By day, Sloane Crosley is the Deputy Director of Publicity at Vintage/Anchor Books. But by—well, on every day, she’s a New York Times bestselling author. Her latest book is How Did You Get This Number, which came out last month. It’s a sparkling collection of essays detailing Crosley’s musings on life in the big city. Recently, she took the time to answer some of my questions while in Denver on book tour.
How do you find life on the road?
It’s not really life. You’re yanked before you settle. I will say I lost my dental floss between Portland and Seattle, so that’s pretty gross if you do the math. But that doesn’t mean it’s not supremely fun.
How do you turn the unremarkable or the everyday into a good story?
Well, there’s a nice compliment imbedded in this question because you’re implying that I have succeeded. If not in weaving straw into gold than at least into weaving straw into a perfectly functional basket. I hope I have. I think the trick—or my trick—is to work backwards. Try to use the format as you used to use it when you were a kid. Topic first, then examples. Okay, so not that structured. But put it this way: if you’re constantly trying to draw out larger meaning or pathos or even just base humor from a single experience merely because you find it amusing, you’re going to get a lot of essays structured like this: “One day I saw a bunch of mice. Then I went on with my day and events happened with people and I never thought about the mice. Then one of the people said something seemingly meaningless but, in fact, reminded me that we are all just like mice.” See what I mean?
Are you ever tempted to write fiction?
Indeed, I am working on fiction now. Well, not now now. But I have some pages of some stuff I made up and I like it better than the atrociously stupid novel I wrote when I was twenty-two.
Do you keep a diary?
No, I don’t. I kept a diary while I was living in Edinburgh and travelling around Europe but that’s it. I have a good memory. But so do most people, I think. These aren’t flash essays. I have time and free will. I don’t write them if I can’t remember.
You have a dream job in publishing. Walk us through an average publicist’s day.
I do have a wonderful job, promoting people who are crazy talented and working with people who are equally talented at what they do. But it’s a very busy job for everyone of late. Books coverage is narrowing and getting more competitive and you don’t need to have a double life to sense that. I think most publicists come to the office, run around like crazy people from 9:30 A.M. to 7:30 P.M., eat half standing up, try to keep everyone happy while being creative and hyper-organized at the same time and then they couldn’t tell you what they did all day. Not because they did nothing but because they did everything. It is a truly frantic job for all of us. If I get really overwhelmed, I’ll make an actual to-do list.
How did you find the time to write your book?
I write on weekends, on vacation, and, really—on deadline and on my floor. Both terrible for the back.
I don’t. Maybe I would if I had a better sense of what “a lot” entails. I assume it’s not my actual writing but some kind of perceived trappings we’re talking about, right? There are many people younger and prettier and smarter with better apartments, bigger bank accounts and fancier party invites who should inspire jealously. I’d say, I don’t know—aim higher?
You write about traveling to Lisbon before your thirtieth birthday. Why do we freak out about turning thirty?
There’s an “everything must go!” emotional liquidation feel to the end of your twenties, isn’t there? What will happen if we turn thirty and we’re not “ready?” You don’t feel entirely settled in any aspect of your life, even if you are on paper. You’re also not looking at thirty like a twenty-nine year-old. You’re looking at it like the nine-year-old version of yourself and it seems really fucking old. I assume the same thing will happen at forty.
Have you ever gotten really interesting fan mail?
There was a man in San Diego sending me VHS tapes. Thank GOD I have a VCR still, right? Also, some prison letters.
I am the sole/head writer for now, so yes, I am working on it. It’s going quite well. It could die on the vine at any minute and I have no illusions about that, but writing dialogue suits me. At first I was nervous about reproducing the book in final-draft form (sort of like reincarnating the essays as poems) but then I realized I could mess with it and if the people at HBO were comfortable handing a kid without a license the keys to the car, I should hurry up and get comfortable as well.
Who would play you?
Elliot Gould in a wig.