What inspired you to write LIFE IN NEW YORK?
There didn’t seem to be a book about the transformation New York underwent between the decline which started in the 1950s and the rebirth that began in the 1980s, although it has always been a good place for innovation in the arts and playing a pickup game of Three-card Monte on the sidewalk. Because I arrived in 1983, just as things were bottoming out, I felt like I had a ringside seat at the metropolitan circus. Also, the fact that my grandfather arrived in New York in 1923 and my father grew up here helped me go back a few more generations by including several of their stories and observations.
Who or what motivates or inspires you to write in general?
I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh. I was voted class clown in school, but my aim was to make the teachers and administration laugh in addition to the other students. Sometimes that ended badly.
Tell us about your writing background.
I wrote for my school newspapers. I penned my own notes to explain my school absences, usually in sonnet form. After my first book PLAY MONEY came out The New York Times asked me to be a columnist.
Since then I’ve written about 16 books including fiction, nonfiction and 3 for children.
How long does it typically take you to write a first draft?
I tend to work on several projects at once so a draft takes a few months depending on what else is happening in my life. My parents forgot to have more children and then moved 2,000 miles apart so that situation is always good for some unexpected excitement.
Do you employ an editor to assist you in your writing process, or do you work with editors once the book is turned in to your publisher?
After I’ve finished the book I have friends and usually two editors go through it and look for what your ninth grade English teacher liked to call Glaring Errors. I hate turning in manuscripts that contain mistakes.
What topics in LIFE IN NEW YORK, or your life in general, do you think book clubs would find interesting?
I think people who plan to visit NYC will find plenty of good ideas for eating, shopping and entertainment, or else education if they’re interested in museums, architecture and social history. New Yorkers tell me they enjoy the book because it provides a framework for the last three decades and they’re reminded of all their own crazy stories about living here. Former residents say it’s interesting to read about what’s dramatically changed (the murder rate) and what’s stayed exactly the same (the guy trying to charge people $5 to ride the Staten Island Ferry, which is free).
Do you have future projects we can look forward to?
A children’s book called WANDA’S BETTER WAY about girls becoming more involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow writers?
If you write one page a day by the end of the year you’ll have a book with plenty of time left for a monster winter flu.
Which authors have inspired you?
I love Erma Bombeck. She started with nothing, worked hard, and after succeeding was gracious and generous. She raised tons of money for good causes with her speaking and writing. She endured breast cancer and a mastectomy. Bombeck could’ve used her celebrity to jump the line to get a kidney transplant but she didn’t. We lost her too soon. When I was growing up every home in America had Bombeck’s musings about family life taped to the refrigerator door. You want articles “about nothing” — Bombeck chronicled the performance of mundane tasks like shopping, doing laundry, and carpooling kids and magically made it all sound hilarious and occasionally heartrending. “Never have more children than you have car windows” and “Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.” If you’re a writer, the message here is that anything from the smallest cookie crumb to the biggest dust ball can become your best source of material so pay attention to ordinary routines and don’t avoid cleaning the oven.
Is there anything else you would like to share with your potential readers?
When you’re in NYC a “smidgeon” means a small pigeon. And don’t pay to ride the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free.
Laura Pedersen is an author, humorist, and playwright. She was also the youngest person at age twenty to have a seat on the American Stock Exchange, while earning a finance degree at New York University’s Stern School of Business. She wrote for The New York Times and is the author of Play Money, Beginner’s Luck (chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection), Planes Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws, Buffalo Gal and Buffalo Unbound. Her play For Heaven’s Sake! recently completed a run in Buffalo, having been performed Off-Broadway in 2014 under the title The Brightness of Heaven. Her website is LauraPedersenBooks.com.