the gentlewoman

The Reader

Sloane Crosley, 37, is the New York-based former book publicist turned awarding-winning columnist turned best-selling essayist, who is now adding another string to her fulsome literary portfolio with her debut novel The Clasp. Inspired by Guy de Maupassant’s 19th century short story “The Necklace”, her book is a witty critique of that 21st century affliction, the quarter-life crisis. On her whistle-stop book tour of the UK, The Gentlewoman’s Richard O’Mahony caught up with Sloane to talk about this new chapter in her glittering career.

Sloane Crosley

Richard: Perhaps this is a strange question to ask a writer, but do you enjoy writing?

Sloane: It’s a bit like asking how I feel about scent or sight. Some things smell great, some smell like garbage. Some things you want to hang on your wall or go to bed with, others make you want to avert your eyes. Writing is like that. You work as hard as you can and delve as deeply as you can and I suppose the trick is to not congratulate yourself too much when it’s going well – that’s a sure-fire way to screw yourself up. In the same way, it doesn’t help to be too hard on yourself if it’s not going well, that’s a sure-fire ticket to paralysis.

R: Do you have a particular routine?

S: I’m not a morning person, but I am a morning writer. That sounds odd, right? What I mean is that I like to get up early and have a clear head, but also don’t particularly like to socialise or do much outside my apartment before 11am. By which time I’ve worked for about three hours and gotten a decent head start on the day.

R: Do you find socialising useful for your work, though?

S: None of the major characters are based on specific people, but I suppose all of them are inspired by someone. The less real estate a character takes up, the more likely it is that I was thinking of someone specific.

R: Sorry, real estate?

S: Oh, the amount of space they occupy on a page. So if you spot someone who appears on one page only and has two lines of dialogue, that’s more likely to be a real person or a combination of two people. But anything significant? Those characters truly became their own people for me. I got to know them.

R: I’m always interested in how writers decide their characters’ names.

S: Me too. Names are such fun, right? My minor characters’ names tend to be more exaggerated embodiments of their personalities. For example, a model named Bean; a cranky French jeweller named Claude. Then, the main characters’ titles are packed with meaning. “Victor” is meant to be ironic – the last thing he is is victorious. “Kezia” comes from a Katherine Mansfield short story and also from the Bible. She’s part of Job’s story, which was an interesting connection since Victor is often pretty Job-like. “Nathaniel” means “God’s gift,” quite fitting for a character with such an inflated ego.

R: How does writing a novel compare with contributing to a magazine or a newspaper column?

S: I love them all for different reasons. I’ve written a couple of op-eds that came very quickly because that’s the nature of the beast. Ideally, you’re approaching the subject with a strong opinion that’s just bursting out of you before you even turn on the computer. With the novel, the freedom to make everything up actually comes with its own constraints and vice versa. That said, there’s a Venn diagram that connects them when it comes to pure jokes or certain descriptions. Those are fun to write no matter what the context.

R: Have the film rights for The Clasp already been bought?

S: I’ve just started working with a producer on a possible adaptation but the rights have not been sold yet.

R: What would be your dream cast?

S: I actually try not to think too hard about this, even though it’s fun. But…perhaps Miles Teller for Nathaniel, Brie Larson or Greta Gerwig for Kezia and Nat Wolff for Victor. Jane Fonda would made a great Johanna.

R: How did you find David Pittu to narrate the audio version?

S: The producers floated his name by me and I was so pleased. I knew he’d read The Goldfinch and so he would get the literary nature of the book. Plus he’s got a great, knowing French accent for the few lines of French dialogue – no one wants to hear me fake a French accent! I’d imagine some readers would enjoy hearing the author speak their own words, though.

R: Do you ever miss working as a book publicist?

S: You know, often it was a frustrating, difficult and thankless job. You can only do it because you have a real passion for it. I love talking about books and love pushing them on people and now I do it without being paid. So I guess that wasn’t particularly smart of me.

Interview by Richard O'Mahony. Photography by Caitlin Mitchell. Sloane will be appearing at the Miami Book Fair 2015; for particulars please direct your attention here. Would you like to be the next featured reader? Then sign-up sister and tell us about yourself!