Sunday, November 1, 2020

Q&A with Elizabeth Topp


Elizabeth Topp is the author of the new novel Perfectly Impossible. She lives in Manhattan.


Q: How much of Anna's experience in Perfectly Impossible was drawn from your own work as a personal assistant?


A: All of it! But that doesn’t mean that it is in any way nonfiction or I experienced those exact circumstances events. Many of the characters are amalgams to the point of being complete fiction and certainly MOST of the scenarios are extraordinary by design. But the gist… the gist is real.


Q: You write, "When I was writing, my intention was to share the inner sanctum of a different world, but what I couldn’t have known was how much this book could serve as an escape back to a time when frivolousness was still possible." What do you think will change for the people whose lifestyles you write about in the novel?


A: For most excessively wealthy people, the pandemic has been inconvenient and dreadfully boring, but will ultimately change little for those who can hold onto their fortunes. The question is: how many of them can do just that?


In the same way that industrialization, a depression, and ultimately Progressive reforms meant an end for the Downton Abbey way for life, I imagine the Von Bizmarks and those like them will likely endure a great culling, which will make way for new wealth to take seed and ultimately those will grow into the 22nd century's Von Bizmarks in 100 years.


So more than anything, it will just be an infusion of fresh blood into the uber wealthy set. That, or the end of capitalism.


Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I knew exactly how the book was going to end because for me it’s the most cathartic part of the story. There’s a tradition in these  “becoming a real grown-up” stories, and that is the shedding of one’s “day job” to pursue one’s passion instead.


But this is both an unlikely and unnecessary outcome for an artist. While certainly appealing, endless swaths of time are not always the best recipe for actually writing. Personally, I need a little compression to get things cooking.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: More than anything, I hope this gives the reader a much-needed laugh. Plus a sense of glamour in the day-to-day and in the personalities that populate our lives. A lessening of envy for those with more, because there is always someone with more and they could easily be miserable. I’d also add that this book is for anyone who has ever pursued creative endeavors while also working.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m a few chapters into a new novel—tentatively titled Houseguest—about the best veterinarian on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Dr. Helen Shaughnessy. After her beloved Husky, Angus, dies, Helen is free to accept her clients’ weekend invitations to various second homes in the Northeast’s most rarefied summer enclaves.


Shenanigans of the human and canine variety ensue as Helen comes to terms with whether or not she has the chutzpah to open her own practice.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I so appreciate you for conducting this interview! Also, anyone who has read my novel: thank you!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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