Excerpted from Is that a Moose in Your Pocket? by Kim Green. Copyright © 2003 by Kim Green. Excerpted by permission of Delta, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Q&A with Kim Green
What is your secret vice?
My first inclination is to say cheese, but that’s actually a pretty poorly kept secret. My true secret vice is probably entertainment news shows: “Entertainment Tonight,” “E!,” “Extra”—take your pick. My family knows to steer clear when I’m watching “the news.”
What is your favorite time of day?
Early morning. No question. I love the feeling of being up when the rest of the city is still sleeping. In fact, I wrote my first manuscript largely through 5:00-7:00 a.m. writing sessions before work. My thoughts feel sharp and clear at that time, which is good, because I’m a total vegetable by 2 p.m.
How do you indulge yourself when you need a pick me up?
Massage. Glossy magazines. Good beer.
What was your most memorable date (good or bad)?
Two dates come to mind. The first was more of a non-date, since I was stood up. The perp was a drop-dead gorgeous Surinamese-Dutch bartender I met while living in Amsterdam. His name escapes me. We’d gone out once before and had a decent conversation over dinner. I remember wondering how he came to ask me out in the first place. It’s not that I believe in different social leagues per se; rather that the man’s peripheral vision did not extend past the behind-the-bar mirror. The reason the non-date stands out in my mind is that it made me realize that you have a great deal of control over how you deal with rejection, with how much you let it bother you. I remember standing in the Leidseplein—a busy square—in the rain as the time passed and thinking, well, shit, maybe there’s something in English on TV tonight. Then I left a rude message on his voicemail and felt a little giddy, because I knew I had carved another notch in my risk-taking belt.
My other most memorable date was also something other than the dinner-and-a-movie variety. For about six months, I’d developed a friendship with a guy at work. We had a great rapport, and I thought he might be attracted to me, as I was to him, but it seemed risky to take the next step. One day we brought our lunch to the park and talked about this and that. At one point, he reached out and placed his hand on my ankle. I felt drunk and irrationally happy, like it was a good omen. It took us several more months to acknowledge our feelings, but The Ankle Incident, minute as it was, convinced me we were meant to be together. Gabe and I got married several years later. Our daughter, Lucca, was born in September.
What do you appreciate most in your friends?
That they prefer the company of good women to bad men. Their ever-so-slightly mean, proprietary sense of humor. Their love of cheese. Their disdain of low-carb diets. And that they appreciate me back.
What woman in history do you admire the most?
Margaret Bourke-White, one of the world’s first photojournalists, if not the first. She was also the first female war correspondent.
What was your worst job?
Oh, this one is easy: Easter Bunny at the mall. I had to wear a claustrophobic fur suit and a giant rabbit head. Children sat on my lap and had their photo taken. Some of them brought me carrots; others peed on me. Most of them screamed and writhed. One day, I shifted my head so I could peer through the mask’s mouth and see better. The boy on my lap kicked me and shrieked, “You’re not the Easter Bunny!” I hope his mom got him some therapy.
I also telemarketed postal exam preparation videos for a fundamentalist religious fanatic and pulled a stint at Honeybaked Hams, but, yeah, the Easter Bunny was the worst.
What would your theme song be?
I have to confess that I wracked my brain to come up with something unembarrassing, but for some reason all that comes to mind are “Boy Meets Girl” by Haircut 100 and “Borderline” by Madonna. Oh, and “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. Does that redeem me?
What is your favorite quote?
If you find yourself in hell, keep going.
If you weren't a writer, what career would you choose?
Foreign aid or NGO worker.
What actress would you want to play you in a movie?
It’s a tie between Drew Barrymore, Janeane Garofalo and Lily Taylor.
What scene in your book are you most surprised you wrote?
The morning-after sex scene between Jen and Bruce. For some reason, it only occurred to me much later that people assume first protagonists of first novels are autobiographical.
We loved your line—"Why does the pursuit of love have to be so undignified?" Falling in love is often idealized with everyone forgetting about the endless cycle of boring dates that are part of getting to Mr. Right. Do you think that “Chick Lit” allows single female readers keep a sense of humor about the reality of dating?
I think Chick Lit was created in part as an antidote to media that clings to extreme ideas of love and romance (e.g., it’s miserable; it’s blissful; if you don’t meet someone by 40 you never will). For all that extreme things tend to happen to Chick Lit heroines, their emotional lives remain true to real life. Although it builds on what came before, Chick Lit is different from earlier “women’s” fiction in so many ways. Sometimes the main character gets the guy; sometimes she “gets” herself. Protagonists can be flawed, because perfection isn’t a prerequisite for relationship success in the new world. “Happily ever after” is a sanitized concept that nobody really takes seriously anymore; maintaining your sanity while you’re dating—or, for that matter, not dating, partnering, marrying, procreating, childrearing or divorcing—is.
The only idea I consciously wanted to convey about this subject is that navigating love is a messy business, so it’s best to just roll up your sleeves and get dirty.
Tell us why you chose to have e-mails open each chapter.
That was a little bit gimmicky, yes? Can you tell I started writing this book when dotcom was still in full swing? Still, I’m fascinated by email as a communication medium. We’ve all heard countless stories of email communications gone bad—the unfortunate, accidental “reply-to-all” missives come to mind—and I’ve always been curious about how this relatively new form of thought exchange has changed the way we think and interact. Email is more immediate than snail mail, yet more deliberate than a phone call. It can be captured and propagated; yet it can also be deleted. As a society, we haven’t yet established clear rituals around it, so I think it’s interesting.
Also, this device was a way to sneak past the limitations of first-person narrative. By using emails between different characters, I could insert a bit of omniscience into the story that I otherwise couldn’t have. Sometimes I used these chapter lead-ins to play a little “joke” on the protagonist or other characters, a joke between me and the reader.
Why do you think that age is a discussion topic when weighing whether or not a relationship will be successful?
We all like to pretend that age doesn’t matter in the pursuit of love relationships, but it really does, if only because it is symbolic of what stage of life a person is in. Life stage matters because our expectations and personal goals tend to hinge on it. Will he want children if he’s had two with his ex-wife already? Will she be happy settling down in Florida when her career’s just taking off?
I suppose if you’re entering into a May-December type thing, like Jen and Bruce do in the novel, then you’d better make sure the other person is comfortable with—or at least cognizant of—the factors of your particular life stage.
While Is That a Moose in Your Pocket? is certainly “Chick Lit,” there is a mystery aspect woven into story. This is certainly atypical for books of this kind. Please let us know why you chose to incorporate this element.
I devour mysteries, police procedurals and thrillers, but I don’t presume to know how to write one. I really admire the plotting it takes to pull off a successful mystery. I think I was trying to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Jen to see how she handled it, and the storyline evolved in this direction. On some level, I suspect I was uncomfortable with letting the relationship function as either the central factor in Jen’s life or the central plot point in the story. Of course, in the end it is just that, but we both needed the illusion to maintain our self-respect. [Laughs.]
We think that some of the wittiest writing has been coming from “Chick Lit” authors. Please share with us some of your favorite “Chick Lit” authors and/or titles.
Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, which deserves its place at the top because it makes you laugh out loud every five seconds. At the same time, her dialogue is economical and the opposite of self-indulgent. I love it!
Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series—it just gets funnier and funnier, but the characters have real heart.
Anything by Marian Keyes. Great comic timing melded with beautiful plotting and good old-fashioned Irish storytelling.
Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It. Such prose! Such humor! Books like this one make the boundary between literary and commercial fiction irrelevant.
I don’t know that I would characterize them as Chick Lit authors, but I’m also a huge fan of Elinor Lipman, Alice Adams, Diane Johnson, Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher.
It’s often said that men have “sex on the brain.” Well, reading Is That a Moose in Your Pocket? shows readers that it’s not just a male thing. When Jen fantasizes about Bruce, your writing is as fun and, well, sexy, as when the two of them are actually together. What do you think is a main difference between how men and women think about sex? How do you use this is your writing? How do you feel about writing about sex?
I’ll answer your last question first: excellent! Nothing else has so effectively validated the many years I spent training for this job! (Ooh, just realized last statement could be misconstrued. What I mean to say was, the many years I spent reading bodice-rippers I stole from my friends’ moms before I even knew what “his male hardness” was did not go in vain.) Seriously, though…I have always thought that, as a society, there’s been some denial of the graphic intensity of women’s internal sex lives, by both men and women. I suspect men’s and women’s thoughts about sex are pretty similar in that regard. I do think men’s sexual fantasies tend to focus on sex acts without consequences, while women derive the greater thrill from the consequences the sex acts produce, so their fantasies tend to include references to future encounters and interactions.
What made you choose to set the story in Montana?
I’ve always been attracted to the idea that you can reinvent yourself by plunking yourself down in an alien environment. It’s always worked for me!
I should say I spent some time in Montana visiting my sister and her partner, who now have the burden of denying that I wrote the book about them. Any factual errors in the book are theirs alone. [Smile.]
Have you ever tried a huckleberry shake? Worth going to Montana to try one?
Hmm. For a minute I thought that was a euphemism for something more illicit. [Grin.] But, of course, I have tried one. If you’re ever driving from Missoula to Flathead Lake or thereabouts, stop by the place with the big cow out front. You won’t regret it.
What are you working on now, and when can readers expect to see it?
I’m currently revising my second book, which is slated to come out in Fall 2004. It’s about four women who meet on a Greek island, where they’ve gone to escape the fallout from a failed marriage, a cheating husband, a love curse and career catastrophe, respectively. I’m also working on my third manuscript, a comedy of errors that involves a 20-something protagonist working her way up in the fashion industry.