured in Now This, The New York Times, and Funny or Die. She grew up in Washington, D.C. and now lives in New York City, where she has performed off-Broadway, acted onscreen, and sung to far too many babies.

        
  


Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
My favorite book of all time is I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith, a coming-of-age story about a young woman in England who lives in a crumbling castle with her family, and what happens when she falls in love with an American who comes to town. It has one of the most charming narrators in fiction, I think, and it’s so wise about life and love and growing up, even as it’s also incredibly funny and romantic. Recently, like everyone else, I loved THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett. Well-done historical fiction really intimidates/impresses me, and she created something that was gorgeous and complex, but also a real pageturner.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I still think about a Goodreads review I saw (even though I mostly try to stay off of Goodreads!) about my previous novel, HAPPY & YOU KNOW IT, which came out in May 2020. The reader said it was the first book she’d been able to finish since the pandemic started, and it had really distracted her from everything going on in the world. Just knowing that I’d been able to give someone joy during a scary time gave me joy during a scary time!

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
The Internet! Always the Internet! For some reason I can never stop checking my email/social media – what if I miss the one message/tweet/like that’s going to change my life??

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
Cheryl Strayed’s TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, a collection of her Dear Sugar advice columns, taught me so much about empathy and patience. Her answer to a reader asking what she wished she’d known in her twenties resonated with me so much that I printed it out and put it up on my wall. She talks about leaving relationships that aren’t right for you, even if you love the person, and about how “the useless days will add up to something… the hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks… these things are your becoming.” That was so useful for me when I was worried that I’d never succeed as a writer, when I felt like time was just slipping away from me, and it helped give me the strength I needed to persevere.

Tell us about A SPECIAL PLACE FOR WOMEN! Why did you write this book?
A SPECIAL PLACE FOR WOMEN is about a journalist who infiltrates a top-secret club for the elite women of NYC, hoping to uncover their secrets. I was inspired to write it after visiting an all-women networking/coworking space for coffee with an acquaintance who was a member. I was so fascinated by how this place, which billed itself as a utopia for women, actually made me feel very self-conscious and excluded – I didn’t feel impressive or cool enough to belong with them! So I wanted to explore the rise of these kinds of women-only places, the benefits and the drawbacks, as well as our own desperate need to belong.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from A SPECIAL PLACE FOR WOMEN
There’s a scene set at a gala, where SO MUCH DRAMA HAPPENS. All of our major characters are gathered together in one fancy, proper place. The heroine has one last shot to impress the leader of the club, and the stakes are very high. Meanwhile, both men in the love triangle have shown up, and I got to play with some of my favorite rom-com tropes, and it was so much fun!

I also loved writing a sequence where the women in the club take the protagonist out of town and to a cabin in the woods, and some very intense developments ensue. Writing about New York City is one of my favorite things, but there’s something so fun in removing your characters from their normal habitats and letting them get truly wild.

TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT A SPECIAL PLACE FOR WOMEN
  • 1. I went to visit a psychic for research. (She told me I’d live to my late nineties and get married sooner than I thought!)
  • 2. The character I had the most fun writing was Vy, the experimental artist.
  • 3. To write one particular scene where the women are dancing together, I put “Slow Burn” by Kacey Musgraves on repeat and danced around by myself, trying to really imagine everything as vividly as possible. It was super-helpful!
  • 4. This one has a BIG twist about 60 percent of the way through, and it’s been very hard figuring out how to talk about the book without talking about that!
  • 5. One of the inspirations behind the plot? The Drew Barrymore ‘90s rom-com NEVER BEEN KISSED.
  • 6. My fiancĂ© actually suggested one of my favorite jokes in the book – that one of the characters has an emotional support snake.
  • 7. This was the first book I ever wrote on a deadline, which was exciting and terrifying. I went through a couple different ideas that didn’t work before I landed on this one, and was getting worried I was never going to find the right story!
  • 8. Right as I was handing in my draft of this, I found out about another book based on an all-women networking space, and got worried I’d have to throw out my whole novel! Luckily, they’re very different stories and go in wildly different directions. But if you’d like a companion piece to this, check out THE HERD by Andrea Bartz!
  • 9. To write about Margot, the astrology guru, I downloaded Co-Star, and got far too into that app for a little while.
  • 10. Yes I do have a folder of pictures of celebrities who I think could play my main characters on my computer, and I did look at them for inspiration while writing. Just a few? Aubrey Plaza for Jillian, the protagonist, and Milo Ventimiglia for Miles, her editor.
Meet the Characters
My protagonist, Jillian, is in… a rough spot. She’s lost her job at a new media outlet, her mother recently died, she has an inconvenient crush on her married former boss. Now, she feels like she has one last chance to make her name. She’s never considered herself much of a club person (she’d rather snark in the corner), but she’ll do anything to get this story. And as she’s drawn further in, she finds that, to her surprise, she really likes belonging.

Her description of herself:
Growing up, I’d longed to be one of those compact girls who got to make an adorable fuss about how they could never reach things on high shelves. But I’d just kept growing, not quite tall enough to be a model (also not pretty, thin, or interested enough), until I gave off the vibe of a grasshopper trying to masquerade as a human. All in all, my body and I were like coworkers. I appreciated when it performed well, I got annoyed about all the skills it lacked, and I didn’t want to have to see it on nights and weekends.

A few of the women in the club:
Margot is the captivating astrology guru. In a former life, she might’ve been a muse who flamed out young, immolated by the power of her unused ambition. But now, she’s a maverick, charismatic and mysterious.

Caroline is the “girl-boss,” the kind of woman who seems like she’ll truly be able to have it all. Tiny, red-haired, and running fast on some internal battery. Jillian is somewhat terrified to cross her.

Vy is the experimental mixed media artist, who Jillian has never seen crack a smile. According to Jillian, she is “tall and intensely pale, almost translucent, with white‐blond hair cropped short. It was a pixie cut, technically, but she had nothing of a pixie’s mischief about her. She looked more like she prowled snowy Norwegian woods until she came upon a reindeer and ripped out its heart.”

Writing Behind the Scenes
I changed Jillian’s name halfway through! I was calling her “Abby” but that didn’t quite seem to fit the woman she became. So I did a find-and-replace, which mostly worked wonders except for the times I ended up describing a design style as “shjillian-chic.”


It's a club like no other. Only the most important women receive an invitation. But one daring young reporter is about to infiltrate this female-run secret society, whose beguiling members are caught up in a dark and treacherous business.

For years, rumors have swirled about an exclusive, women-only social club where the elite tastemakers of NYC meet. People in the know whisper all sorts of claims: Membership dues cost $1,000 a month. Last time Rihanna was in town, she stopped by and got her aura read. The women even handpicked the city's first female mayor. But no one knows for sure.

That is, until journalist Jillian Beckley decides she's going to break into the club. With her career in freefall, Jillian needs a juicy scoop, and she has a personal interest in bringing these women down. But the deeper she gets into this new world--where billionaire "girlbosses" mingle with the astrology-obsessed--the more Jillian learns that bad things happen to those who dare to question the club's motives or giggle at its outlandish rituals.

The select group of women who populate the club may be far more powerful than she ever imagined.

And far more dangerous too.

You can purchase A Special Place for Women at the following Retailers:
        

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.
jbnpastinterviews

16 comments:

  1. "Is there anything going on this weekend?" For me, no. For the world, maybe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's our anniversary on Saturday. Thirty-six years, it must be working out all right.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Author,
    If you could only have one season, what would it be?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Laura Hankin is a new author to me, but I look forward to reading this. I always love meeting new authors. Thanks to this blog for the introduction.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm packing up for a move this weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My niece is coming over to visit this Sunday. It’s been several months since we’ve seen her.

    ReplyDelete
  7. We just had a friend visiting over the past couple of days, so this weekend we'll probably just relax and catch up on some housework. Will probably go to a couple garage sales Sat morning, try to get some reading done at some point, and we need to finish up doing our taxes.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm going to spend the weekend cleaning and going through stuff to figure out what to donate.

    ReplyDelete
  9. There is not a thing on the schedule except for playing Elder Scrolls Online.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am going to the casino this weekend

    ReplyDelete
  11. Another quiet weekend ahead

    ReplyDelete
  12. Some Memorial Day activities, but otherwise just some quiet days.

    ReplyDelete