Camille Perri is the author of the new novel The Assistants. She has been a books editor for Cosmopolitan and Esquire, and was the assistant to the editor in chief of Esquire. She also has worked as a reference librarian and has ghostwritten young adult novels.
Q: You’ve worked as an assistant--how did your own experiences factor into the writing of The Assistants?
A: A lot of the book came from my own experiences or funny work-related horror stories fellow assistants shared with me. However, for the sake of humor and entertainment value, I blew up many of those real events and experiences tenfold. I wanted this book to be just like real life, but a little more fun than real life.
Q: Money, specifically student loan debt, is a major theme in the novel. How have readers related to that theme, and do you see the book appealing to a specific demographic, or not necessarily?
A: I’ve found that many people are itching to talk about money. Perhaps because we’re conditioned to think of money-talk as impolite, or because so many of us are stressed out about our finances, or ashamed of being in debt. I do think the book has resonated most with twenty- and thirtysomethings—women especially.
Q: At the corporation where your character Tina works, the assistants are female and almost all the executives are men. How would you describe the gender dynamics in the novel?
A: You are correct in this observation and that was a conscious choice on my behalf. I wanted the gender dynamics in the novel to illustrate many of the challenges women still face when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. And yet, the plot of the novel is very much focused on female empowerment.
Q: Did you plan out the book’s structure before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: Yes. I am a big fan of outlines and of classic plot structure. Even so, I rewrote so many drafts of this novel, many things changed along the way!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on my next novel, which at the moment I’m calling When Katie Met Cassidy. It’s a romantic comedy about two women.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Yes, an Assistants movie is in the works. Miranda Bailey at Cold Iron Pictures has bought the rights and I am currently at work on the screenplay. I couldn't be more excited about this.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb