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Interview: September 26, 2003

September 26, 2003

Whitney Gaskell, author of the debut novel PUSHING 30, talks with Co-Founder Carol Fitzgerald about the Chick Lit genre, turning 30, what's next for her and her new role --- being a mom.

BRC: Did you plan to write a Chick Lit title, or did you just start writing PUSHING 30 and it evolved that way?

WG: It really just evolved. Mostly I set out to write the kind of book I like to read.

BRC: Do you think that many women in their 20s or 30s find older men attractive like Ellie does Ted?

WG: I think a lot of younger women are attracted to older men, but not many would want to take on the problems that would come with actually dating one. In fact, it was this inherent conflict that comes with a May-December relationship that made me want to write PUSHING 30 --- I thought it would make an interesting dilemma to explore.

BRC: Are you "dependable and loyal" like Whitney? Or who was your inspiration for her?

WG: I like to think I'm dependable and loyal, but Ellie was never meant to be my alter ego. I always saw her as her own individual, and she was constantly surprising me as I wrote.

BRC: Have you hit the magic 3-0 yet? If so, how did you "celebrate the day?" If not, do you dread its arrival?

WG: I was about halfway through writing the book when I turned 30. But the birthday was much less traumatic for me than it was for Ellie! I spent the day writing, and then went out to dinner with my family.

BRC: We think that some of the wittiest writing has been coming from authors in the Chick Lit genre. How much Chick Lit reading do you do? Who are some of your favorite authors or titles?

WG: I'm a huge fan of the genre, and am glad that there are so many talented writers out there focusing on the lives of women in their 20s and 30s. They're the kind of books you want to curl up with after a tough day --- warm, engaging stories that real women can relate to. Some of my favorite authors are Helen Fielding, Jennifer Weiner, Marian Keyes, Lynn Messina and Jill Davis.

BRC: Do you think that hit television shows like Friends and Sex and the City created a natural audience for these books?

WG: I think the audience already existed, but until recently it was largely ignored. It's refreshing to see books, television shows and movies that appeal to younger women, when in the past most of what you would see was written primarily for teenagers and men.

BRC: There has been criticism that Chick Lit is formulamatic. Do you think it is take one from this column, add one from that and keep going to write a story?

WG: Absolutely not. The genre has been unfairly criticized for being only about cocktails and lipstick, but in reality these books tackle an extraordinarily broad range of subjects --- they cover everything from marriage to infertility to sexual assault to family conflicts to career struggles. It's unfortunate that a whole category of books is dismissed as fluff simply because it focuses on the lives of young women, when many of these books are some of the most original, relevant and accessible work being done today.

BRC: I think that most women who color their hair have had one horror experience like Ellie. Have you had one?

WG: Ha! More than one! I actually turned my hair orange once --- bright, pumpkin, Halloween orange. You'd think that after the first disaster we'd learn to leave it to the professionals.

BRC: We understand that congratulations are in order as you had a baby --- Samuel Finn --- earlier this month. How is it going being a new mom? How are your "spoiled dogs" adjusting to a new baby in the house? And do you think that having a baby will give you some new storylines?

WG: Thank you! Being a mom has been the most wonderful experience of my life, and my husband and I are enjoying every minute with our son. Of course, adding a new baby has required adjustment for the whole household, but luckily Sam has inherited his father's easygoing personality and ability to sleep through just about anything. I'm definitely planning to explore motherhood in future books --- there's too much juicy material there to pass up.

BRC: What can you tell us about TRUE LOVE (and Other Lies), your next book? When can readers expect to see it?

WG: With luck, it will be out within a year. I worked hard to complete the bulk of the writing before Sam arrived, and I managed to finish in the nick of time. Claire Spencer, the protagonist of TRUE LOVE, is more cynical than Ellie from PUSHING 30. Claire is this wonderfully big-hearted person, but she hides behind a jaded exterior, and the story follows her efforts to overcome her own shortcomings and insecurities.