Rian: Where did you get the idea to write a book about a woman searching desperately for a job? Are the experiences Alexa went through anything like things you have gone through?
Ariel: The idea for writing a book came to me from my sister, actually. And Alexa and I share a LOT in common. During my senior year at the University of Pennsylvania, I began applying for jobs– and got a harsh, harsh reality check. Each of my interviews seemed to be more bizarre and hilarious than the last-starting from the time one interviewer told me I “didn’t have the requisite passion for buying dust ruffles professionally.” (Alas.) After each interview in the beginning of my senior year, I called my oldest sister on the phone (who was a corporate lawyer at the time) to explain how horrendous each of my interviews had been.
Apparently, people who have jobs can’t spend hours on the phone all day (not that I would know what that was like– you know, having a job). So my sister said that I should e-mail her my stories, which I did. After she read a couple of e-mails, she told me that I should collect my stories into a series of vignettes, which at first were entirely autobiographical. Only when I sold my stories to HarperCollins (Avon Books) did these stories transform from being about me to being about “Alexa Hoffman” in novel form. So did Alexa and I share experiences? You bet we did! More than I’d like to admit…
Rian: Are you at all like the spunky character Alexa in Help Wanted, Desperately?
Ariel: Oh yes! Although, to be fair, Alexa is slightly more neurotic (though I admit to being very neurotic, despite my attempts not to be). She’s a little more naive than I am also. But in terms of the sense of humor, the sarcasm, the paranoia…we have a LOT in common. Go figure.
Rian: What, if anything, prompted you to write a chick lit novel?
Ariel: I never even knew I was *writing* chick lit! As I mentioned, my novel started out as a series of autobiographical vignettes– no plot, no narrative arc, just stories about my job hunt. In terms of how these stories morphed into a chick lit novel, I think the transformation was very natural, actually. It’s a novel that’s smart, and real, and funny, and honest. It’s about a young woman negotiating her way through a world she doesn’t quite understand. If a novel that has all those characteristics is called chick lit, then writing chick lit came naturally– there was simply no other option for the story I wanted to tell.
Rian: What do you think of the chick lit genre in general? Any particular thoughts?
Ariel: I’m not a big fan of labels generally, and there are certainly days when I hear the term “chick lit” and think “Why are they using such a flippant, carefree phrase to describe writing that’s clever, smart, funny and honest?” And then there are other days when I think “Who cares *what* they call it– I’m glad that it’s out there!” So certainly I have mixed feelings about the term itself, but in regards to the genre generally, I’m thrilled, frankly, that there IS writing out there that speaks honestly and hilariously to women: no mixed feelings about that at all! While the phrase “chick lit” doesn’t always do justice to the type of writing that many clever writers are doing– I’m happy beyond explanation that there’s a forum/genre that we can mold, grow and call our own.
Rian: What is/are your favorite book(s) of all time and why?
Ariel: Too hard to answer! My tastes change so much, but writers who I like include: Nora Ephron, Wendy Wasserstein, Michael Cunningham, J.D. Salinger…and about a billion others I will inevitably kick myself for not listing when I read this later.
Rian: I hear that you have another book in the works. What is it about? Is it a continuation of Help Wanted, Desperately?
Ariel: It’s not a continuation of Help Wanted, Desperately — but it IS a funny and bizarre story that focuses primarily on a woman in her late twenties who tries to find meaning. (How’s that for unforgivably vague?) A teaser: it takes place in a high school. But that’s all I’ll say for now…check out my website www.arielhorn.com for more updated hints…
Rian: I liked how the main character in your book put finding a job and her direction in life above her romantic life. Do you think it’s important that chick lit novels have heroines that focus more on other things besides romance?
Ariel: Great question! Writing chick lit for me wasn’t just about the girl getting the guy– it was about all the messiness, confusion, and hilarity of life that comes every day. For me as both a writer and reader, I want to see LIFE on the page– and the truth of the matter is that while love and romance is important in our lives (and it’s wonderful that it is), life is just about a lot more than finding, getting, and shacking up with the guy. It’s about laughing at yourself, and tension about your future, and friendship and much, much more. In regards to the second part of the question, I think for every writer and reader there’s a different answer to this question– but for me, I’m fairly certain that while romance is important to my characters, there’s a lot of other things in their lives that are equally important.
Rian: How did you get started in the writing field originally? Was it a childhood dream, or was it something that came about later in life?
Ariel: I always loved writing, but never really thought “Hey, I could BE a writer professionally!” It seemed too fantastical–too much like a dream I was worried I couldn’t fulfill. I’m not sure why that is– I worked for magazines throughout college, and was a columnist for two and half years at my university’s newspaper. What made me realize that I could write professionally was when one of my sisters (not the lawyer), Dara Horn, wrote a FANTASTIC novel entitled “In the Image.” It’s not chick lit, but it’s beautifully written and tells a phenomenal story. When I saw that she could do it, I thought that I could try– and the rest, as they say, is history. My sister showed me that anything is possible, and following her lead, I followed my dream. (I apologize for how horrifically Hallmark that sounds…)
Rian: Do you have any particularly strange habits or certain things you need to be just so while you are writing? If so, what?
Ariel: Not really…
Rian: In closing, do you have any advice to give someone who wants to write a chick lit novel?
Ariel: Write what you know, write honestly, and start writing *now*! No excuses and no procrastination!