Author Lindsey J. Palmer takes the BD Spotlight OR Why You Shouldn’t Read and Walk

May 22, 2014

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If you’ve ever wondered, really wondered what it would be like to work in a cutthroat women’s lifestyle magazine’s headquarters, Lindsey J. Palmer could probably teach you a thing or two.

A former magazine employee herself, Palmer’s debut novel, Pretty in Ink, takes an honest-yet-funny look (through multiple characters’ perspectives) on the demands of working in the not-so-glamorous industry that everyone’s trying to get into. 

Below, read Palmer’s thoughts on reading, Mona SImpson, and why you should ask a pole what it’s like to be walked into.

What would you like Book Dumpling readers to know about you?

The only thing I like more than writing is reading, and if it were up to me I’d do those two activities all day long.

Luckily these days I do come pretty close–after working for years in the magazine industry (I worked at Glamour, Redbook, and Self), I now teach 12th grade English and Creative Writing at a public school in New York City.

When I’m not wading through my 150 students’ papers, I most enjoy reading contemporary fiction, though I also have a soft spot for Jane Austen and Edith Wharton.

One of my favorite places to read is on the subway (I also like to peek around at others’ reading material) and, loath to stop reading mid-chapter when I reach my destination, I often have my head buried in a book while walking down the street.

It turns out this is not such an innocuous pastime, as many bumped pedestrians and the occasional pole have confirmed.

Do you have any funny stories regarding writing this past book?

I don’t know how funny this is, exactly, but I will say that I’d had the idea for this book years before I actually sat down to write it.

I felt like a story set in a struggling industry in a post-2008 economy would resonate with everyone, whether or not they were interested in the specifics of the women’s magazine world.

But it was only when I knew I was leaving publishing that I had the guts to sit down and write it.

At that point the story poured out of me, probably because I’d been thinking about it, both consciously and subconsciously, for so long. I was nervous about how it would be received by my magazine peers, but mostly I’ve heard they’ve enjoyed it (although some say it’s given them a touch of PTSD from similarly fraught change-of-guards that they’ve experienced on the job… I take this as a compliment).

What is the last, great book that you read and to which type of readers would you recommend it?

Just last week I read Mona Simpson’s latest, Casebook, which is a domestic detective story told from the perspective of a boy spying on his family.

I adore all of Simpson’s work–her sentences are like poetry–and this one is no exception.

The child’s point of view lends quite an unusual perspective on a complicated home life. I’d recommend Casebook to anyone interested in all of the nuances of family life.

How do you pick your next book?

My next book often just falls into my lap–either on loan from a friend, or passed along by my mother who read it last month in her book group.

I’m also a big browser in the library and at bookstores (my favorite is Greenlight Bookstore, a local gem).

Sometimes I’ll glean recommendations from authors, too; a few years ago, for example, I read an interview with Curtis Sittenfeld in which she mentioned writers she loves, and that piece introduced me to the dazzling Susanna Daniel and the hilarious Malena Waltrous.

I’m always on the lookout for a wonderful new or new-to-me author.

Do you have a favourite bookstore?

Yes, as mentioned above, Greenlight Bookstore is a five-minute walk from my home and such a lovely place. I’ve discovered many wonderful books from its recommendations, and the store is beautiful and drenched in light.

Best of all, they host fascinating events and readings on a near-nightly basis. I was so lucky to launch my own book there.

E-reader or the real thing?

I’m such a Luddite, so yeah, I still crack the spines and turn the pages of real books. But I may finally cave and get an e-reader in preparation for an upcoming trip to Europe. Otherwise half of my suitcase would be made up of books.

What advice would give to an aspiring author (regardless of age)?

Read, read, and read some more (although maybe not while you’re walking down crowded sidewalks in Manhattan). I’ve met so many aspiring readers who say they don’t have time to read; how are you going to learn the craft if you’re not exposing yourself to models of beautiful, fantastic, mind-blowing writing?

If you could add one of your books to the high school curriculum, which one would it be?

This isn’t really an answer to this particular question, but this whole year my high school students have been asking me if next we’ll be reading my book. My answer is always, “No, Othello,” or “No, Jane Eyre.”

I don’t mind if my students read my book, but it definitely doesn’t deserve a place in the high school curriculum!

 

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