By Tasha Cotter
What were the circumstances that led to the making of Red Carpet Day Job?
I started writing Red Carpet Day Job in 2010 after my husband and I moved to Colorado. I was finishing up an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry and I was living nineteen hours from home. For the first time, I had the freedom to devote long stretches of time toward writing. When I initially got the idea for the book, I had no idea of how to write a short story, much less a novel, so there was lots of trial and error. I read all I could about writing a novel while also completing the requirements for my MFA in Creative Writing.
The character of Sophie was the inspiration for the book. The story opened itself to me once I started exploring her character–her flaws, where she came from, and the quirks that made her who she is, and why in the world she ended up in New York City. I love the work of writers like Sophie Kinsella, Julianna Baggott, and Helen Fielding–they can create these flawed, loveable characters you can’t help but root for. I wanted to accomplish something like that.
Sometimes I think I created Sophie to find a friend out there.
My background is in poetry, and I’d never considered writing fiction until Red Carpet Day Job. It’s still mysterious to me. Living nineteen hours from home was scary and yes, isolating at times. My husband and I were living at the base of Pike’s Peak and we knew next to no one. Picture me moving from the Bluegrass state to the Rockies–it was a huge emotional shift and vastly different from where I was born and raised, but it was so awe-inspiring. I went from working a full-time job while being a full-time grad student to simply being a full-time graduate student with time to write. It was a wonderful gift, but initially I missed the day to day social interaction of my job and having a place to go to each day. I had to get used to being at my writing desk. I forced myself to make writing my job and to learn about publishing. I started to think about the sort of writer I wanted to become and the stories I was drawn to. I began reading literary journals. Sometimes I think I created Sophie to find a friend out there.
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that Sophie Waldrop was someone I invented to keep me company after we moved out west. This novel saved me. It came at a time when I was still trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. I was twenty-six years old when I started this book and had more questions about who I was and what I wanted to do than ever, it seemed. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but even though I read as much as I could, I didn’t have a clue how to go from being a student to being a working writer. I had a lot to figure out, but I was determined to learn as much as I could.
I enrolled in poetry workshops and read Mary Oliver and Paul Fussell, but I really wanted to try my hand at fiction, so that’s where I started focusing. There were lots of failures: I kept writing 30 or 60 pages of a novel and running it off the rails. I read more and experimented with different perspectives and points-of-view and slowly started to make sense of the shape and scope of the novel. It was only then that I began to make real progress. Sophie was my breakthrough and when I understood how to write the outline for Red Carpet Day Job, I was elated. I suddenly had a roadmap to get me through the book. No one in my life knew I was secretly writing a novel in my free time, except my husband. I didn’t tell anyone because I fully expected to fail again.
I’ve always admired writers who work in multiple genres– working in another art form is enriching for the writer and provides an outlet for trying something new.
I think this goes to show you that different ideas and characters all beg to be told (to be shared) in different modes and genres. Though I’ve always written poetry and took poetry workshops, I loved the idea of Sophie and I loved slowly filling in her life and what made her tick. I didn’t turn my back on her. I’ve always admired writers who work in multiple genres– working in another art form is enriching for the writer and provides an outlet for trying something new. I can’t really imagine saying what I needed to say about Sophie in a poem — I couldn’t explore her world nearly fully enough. Sophie’s life –and her transformation– were hugely satisfying for me to uncover as a writer. I loved seeing her grow and take shape before my eyes. I hope you do, too.
Tasha Cotter’s first full-length collection of poetry, Some Churches, was released in 2013 with Gold Wake Press. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, her work has appeared in journals such as Contrary Magazine, NANO fiction, and Booth. Her debut novel, Red Carpet Day Job, will be released in time for Valentine’s Day with BookFish Books. A graduate of the University of Kentucky and the Bluegrass Writers Studio, she lives in Lexington, KY, where she works in higher education. You can find her on twitter @TashCotter.
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