EASY MONEY Q & A


  Half of Barbara Wright's first novel came over the Algonquin transom and the editor assumed it was a sample, rather than a formal submission.  "It's good," her editor told her on the phone.  "Send the rest."
	"I haven't written the rest yet," she replied.
	"Hmmm.  I see," her editor said.
	The novel is finished now, and Easy Money will appear on Algonquin's list in April.  We asked her to bring us up to date.


Q.  Now that your novel is about to come out, what are you writing?

A.  I'm working on screenplays with a partner, former New York Times reporter Lydia Chavez, and on another novel.

Q.  Screenplays, eh?  Anything we've heard of?

A.  Well, we recently finished one for Oliver Stone about Fidel Casto's mistress, a woman whom the CIA later sent to assassinate him, which is all I can really tell you.  I don't know whether it will be made into a film or get shelved.  A lot of it will depend on whether he can interest anyone in the idea.

Q.  Did you meet Stone?

A.  We met with him at the beginning of the project—he gave us direction, and then we worked with the head of the production company from there on.  If the film is made, he'll get more involved.

Q.  Screenwriting must be a lot different from writing fiction.

A.  Oh, completely different.  With a screenplay everything is structured.  There is no self-discovery.  With a novel, as you write you discover what you're writing about.  But in screenwriting, because everything has to "work out," it's very different.  There are many more people involved, and everybody has a different idea about what you should do.  You're also thinking about how it will play—what the stars will think about when they're playing a certain role, what the director will think about in staging it, what the audience will think about when it goes on screen.  You have to consider all of that.  With a novel, you just write it and hope it will speak to someone.

Q.  How long did it take you to write Easy Money?

A.  I guess it's been about six years.

Q.  Has it changed much since you started?

A.  It's changed tremendously.  When I started I had a vague idea of what was going to happen, but I wasn't sure.  I started with the character and the setting and just decided to see where it went from there.

Q.  How would you describe the book?

A.  It's a growing-up story.  Jay Winbourne is eighteen, a talented, artistic young woman whose hopes for college are dashed when her father loses all his money in options trading.  She goes off to New York City to make her own way, where she meets a jazz pianist who has a lot of the same problems her father has, but in ways she doesn't yet know how to recognize.

Q.  What was the inspiration?

A.  I got interested in writing fiction when I was working for Esquire magazine.  The book has been through so many changes since I started, I guess it was the character that kept me going.  There's a lot of me in her, though it's not autobiographical.  But I had to draw on things that I knew.

Q.  How is Jay like you?

A.  She's very curious, very adventurous.  And a lot of that is me.

Q.  So did you do what Jay does in the book?  Did you run away from home and go to New York City.

A.  I didn't go under those circumstances.  I'd finished college and I'd lived in Korea for a while, where I taught writing and edited a hotel magazine about Korean culture.  So I wasn't that young.  But I shared with Jay a lot of the feelings of being in a new place and trying to make it.  When I first went, I got a job with Esquire as a fact checker.  Like most everyone else starting out in the city, I was paid very little money

Q.  Jay comes to the city from "the provinces"—like you did.  In her case, it's Colorado.  In your case it's High Point, North Carolina.  What do you remember most about your own transition?

A.  First of all, the sense of feeling out of place, of not being sophisticated, and of seeing all around me people who were more sophisticated, more accomplished.  It was humbling, but, at the same time also very exciting and stimulating.  The challenge was how to fit in so that I was no longer an outsider.

Q.  And did you?

A.  Yes, and it was wonderful.  I'm really glad I did it, and I would never have left if I hadn't gotten married to someone who lived in Denver.  But I look back very fondly on those early days.  There's something about not being jaded that you can't regain.  There's a freshness, a clarity, a lack of pretension to what you see.  But at the same time you're getting used to a new place and finding out who you are, how you fit in.

Q.  Jay eventually learns to draw on her family and her background to help her get through hard times.  Was it like that for you?

A.  When I was first there I saw my background as something I had to overcome.  I was too caught up in fitting in to recognize it as an advantage.  But I came to see that people who come from strong families are more grounded.  The small-town background teaches you the value of personal communication.  I realize now I had a certain strength that came from family.

Q.  So, a sense of family is important in the novel?

A.  Definitely.  It helps Jay get through her troubles.  If she didn't have that she would end up much differently—particularly coming to the city alone and not knowing anybody.  That was certainly my experience.


						--Robert Alden Rubin
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