Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Interview with Holly Peterson, NYT Bestselling Author of The Idea Of Him

In Holly Peterson's new novel, The Idea Of Him (William Morrow Paperbacks; April 1, 2014, read my review here) career-driven, mother of two Allie Crawford, finds out that her gorgeous and  rampant  husband, Wade, isn't exactly the knight in shining armor she thought he was. Does this theme resonate with you? I am sure for many of us it hits right close to home. Today, New York Times best-selling author, Holly Peterson, is on the blog to talk about her new book and the traps that pave our way to a happy relationship.

Q. Welcome to my book den, Holly! Thrilled to have you on Mina's Bookshelf. Let me start this interview by saying that your latest novel, The Idea Of Him, couldn't have found a more ideal audience than me, as I've been going through a very similar experience in my own life. I related to many of the aspects and issues about relationships that you brought to light and I 'felt' and connected with your heroine right away. And chances are I am one of the many readers who will feel that same way about your book. What makes this novel so appealing to a wide female audience? What is the universal idea behind The Idea Of Him?

A.Well, Mina, you should call me because we have LOTS to discuss on a personal level.

The universal idea behind THE IDEA OF HIM is that women sometimes have a ton of trouble getting strong and relying on themselves but that with some self-reflection, a big bite of reality, and perhaps a push from a girlfriend, we do get there.  Many of us are fearful of being on our own so we stay in relationships that either bore us to tears, or worse, ones where we don’t feel great about ourselves.  That fear of going to cocktail parties on our own, or eating cornflakes alone on a Saturday night, is what trips us up and we are so scared we’ll never find anyone.  I wanted to write about that fear and why and how we fall in love and how we get out when we need to. 

So many books emphasize the prize and happy ending of “getting the guy” and I think the entire graph above is more realistic and MUCH NEEDED addition to the fiction world.

Q. What is the key to a happy, lasting, fulfilling relationship?

A. I think they key is finding intimacy and a best friend. 

Here is an article for People magazine that focused on this truism.

Also I’ve included a top ten list of ways we fall for the idea of someone rather than the actual person…it’s a quiz to try on yourself! (see below)

Q. In The Idea Of Him, you incorporate elements of romance, mystery, suspense, drama, women's fiction, and the result is a riveting and sophisticated tale of sentiments and intrigues. Which layer of the story was more challenging for you to build and why?

A. In the fiction world, editors want “likeable” characters, and it’s not necessarily “likeable” to marry a guy we don’t have much in common with or to stay with a guy who is being a narcissistic jerk…HOWEVER, many of us have done versions of that…marry the wrong guy, go out with the wrong guy, stay with the wrong guy, be treated in a less than ideal way and still try to make it work for the sake of the kids or just wanting to…but the woman who does that can seem not strong, not filled with will power, weak, even annoying to watch in action.  Hey, we all do things that aren’t ideal.  Yet, when you are creating a character, the audience needs to root for that person, not only find them relatable…so that was my main challenge: creating a character who was going through a tough time getting strong…and still having the audience root for her and not be annoyed by her weakness/indecision.  I can tell from the comments I get that there are some very strong women out there who don’t put up with any BS from their mates and those are the women who find Allie annoying…but she’s the real person I created on purpose so I can’t please everyone with a superhero woman and I wouldn’t have fulfilled my purpose in this book if I had.

Q. Former contributor editor at Newsweek and ABC News Producer, now full time writer: writing is obviously in your blood, but how do writing articles and writing fiction compare? How did your background as a journalist prepare you for this new venture?

A. I like to say I write reality-based fiction meaning that everything I pour into my novels is very real.  I am also writing social satire about current day Manhattan madness and all those details are extremely accurate from the statements people make to the shoes women wear. So it was an easy transition in that I am simply depicting a truthful world.  I would feel like I was cheating or an intensely dishonest person or some publisher would “fire” me if I wrote something false as that firing certainly what would have happened at ABC News or Newsweek!

Q. Do you identify with your heroine in any way? Is there a personal connection between characters, events, environment portrayed in your book and your personal life?

A. OF COURSE!!! I live in the center of Manhattan, I have worked for many insane narcissistic brilliant bosses, I have mothered intensely while trying to work at my job and I got my own divorce so…the answer is yes everything in my life is in here in a way.  The only thing I don’t feel good about is actually writing about my own divorce so the husband in my book, Wade, is pretty much a polar opposite of my own x-husband Rick.  I wouldn’t want him or my kids to think I’d invaded our privacy and written about my own divorce or the reasons our marriage didn’t work out.  I did write about my own feelings, my own fears of being on my own, my tendency my entire life to look for another man as a life raft the millisecond I am ending a relationship because that’s my own privacy that I can invade all I want.

Q. Your female character, Allie, is a career-woman struggling to balance her profession, motherhood, and marriage against the backdrop of a jet set, elitarian Manhattan. Can any woman find Allie relatable and easy to connect with?

A. Here’s what I think: we all feel like outsiders. I created a very special outsider in Allie who grew up in a fishing town in Massachusetts and whose father died beside her when she was 16…and she’s looking for a father figure in her husband who seems like a great “idea”.  So I worked hard to create an outsider plunked into crazy Manhattan. 

I think very few people actually feel secure in this world, even those who came from it.  Preppy elistists who went to the best NYC private schools and boarding schools like Andover and then to Yale are all over the Upper East Side, but most of them have been totally eclipsed by the go-getters who came to NYC to seek their fortune and run the banks, publishing houses, ad agencies, museums etc….so even if you grew up here with a silver Ralph Lauren spoon in your mouth, I don’t think you feel secure and on top of things.  That’s why I created chapter three all about the “meritocracy” class to explain to readers that even the people at the very very top of the career ladder here, even those “go-getters” who reached the pinnacle of success here, are also insanely insecure about their stature…so people are more complicated than just “elitists” and “have nots” and “haves” and “one-percenters” etc…they are all worthy of deep psychological studies and everyone is fascinating if you create the characters well…insiders and outsiders who become insiders like Allie…she is actually perched on the outside looking in.

Q. Is your book a love advice?

A. Yes, it advises women to be strong and rely on themselves and remember that work passions and children and friends and life passions of art/culture/hobbies will get us through and we don’t need a man by our side to survive every moment in life because we have so much else beside us.

Q. Comedy of manners with The Manny, women's fiction with The Idea Of Him. What comes next?

A. Comedy of Manners meets women’s’ fiction meets crime with a murder in the Hamptons…when you can complicate matters, why not?

Q.We live in an age that allows women, more than ever before, to live a purposeful life and reinvent themselves after a failed marriage, through their careers, a first if not second college degree, social media, or with the aid of a look makeover and beauty treatments. The lives of those women who embrace 'singlehood', by choice or circumstance, are replete with alternatives. What would your advice be for those women who need to reinvent themselves?

I embrace singlehood wholeheartedly in that it gives us space and time for ourselves to reflect on what we want.  We need to get over our fears of being on our own and to face the world with the huge arsenals we do have in friends, families, and our creative passions.  With enough foresight and planning, women can start a business, a blog, or even take classes. There are women out there who have “stayed at home” for a period also, who haven’t haven’t held a paying job while raising kids if you are talking about that kind of mid life reinvention.  Many many more women are struggling financially in this country and don’t have any luxury of changing jobs or doing what they want, but my hope is that everyone can maintain a chance of reinvention and keep pursuing career opportunities that can lead them to the workplace where they are most fulfilled.

Q. Giving back, getting involved with a philanthropic cause can be a great way to put our own lives and struggles in perspective. Is there any charitable cause or organization that is dear to your heart?

I work very closely with the Children’s StorefrontSchool of Harlem.  It is a gem in the inner-city saving lives and touching so many in a profound way.

Thank you so much for this wonderful interview, Holly! And thank you, Teddy, for making it possible!

About The Idea Of Him
Published by William Morrow, April 1st 2014
Paperback & e-book, 384 pages
Contemporary Novel, Women's Fiction, Chick Lit
Allie Crawford has the life she always dreamed of—she's number two at a high-profile P.R. firm; she has two kids she adores; and her husband is a blend of handsome and heroic. Wade is everything she thought a man was supposed to be—he's running a successful news-magazine and, best of all, he provides the stable yet exciting New York City life Allie believes she needs in order to feel secure and happy. But when Allie finds Wade locked in their laundry room with a stunning blonde in snakeskin sandals, a scandal ensues that flips her life on its head. And when the woman wants to befriend Allie, an old flame calls, and a new guy gets a little too close for comfort, she starts to think her marriage is more of a facade than something real. Maybe she's fallen in love not with Wade—but with the idea of him. Captivating and seductive, told in the whip-smart voice of a woman who is working hard to keep her parenting and career on track, The Idea of Him is a novel of conspiracy, intrigue, and intense passion—and discovering your greatest strength through your deepest fears.   
About Holly Peterson 
Holly Peterson is the author of the New York Times and international best seller, The Manny. She was a Contributing Editor for Newsweek and editor-at-large for Tina Brown’s Talk magazine. She was also an Emmy Award–winning producer for ABC News for more than a decade, where she cov­ered global politics. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Talk, the Daily Beast, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other publications.
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  1. Do you want to hang out alone or are you always seeking other people for everything you do together?
  2. Do you want to talk before and after sex?
  3. Is sex more of a duty or agenda than something you actually enjoy?
  4. Do you want to binge on the next Netflix series together?
  5. Would you “Netflix cheat” and watch an episode and not feel guilty?
  6. Do you make each other laugh?
  7. Are your parents more excited about your union than you are?
  8. Do you have a knowing, sinking feeling that something isn’t right and you could find better, but you’re too scared to be on your own?
  9. Do most of your friends not get along with him?
  10. Is he better on paper than in reality sitting across the dinner table from you?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again for taking part in the tour and hosting Holly.