Book Talk: Sloane Crosley hits brothels, clowns in new essays

SYDNEY Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:02pm IST

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - American writer Sloane Crosley set out for a career in fiction so surprised herself when she found herself writing humorous essays.

Crosley's debut essay collection, "I Was Told There'd Be Cake," became a New York Times best-seller and she was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

The New York-based writer's second collection, "How Did You Get This Number," is released this month with Crosley making friends with a trio of amateur circus clowns in Lisbon, crossing paths with a grizzly bear, and dealing with a haunted brothel.

Crosley, 31, who works as a publicist for a list of best-selling authors at Random House division Vintage Books, spoke to Reuters about writing and humour:

Q: Was your second collection long in the making?

A: "This one came out a little more naturally. The other was over a period of time and got complicated. Theme? It is sort of a non-theme theme. Before, the theme was disappointment. This is more a deeper exploration of when you do get the things that you want but your life is still somewhat incomplete and not everything is how it is supposed to be. That is where most of the humour comes from."

Q: Do you go out looking for stories to write about?

A: "I think if I was looking for stories it would be a very boring book. Inevitably, if you live any kind of life, the prism of your own experience will pop up to satisfy that general need. My best cocktail party stories are not in the books as they don't make for great essays. I do think there are things that happen to me but not to other people. I think other people manage to get in and out of weddings without seeing endangered species."

Q: Were you always good at telling funny stories?

A: "I was the youngest of my entire family so you are tap-dancing to try to get the attention of your older cousins. I really hit my social stride in 6th grade but before that I was a pretty big dork. You learn how to be amusing and how to work for it. Everyone has been in a social situation where you say something and it goes unnoticed then someone else says the same thing and everyone laughs a lot. You learn how to be more creative and whacky and amusing. I also had two very creative parents. My mother is a special education teacher but also an artist and my father an advertising executive. They are about as whacky as you can get without being alcoholics."

Q: Did you set out to write essays?

A: "I thought I was going to write fiction but I fell backwards into non-fiction. it started when I got locked out of two apartments in one day and I told the story to some friends one of whom worked in the Village Voice and asked me to turn it into an essay. Then I branched out into the New York Times and Playboy and someone offered me a book deal. It went from there."

Q: You studied creative writing at Connecticut College. Do you still write fiction?

A: "I am still looking forward to writing some fiction in the future. The grass is always greener I guess."

Q: HBO has bought the rights to your first book.

A: "Yes, I am working on the pilot with them. It is being developed as a series. I am handing in a draft and we will see what happens. Trying to shove it back into the womb and have it come out something else is a very tricky experience as it looks familiar but is a bit off, but one of my favourite things to write in the essays is dialogue so it is not that rough a transition."

Q: Any advice to aspiring writers?

A: "You don't have to wait to be good. People work well with deadlines and when you don't have that, people end up waiting to expect a lot of themselves. You just don't have to wait." (Editing by Steve Addison)

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