Friday, July 10, 2009

An Interview with Quinn Cummings

Okay, I am restraining the 15-year-old in me who has slunk out of her "Everyone hates me. However, there are still extremely cool people on this earth, and the coolest people are David Bowie and Gerald Durrell" corner of my brain, because she is so excited that Quinn Cummings, whom I have been worshiping from afar for over two years now, ever since discovering her laugh-out-loud funny (every. single. time. How the hell does she manage it?) blog has been in touch with me. Some of you who happen to be movie-literate (which I am not) may recognize that name and be thinking, "Is that the same Quinn Cummings, the child actor, from The Goodbye Girl?" As if "Quinn" were the "it" name "Emily" has become, and "Cummings" were another "Barton," so that the answer could possibly be "no." I am not movie literate, however, so until I came across this fact on her blog, I had no idea. I merely thought of her as that "woman who has 1000 times the talent I have when it comes to humor and writing."

That fifteen-year-old wants to yell, "QUINN CUMMINGS LET ME INTERVIEW HER!!!" But, I am not fifteen years old. Therefore, I will calmly explain to you that Quinn is in the midst of the Quinn Cummings All You Can Blab Blog Book Tour 2009 to promote her new book Notes from the Underwire (which I have been waiting for ever since she made the announcement that it was to be published), and she oh-so-kindly allowed me to ask her some personal questions. The results follow. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did. Even more, I hope you start reading her blog and buy her book (my copy should be on its way to me soon, and I will be reviewing it here once I read it). Oh, and I say we all sign a petition for her to appear on "This American Life."


1. What, exactly, did a. the cat and b. the dog have to say about the book when their copies arrived?
The dog was terribly excited to have been mentioned. The cat was irritated I hadn't run this past her PR department.

2. (Sorry, long-winded question, but I am long-winded.) Being a professional editor who also writes, I have always been worried about the impact of my editorial suggestions, and I breathe a very surprised sigh of relief when an author actually tells me I was helpful. I always wonder if he or she is just being polite, because if I received back a manuscript that seemed to be marked up on every page (which, in reality, almost all are), I'm sure my first reaction would be anything but "Gee, my editor was so helpful." When you got back your copy edited proofs, did you have to, say, take a Valium and drink copious amounts of vodka or spend two hours doing yoga or something in order to call your editor and voice your feelings/lie?
I actually avoided looking at the pages for a whole day. I knew how to write, to a certain extent, but this being my first attempt at a book, I had no idea if I knew how to rewrite. I thought there would be long paragraphs scrawled across certain pages about how sweet it was that I tried, how dear I was to think this or that was funny but really, maybe I should see if I could scrape together the advance and just give it back to them. In reality, most of the notes were "Can we get here faster?" and "Is there more on this subject?" In sum, "Make it shorter" or "Make it longer." I could do that. There were copious notes on my punctuation, but anyone who knows me knew that was an inevitability.

3. I love your commentary on the Lilian Pulitzer catalog. Do you know any men who actually buy anything for themselves from that catalog?

Imagine a Venn diagram. Imagine a circle labeled "Homosexual men of a certain age" and another circle labeled "Men who live in the South." Where those two circles overlap, you will find the label "Lilly Pulitzer shoppers."

4. What TV/radio talk show do you most want to appear on to publicize your book? (Personally, I'd like to hear you reading on "This American Life." If that happens, will you please let me know?)
I'm afraid if I were ever let near "This American Life," I'd keep stopping whatever I was doing to shout, "HOLY COW, I'm on 'This American Life!'" Beyond that, I'm very easily pleased. Whoever wants me on their show, I'll probably clap my hands together and arrange for a babysitter.

5. What advice can you give those of us who have a tendency to do so to keep from hitting our heads and suffering concussions because we are laughing so hard reading your stuff that we have fallen out of chairs?
I hadn't considered that possibility. Well, in order to avoid any liability, I must insist everyone lie supine on the floor while reading my book. If you happen to notice tons of dust bunnies under the couch from that position, well...then you're at my house.

6. Does your publicity tour include any book stores in Lancaster County, PA? (I'm assuming not. How about Philadelphia, at least?)
At this exact moment, my book tour is a reading on Saturday July 11th at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California. The rest will be a blog book-tour, as we are doing right here. But if there is a change, anyone checking in at will be the first to know.

QUINN CUMMINGS THANKED ME FOR ASKING SUCH LOVELY QUESTIONS!!! I will never, ever erase my email. (Okay, okay, okay, I allowed the fifteen-year-old that much.)


Rebecca said...

Good questions, Emily! And good answers from Quinn.

I tried to buy the book on Wednesday from Posman's (who usually stock everything) and they didn't think it was available yet and anyway hadn't ordered any copies. FAIL.

I expect I will track a copy down somewhere this weekend.

Sara J. Henry said...

Hi, Emily, loved your interview!

It's a great book and will be my gift book for the rest of the year.

Emily Barton said...

Becky, my copy is coming from Powell's (and not soon enough, I might add. But I suppose it will get here one day...).

Sara, thank you! Your interview was great, too. Lucky. lucky friends of yours who will be receiving gifts from you this year.