Jenny Lawson, author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, interviews Jen Lancaster
Jenny Lawson: Your latest book is called Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult’s Attempt to Unarrest Her Arrested Development; or, Why It’s Never Too Late for Her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not for Dinner. The title itself is longer than most chapters in my own book. Did you do this on purpose just to make me feel bad?
Jen Lancaster: Yes.
Lawson: How many angry ferrets could you fight off if you had too?
Lancaster: Trick question--see, I wouldn’t fight them off myself. Instead, I’d engage in a social media war with the angry ferrets and I’d mobilize fans to give them bad Yelp reviews and crash their Facebook pages and flood their email server. Then I’d be all, “Well, bless my buttons, I certainly can’t control the Internet! But who’s angry now, ferrets, huh? WHO’S ANGRY NOW?” (Substitute “angry ferrets” for “Ford dealership who wouldn’t give me a refund on a truck with a rolled-back odometer” and that’s how I spent one week last fall, after being inspired by one really phenomenal blogger’s “display of relevance.”) (Thank you--I got my money back!)
Lawson: Same question but with ambivalent ferrets.
Lancaster: I would badger said ferrets until they became angry and then refer them to question number two.
Lawson: You’ve written more entertaining memoirs than anyone I’ve ever met and yet you still come up with fascinating new stories. Do you intentionally do dangerously dumb-ass stuff in the hopes that it will create new material? Or is it possible that you’re just more fascinating than the average person? If so, how do the rest of us get that life?
Lancaster: I don’t like reading the same book in a different package (e.g., “Oh, noes, we maxed our credit card from shopping again!”), which is why I work hard to come up with an entirely new angle in each memoir. Also, when I engage in yearlong self-improvement projects, what I’ve learned tends to stick and I don’t make the same mistakes twice. Basically, I’ve no choice but to attempt dangerously dumb-ass stuff to create new material. Soon I’ll be wrestling gators to produce new stories, and then we’ll see how fascinating I am when I have a hook for a hand. Less so, probably.
Lawson: Which toe is your favorite and why?
Lancaster: That’s like asking me which of my children or my pets is my favorite! So the answer is whichever toe is my pit bull, Maisy. (Probably the pinky because it’s pugnacious and unyielding, exactly like Maisy.)
Lawson: What’s one thing you are most proud of writing?
Lancaster: I’m always the most proud of whatever I write next. My passion is coming up with entirely new material. For example, right now I’m working on a magical realism novel that involves mean girls, Whitesnake, and holes in the time/space continuum. (I’m so not kidding about this. Here I Go Again comes out next year.) It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written…until I start the next manuscript.
Lawson: Your life, home, and family and pets are fascinating and amazing. Why am I never invited over for Christmas?
Lancaster: Consider yourself invited. I hope you like holiday cheer because ever since we moved to the suburbs, the nihilist I married has morphed into Clark W. Griswold. He has a plaid vest that he wears without a hint of irony. It’s a little frightening.
Lawson: You come out with great books on such a regular basis. How do you do it? Why do you do it? (“Cash for drugs” is an acceptable answer here.)
Lancaster: Have you ever reported to eight bosses? (True story.) Have you fetched coffee for some asshole with a community college degree who thinks her time’s best spent instructing you on proper stapling techniques? (Also true.) Have you ever spent three hours in a pre-meeting meeting where you have to discuss everything that’s going to happen in the actual meeting, which is then followed by the postmortem meeting, where you compare and contrast the results of the pre-meeting meeting and the meeting meeting? (Sadly true again.) Have you ever had a conversation where, at the end of the day, you’ve got to break through the clutter to architect an apples-to-apples, client-centered core competency that’s cross-platformed, bleeding edge, and scalable, yet that will help streamline your go-to market strategy without sacrificing synergy or diversity for the win-win? (FML-worthy true.) That is why I do it.
Lawson: You’re a blogger and an author. Which is harder and why?
Lancaster: In discussing bloggers in your book, you say, “They know that you’re broken, and most of them are, too, so they just nod and make you go take Xanax and go to bed.” The thing is? I don’t consider myself broken. I consider myself arrogant and narcissistic and self-righteous and I not-so-secretly believe I’m smarter than the average bear…which is likely why I’m never invited to eat unicorn cake at blogging conventions. So I guess being an author is easier. (I do like Xanax, though, if that helps.)
Lawson: Who inspires your writing?
Lancaster: I read everything--blogs, books, magazines, newspapers, zines, ebooks, bulletin boards, etc. No matter the medium, I’m most inspired by two things--a defined voice and a solid story. If you can include both these traits in your work, then I’m a fan, whether you’re a New York Times bestseller, a self-publisher, or a LiveJournaler. Good writing is inspiring. Period.
Lawson: What’s the one line you won’t cross in your writing?
Lancaster: You’re never going to see the ladybits v-word in my books. Ever.
Lawson: Have you ever written anything you later regretted?
Lancaster: Not really, no. Sometimes I’ll pen things in the heat of the moment, but publishing entails so many rounds of edits that by the time the book’s ready to print, I’ve tweaked the material enough that I’m comfortable with all that’s included.
Lawson: On one of your book covers it says you learned Lucky Charms are not for dinner. On another it says you learned that Froot Loops are not for dinner. What exactly do you have against cereal? And will these books all have different covers, like when Reader’s Digest does four different covers so you have to collect them all? Also, is it too late for me to do that with my book too, because that’s pretty damn brilliant.
Lancaster: Hey, I love artificially sweetened and colored cereal. My lower GI tract is another story. You can only spend so many nights crying over your ring of fire before you learn that you can’t eat like a college student anymore.
As for the title change, one of those reflects what I planned to use before I saw my cover and the other came after. I was not about to put out a book where it said Lucky Charms and it showed Froot Loops. I’m still hearing from people about how the socks on Pretty in Plaid are argyle.
Also? If you were to do collector covers, I’d totally buy them all. Actually, I really love this--each one could be a different one of your taxidermied pets. YOU are the brilliant one. Get on that shit.
Lawson: What’s the one question I should have asked you?
Lancaster: Tastes great or less filling?
Lawson: Insert that question here.
Lancaster: Neither. I prefer Chardonnay.