Jenn Topper (29 Jobs & Million Lies)
1. How long did it take you to get 29 Jobs and a Million Lies to the point where you felt it was ready?
I was really bored at a job I just got out of grad school and had to sit and look busy. I wrote it in about 2 weeks. It was shit, because I was still young and angry and pissed that my Ph.D wasn’t going to happen and I had to get that corporate job. I futzed around and sent a few queries around and even met with a friend of a friend at an agency. Her feedback was lame–something about stringing together all the stories. I didn’t know what she meant, so I wrote a tiring prologue. What I realize now is that she probably thought it was unreadable and didn’t want to be honest. So about six years later after I had kids, a few more jobs, and a re-emergence of energy, I re-read it and thought it should go somewhere. It took about a month of a not very disciplined revision process to tweak it. I took out a few “fucks” and tightened up the language. But the lengthiest process was adding dialogue. I felt that it was misleading to include dialogue into a memoir because, frankly, I didn’t have transcriptions of conversations. But I got over that eventually. Dialogue really helped the stories–it humanized them.
2. If you walked into a crowd of people with only 10 copies of your book to give away, what three questions would youask to make sure it went to the people who’d enjoy it most?
Everyone would like it *except*
(1) Who likes Christians?
(2) Who likes vampires?
(3) Who only reads the classics?
3. Suppose someone puts a gun to your head and says “pitch me in one paragraph your autobiography from the moemnt you started writnig this book to the moment it went to the printers”. what would you say to them?
Is that gun loaded?
If yes, then:
I’ve had at least six more jobs since I wrote 29 Jobs, but none interesting enough to incorporate subsequent chapters. I had two kids, for whom everything I do is for them. This book is to show them that they can do anything they want and that they have the power to change their lives.
If no, then:
Are you a fucking dick?
4. “You’ll hate 29 Jobs and a Million Lies if you like……”
The midwest and provinciality.
5. How easy did you find it to find the voice in this book?
[n/a, since it is me!]
6. When this book is reprinted in 10 years time, what will it say on the back flap?
(Most people will have had 29 jobs before they’re 30 years old by then, so it won’t be so funny and bizarre. I don’t expect a reprint in 10 years!) But otherwise, here’s what I would love:
Topper has helped revolutionize modern writing in her conversational approach. “But it reads like a blog,” is what one agent rejection letter said. Topper took that and turned it into a widely received book and blockbuster independent film, regardless of what traditional mainstream print publishing limitations were at the time. Best of all, her stories have helped people say, “Fuck it,” and go do what they want with their lives.
7. Which was harder to write, the beginning or the end.
The end, since, technically, it hasn’t happened yet.
8. Give me 10 adjectives or adverbs you’d have loved to use in this book but couldn’t because you were good and killed your darlings.
I didn’t hold back at all. Anything I thought and felt on each memory that turned into a story made it into the book. Othewise I really wouldn’t have been honest. And that matters, considering the title.
9. Whilst reading this book, people should listen to…
10. What made you write this book, and has writing it exorcised it from your system?
It’s out of my system. The stories are always there and some are painful to re-read, knowing I made some horrible choices.
11. Avoiding the temptation to answer it, what do you wish I’d asked you?
Do you plan to adapt this to film? (Why yes, as a matter of fact I do!)