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Q & A with Eugenie Seifer Olson
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With her latest book The Pajama Game freshly arrived at your local bookstore, Eugenie Seifer Olson took time to answer some questions about books and writing.

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Pop Culture Palace: Your second novel 'The Pajama Game' has just been published. Tell me a little bit about the premise and how it compares to your previous book, Babe in Toyland.

ESO: The new book is about a middle school science teacher named Moxie who is unable to handle the pressures of teaching, quits, and ends up taking a job managing a lingerie store in the mall. While working there, she develops a love interest, but all is not as it seems – either in his life or hers, unbeknownst to her.

The Pajama Game is very different from Babe in Toyland, in that the main character is a bit older and more sure of herself. There are also fewer characters, but deeper relationships among those characters. Finally, Babe in Toyland read as a love letter to the city of Philadelphia, and in The Pajama Game, it's Boston.

PCP: According to your bio, you come from a graphic design background. How did you transition from that into writing and what led you to delve into writing fiction?

ESO: I was a graphic designer and then a toy designer for a while, but I always loved to tell stories and write short stories. The turning point came when I was looking to leave the toy business and learned of a kids' consumer health Web site that was just getting off the ground. They needed someone who knew about creating product for kids, and I began by doing some design consultation and writing kids’ articles on spec. Eventually I was hired to do freelance writing, and then was brought on as a staff editor. From there, I started writing more fiction in my off-hours, and the idea for Babe in Toyland was born in the summer of 1999.

PCP: You don't seem to have a problem with describing your books as ChickLit. What's your take on the genre - just a trend or an evolution? How do you think it differs from other "women's fiction" especially, for example, things you might have grown up reading?

ESO: I think it’s both. It began as a trend, certainly, but is starting to evolve into something else. As the chick-lit authors grow older as a group, they are naturally tackling more serious subjects – marriage, relationships, childrearing, even widowhood. It may still be referred to as chick lit as a genre, but it is starting to overlap with more traditional women’s fiction, in terms of subject matter and storytelling styles.


PCP: What are your reading habits like now? Do you approach a book differently than you did prior to being published yourself?

ESO: I have always read a lot of non-fiction, and I still do. My favorite author, Bill Bryson, writes travel books. I also went through a bizarre phase where I was reading a lot of books about science. I enjoy fiction, as well; I recently finished “Ask Me Anything” and “Little Children.”

I definitely approach fiction differently now than I did before I was published myself. For one thing, I find myself constantly comparing my own work to the book I’m reading, thinking, “Why can’t I write it as well as that?” I also notice problems with editing, consistency, and word choice a LOT more. Because I’m a real stickler for those things in my own stuff, it really leaps right off the page at me.

PCP: In your first two books, the main character works in a field inspired by a past job of yours. Any worries about running out of amusing anecdotes or are you constantly on the lookout?

ESO: Well, I wouldn’t say I’m worried, but it’s certainly more challenging to describe a job that you haven’t had. But I am always on the lookout, always eavesdropping on conversations and keeping my eyes and ears wide open. I think you have to do this anyway as a writer, pay attention to what’s happening around you, because you never know what you could use in a story.

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PCP: Although a writer isn't quite the same as a Hollywood celebrity, there are still strangers all over the world getting involved in these stories you've created. Is this something you think about and, I guess more importantly, is it something you think about when you're writing?


ESO: I don’t really think about it when I’m writing, other than to think about the fact that I want the book to be enjoyable and entertaining for the reader. It is a little weird to think that readers out there know my name, and I’ll never know theirs. I do have a couple of fans who email me periodically, and that is very rewarding.


PCP: Who do you imagine is out there picking up your books and what would you like for them to take away from reading one?

ESO: I imagine that people picking up my books are a bit like me and my girlfriends: a bit quirky and looking for a good story that features a heroine they can relate to and cheer for.

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