Welcome to the Sweetest Debut, a new and regular installment in which we reach out to debut (or near-debut, we’re flexible!) fiction, poetry and nonfiction authors working with presses of all sizes and find out about their pop culture diets, their writing habits, and their fan-fiction fantasies.
This time: Anna Pitoniak on her debut novel The Futures — which is out next Tuesday January 17 through Lee Boudreaux Books/Little, Brown and Company — along with Gloria Steinem as style icon, chocolate-based new year’s resolutions, and fantasies of decamping to a Parisian garret to write.
What is your elevator pitch to folks in the industry describing your book?
The Futures is about a young couple moving to New York City on the eve of the 2008 market crash. Evan works at a hedge fund, where he gets caught up in a high-stakes deal, and Julia is drifting, unsure what she’s doing with her life. It’s a story about how they wind up betraying each other, and themselves, in that tumultuous year.
What you tell your relatives it’s about?
The same thing, except I reassure them that it’s not autobiographical!
How long was this project marinating in a draft or in your head before it became a book deal?
I graduated from college in 2010, and the idea came to me — and then gradually started to take shape — in that first year out of college. I began the very first, very rough draft of the book in April 2012. I had a finished draft about three years later, in early 2015, and I had a book deal by July 2015.
Name a canonical book you think is totally overrated.
I never could get into The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser.
A book you’ve read more than two times.
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov.
A book or other piece of art that influenced your writing for this particular project.
Liar’s Poker and The Big Short by Michael Lewis. The movie Margin Call.
What’s your favorite show to binge watch when you’re not writing?
The Americans, Veep, Game of Thrones, The Leftovers, House of Cards, Homeland. Also Mad Men and 30 Rock and The Newsroom, RIP. But maybe my favorite show EVER is The Great British Baking Show.
What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?
Moonlight. It was absolutely incredible.
Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what kind?
Usually I listen to jazz — anything with words I find distracting. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis is my standby.
Who is your fashion icon?
I don’t know that I’m stylish enough to claim one, but I might have to say Gloria Steinem. She has perfected this way of dressing: black pants, black shirt, and always an amazing belt or accessory. It is such an elegant, chic, and sensible approach.
If you could buy a house anywhere in the world just to write in, where would it be?
Paris! Preferably a garret apartment with beautiful light and a view out over the rooftops, and an excellent patisserie on the corner for the necessary writing breaks.
What did you initially want to be when you grew up?
My dad was a magazine editor when I was little, and I thought that was a cool-sounding job. That, or president, so I could boss everyone around.
Did you have a new year’s resolution for 2017? If so, what?
This year, I didn’t have any resolutions that I articulated and set down on paper. I find that I don’t stick with resolutions unless they are really specific and really easy to achieve. (Last year, my resolution was to eat more dark chocolate — in lieu of milk chocolate — because it was marginally healthier. I succeeded!) But my ongoing resolution, every year, is to be a kinder and more considerate person.
What freaks you out the most about four years of Donald Trump as US President?
Good lord, what doesn’t freak me out? One thing that worries me is that Americans’ distrust in government will only deepen over the next four years. So many people already regard government as broken and corrupt, and I worry that will only get worse in the coming years, leading to further partisanship and anger and extremism and isolation.
Do you prefer a buzzing coffee shop or silent library?
A silent library, because as much as I love a good coffee shop, there’s always the risk that you wind up next to someone shouting into their phone. Really, my ideal is the Quiet Car on Amtrak. It is a godsend for getting work done.
Do you write at a desk, bed or couch?
Either at my desk, or my dining table, or the couch. Never in bed! Bed is for reading and wasting time on Instagram.
Is morning writing or late-night writing your go-to-time?
Morning writing. I’m mentally fresh at that hour. Usually I’m too wiped out and brain-dead at night to write anything halfway decent.
Do you tend towards writing it all out in one big messy draft and then editing, or perfecting as you go (or something in between)?
Something in between. I try to keep the forward momentum as I’m writing, and not get stuck revising yesterday’s work. But sometimes, if I’m feeling reluctant to start writing that day, I’ll begin by re-reading the last few pages. I can’t resist tinkering and improving it, and by then I’m back in it, and the reluctance is gone.
How do you pay the bills, if not solely by your pen and your wit?
I work full-time as an editor at Random House.
What is your trick to finding time to write your book while also doing the above?
Getting up early and writing before work. Also, being selfish with my time. Sometimes that means turning down social obligations so I can get to bed early and write the next morning, or blocking off entire weekends for myself. When I was in the final stretch of finishing my first novel, I didn’t do much besides write, work, eat, and sleep.
If you could write fanfiction about any pop culture character, real or imagined, who would it be?
I want someone to write a deeply interior, emotionally charged, Ferrante-eseque novel about the life of Kim Kardashian.
Care to give us a few sentences of micro-fiction about that character?
Oh man, I tried but I give up! I’m not up for this task, though I wish I were.