Interview: November 7, 2003
November 7, 2003
In this interview conducted by Bookreporter.com Co-Founder Carol Fitzgerald, Kim Green talks about her debut novel, IS THAT A MOOSE IN YOUR POCKET? She also shares with readers some of her favorite Chick Lit authors and titles, the difference between how men and women think about sex, and details of her second book, which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2004.
BRC: We loved your line --- "Why does the pursuit of love have to be so undignified?" Falling in love is often idealized with everyone forgetting about the endless cycle of boring dates that are part of getting to Mr. Right. Do you think that "Chick Lit" allows single female readers to keep a sense of humor about the reality of dating?
KG: I think Chick Lit was created in part as an antidote to media that clings to extreme ideas of love and romance (e.g., it's miserable; it's blissful; if you don't meet someone by 40 you never will). For all that extreme things tend to happen to Chick Lit heroines, their emotional lives remain true to real life. Although it builds on what came before, Chick Lit is different from earlier "women's" fiction in so many ways. Sometimes the main character gets the guy; sometimes she "gets" herself. Protagonists can be flawed, because perfection isn't a prerequisite for relationship success in the new world. "Happily ever after" is a sanitized concept that nobody really takes seriously anymore; maintaining your sanity while you're dating --- or, for that matter, not dating, partnering, marrying, procreating, childrearing or divorcing --- is.
The only idea I consciously wanted to convey about this subject is that navigating love is a messy business, so it's best to just roll up your sleeves and get dirty.
BRC: Tell us why you chose to have e-mails open each chapter.
KG: That was a little bit gimmicky, yes? Can you tell I started writing this book when dotcom was still in full swing? Still, I'm fascinated by email as a communication medium. We've all heard countless stories of email communications gone bad --- the unfortunate, accidental "reply-to-all" missives come to mind --- and I've always been curious about how this relatively new form of thought exchange has changed the way we think and interact. Email is more immediate than snail mail, yet more deliberate than a phone call. It can be captured and propagated; yet it can also be deleted. As a society, we haven't yet established clear rituals around it, so I think it's interesting.
Also, this device was a way to sneak past the limitations of first-person narrative. By using emails between different characters, I could insert a bit of omniscience into the story that I otherwise couldn't have. Sometimes I used these chapter lead-ins to play a little "joke" on the protagonist or other characters, a joke between me and the reader.
BRC: Why do you think that age is a discussion topic when weighing whether or not a relationship will be successful?
KG: We all like to pretend that age doesn't matter in the pursuit of love relationships, but it really does, if only because it is symbolic of what stage of life a person is in. Life stage matters because our expectations and personal goals tend to hinge on it. Will he want children if he's had two with his ex-wife already? Will she be happy settling down in Florida when her career's just taking off?
I suppose if you're entering into a May-December type thing, like Jen and Bruce do in the novel, then you'd better make sure the other person is comfortable with --- or at least cognizant of --- the factors of your particular life stage.
BRC: While IS THAT A MOOSE IN YOUR POCKET? is certainly "Chick Lit," there is a mystery aspect woven into the story. This is certainly atypical for books of this kind. Please let us know why you chose to incorporate this element.
KG: I devour mysteries, police procedurals and thrillers, but I don't presume to know how to write one. I really admire the plotting it takes to pull off a successful mystery. I think I was trying to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Jen to see how she handled it, and the storyline evolved in this direction. On some level, I suspect I was uncomfortable with letting the relationship function as either the central factor in Jen's life or the central plot point in the story. Of course, in the end it is just that, but we both needed the illusion to maintain our self-respect. [Laughs.]
BRC: We think that some of the wittiest writing has been coming from "Chick Lit" authors. Please share with us some of your favorite "Chick Lit" authors and/or titles.
KG: Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY, which deserves its place at the top because it makes you laugh out loud every five seconds. At the same time, her dialogue is economical and the opposite of self-indulgent. I love it!
Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series --- it just gets funnier and funnier, but the characters have real heart.
Anything by Marian Keyes. Great comic timing melded with beautiful plotting and good old-fashioned Irish storytelling.
Allison Pearson's I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT. Such prose! Such humor! Books like this one make the boundary between literary and commercial fiction irrelevant.
I don't know that I would characterize them as Chick Lit authors, but I'm also a huge fan of Elinor Lipman, Alice Adams, Diane Johnson, Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher.
BRC: It's often said that men have "sex on the brain." Well, reading IS THAT A MOOSE IN YOUR POCKET? shows readers that it's not just a male thing. When Jen fantasizes about Bruce, your writing is as fun and, well, sexy, as when the two of them are actually together. What do you think is a main difference between how men and women think about sex? How do you use this is your writing? How do you feel about writing about sex?
KG: I'll answer your last question first: excellent! Nothing else has so effectively validated the many years I spent training for this job! (Ooh, I just realized the last statement could be misconstrued. What I meant to say was, the many years I spent reading bodice-rippers I stole from my friends' moms before I even knew what "his male hardness" was did not go in vain.) Seriously, though … I have always thought that, as a society, there's been some denial of the graphic intensity of women's internal sex lives, by both men and women. I suspect men's and women's thoughts about sex are pretty similar in that regard. I do think men's sexual fantasies tend to focus on sex acts without consequences, while women derive the greater thrill from the consequences the sex acts produce, so their fantasies tend to include references to future encounters and interactions.
BRC: What made you choose to set the story in Montana?
KG: I've always been attracted to the idea that you can reinvent yourself by plunking yourself down in an alien environment. It's always worked for me!
I should say I spent some time in Montana visiting my sister and her partner, who now have the burden of denying that I wrote the book about them. Any factual errors in the book are theirs alone. [Smile.]
BRC: Have you ever tried a huckleberry shake? Is it worth going to Montana to try one?
KG: Hmm. For a minute I thought that was a euphemism for something more illicit. [Grin] But, of course, I have tried one. If you're ever driving from Missoula to Flathead Lake or thereabouts, stop by the place with the big cow out front. You won't regret it.
BRC: What are you working on now, and when can readers expect to see it?
KG: I'm currently revising my second book, which is slated to come out in Fall 2004. It's about four women who meet on a Greek island, where they've gone to escape the fallout from a failed marriage, a cheating husband, a love curse and career catastrophe, respectively. I'm also working on my third manuscript, a comedy of errors that involves a 20-something protagonist working her way up in the fashion industry.