Saturday, August 18, 2012

INTERVIEW: Etiquette for the End of the World by Jeanne Martinet

What or who inspired the storyline for this book?

I had written a lot of humorous guides on subjects of social mores and etiquette, but I really wanted to try my hand at a book that was purely humor. So I started writing a spoof on a self-help guide, which I was going to call Etiquette for the End of the World (this spoof was, more or less, the guide that was eventually folded into the novel).  Then I started thinking about the end of the world as a metaphor for personal crises.  And that’s when the persona I was using for the “author” of the spoof began to evolve, to take up more space in my imagination, and it became apparent I was really writing a novel.  Almost against my will, to tell the truth.

What was your favourite part to write?

I had the most fun with the character of Harriet, who was inspired by a mentor of mine in publishing who is no longer with us.  She was an incredibly brilliant woman—and the kind of person who made an impression on everyone she ever met. Writing the scenes between Harriet and Tess was a little like bringing a dearly-missed friend back to life and getting to have conversations with her.  It felt quite magical. Also, I loved bringing the Scrub-a-Dub-Pub into existence. That place was an idea I had for a Laundromat bar when I was in college, so in my mind, the bar was already real—drinks, d├ęcor, everything.  All I had to do was take my characters there.

Why did you decide to try your hand at fiction?

For one thing, I began to realize that, whether I was writing my humorous self-help books or my “Citiquette” column, what I enjoyed most was concocting the little scenes and anecdotes I would use for illustrating my point. These little stories were often exaggerated or pieced together from several actual incidents. (I mean, I may be Miss Mingle, but nobody can go to that many parties.)  So I already felt I was writing fiction, in a way.  Also, a novel was something I had not tried before, and I felt it was time.  Though, as a person who has edited a lot of novels, I have a great respect for how hard it is to actually write one, so it took me a while to get up the courage to actually do it.

Can you describe a little of your research adventures for this book?

Much like my main character, I always thought all the theories about the Mayan calendar and the supposed “cataclysmic shift” totally ridiculous, and then, once I sort of got sucked down the rabbit hole, with all the information (and misinformation) that’s out there on the subject, I became more and more intrigued.  I could understand why many people where so fixated on the idea. And it’s quite mystifying how advanced the ancient Maya really were in some areas of science.

What’s really great about writing fiction is that it gives you permission to spend hours and hours researching something that interests you, and in the end you don’t have to stick entirely to the truth, because it’s fiction.  For example, from an early age I was fascinated by the pneumatic tube system, and the way the tubes would go schlooping and rocketing through those tunnels of air. The pneumatic tube system in the New York City library was, sadly, retired last year—and one of the scenes is in 2012—but I decided to keep it in the book anyway, because I felt it made the scene more exciting.

What do you plan to be doing on December 21, 2012?

I’m having a big end of the world party on that night. I’m having a contest to see who can come up with the best end-of-the-world cocktail! 

Jeanne Martinet, aka Miss Mingle,is the author of eight books, including the recently published novel, Etiquette for the End of the World, and the widely acclaimed The Art of Mingling--which has sold more than 150,000 copies in the U.S. alone. Her books have been published in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Poland.

She has been featured in such publications as: The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsweek, The U.S. News and World Report,, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, TimeOut New York, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Playboy, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Huffington Post. Martinet has shared her humor and mingling know-how on hundreds of TV and radio shows, including "The Today Show," "The CBS Early Show," NPR's "Morning Edition" and WNYC's"The Leonard Lopate Show."

Born in Baltimore, Jeanne Martinet currently lives in New York City. Her column, "Citiquette" appears in two Manhattan Newspapers.
Thank you to Jeanne for taking the time out of her busy schedule to do this interview!

Please follow the links to find out more about this amazing author:

Column: Citiquette
Twitter: @Miss_Mingle

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