A Conversation with Karen Quinn
1. What inspired you to write Wife in the Fast Lane? Did you have a real-life model for Christy Hayes?
I heard an expert on one of the morning shows say that women today can have it all, just not at the same time. You hear that a lot. In my own case, I have a husband, two kids, a career, a home, two cats, and myself to pay attention to. There is nothing I would give up. So, I’m doing my best to have it all, and I’m doing it at the same time, and so are my friends. I wanted to write a story about a very accomplished woman struggling with these issues. Christy is a composite of a number of women I know, with a lot of my imagination thrown in.
2. So many of your characters have interesting names’Nectar Freedom, Brownie Rich, Galit Portal. Any symbolism behind them?
The names are symbolic, but I didn’t realize that when I made them up.
3. When beginning a novel, do you know the end result before you start or do you just write and go where the story leads you?
I usually outline the beginning. I know what I want the story to be about, who the protagonist is, and how I’ll get to the central conflict. After that, I go where the story leads me. I never know the ending until I get there.
4. Christy struggles with raising Renata, running a company, and being a good wife to Michael. How is her plight similar to most of today’s modern women? Do you find yourself wearing many hats in your own life?
The only difference between Christy and most other women is that she has more help. On the other hand, she has demands the rest of us don’t have, like the requirement for endless personal maintenance and an extensive and chic wardrobe. I’d choose going to my son’s Little League game over going shopping or getting my legs waxed any day. Seriously, I do wear many hats and I struggle with finding balance daily. Every woman I know does. I feel lucky in that I’m passionate about the important things in my life. I work hard but it doesn’t feel like it’s a sacrifice. It’s the details that drive me crazy ‘ errands, bill paying, check book balancing, that sort of thing. And computers that crash ‘ don’t get me started on that.
5. Your last novel, The Ivy Chronicles, was optioned for film, with Catherine Zeta Jones slated to star. If Wife in the Fast Lane were a film, whom would you cast as Christy?
Sandra Bullock or Julianne Moore would be wonderful.
6. You have much corporate experience behind you, first as a lawyer, then as an advertising executive, and later you had your own private school admissions business called Smart City Kids. How did you get started in that field? What made you decide to start writing?
One thing just led to another. After I was downsized at American Express, I decided to start Smart City Kids because getting my own children into school in Manhattan had been so painful. I thought, if I can make this easier for other people, there might be an opportunity. After I couldn’t take the school admissions business for one more season (you can’t imagine the stress!), I realized that I had so many funny stories to tell from the experience that I should try to write a book about it. I had no idea if I could, but I gave it a whirl since writing was a secret fantasy of mine.
7. Do you have any fun, real-life stories to share about the lengths parents went to for their child to be accepted at a prestigious school?
I have so many. There was once a father who hired an acting coach to work with his four-year-old because he thought his son’s personality was so ‘blah.’ He hoped acting lessons would help the kid sparkle for his interviews. There was a mother who insisted that I keep tutoring her son on his colors even though the child had fallen asleep in the middle of the lesson. She said, ‘he’ll get it subliminally.’ There was a little girl who stopped me from tutoring her for her kindergarten admissions test. She said, ‘can’t you see I’m only four?’
8. Do you subscribe to Nectar’s ‘Rule of Two?’
I believe if you’re trying to maintain a loving relationship, raise children, and build a career at the same time, you probably won’t be as successful with each as you would be if you were only trying to do two of these things. But that hasn’t stopped me from going for all three.
9. What message would you like readers to take away from Wife in the Fast Lane?
Christy ended the book having made choices to put her energy into the things and people she cared most deeply about. As women living in the fast lane, it’s crucial for us to stop, reflect, and make sure that our efforts are going toward our life’s passions, whatever they are.
10. Any plans to revisit the characters from The Ivy Chronicles or Wife in the Fast Lane in future books? What are you working on next?
Both Ivy and Christy have completed the journeys they set out to make. But I sometimes imagine new adventures I could take them on. It would be fun to write a book with Renata as the central character, or Faith (from The Ivy Chronicles). I’m working on another book with a strong female protagonist right now. She’s getting into all kinds of trouble.