Author Courtney Maum on Tompkins Square Park, Benedict Cumberbatch, and celebrity book reviews
East Village This summer is looking especially bright for Courtney Maum. After 10 years of being on the New York City writing scene, her debut novel, “I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You,” is being released on June 10th.
Set in Paris, where Maum herself lived after college and still resides part time, it follows an artist who has fallen out of love with his wife, only to learn his mistress is getting married.
The East Village resident, who can be found writing on her balcony or inside City Bakery, has chosen to keep her book launch party, at Powerhouse Arena, close to home by having Ray’s Candy Store, which is a legend in her neighborhood, provide the snacks.
Apple and Fodor’s, to name only two, sang your book’s praises. Were you expecting all those accolades?
Oh, of course not. [Laughs] The thing is, I’ve been trying to get published for a long time, and I have a decade of rejections behind me. So when the book sold, for me, that was kind of it. I had absolutely no expectations, which I think was a good thing. I work outside out of academia, I don’t have an MFA or anything, so I didn’t even know what I should be expecting. So all the good news we have is just wonderful, really.
I read that you were 25 when you first wrote the book, and were living in France. What brought you there?
I studied abroad in Paris and like you can fall in love with a person, I think you can fall in love with a city. It just felt like the right place for me and I wanted to try to actually live there. And by the time I graduated, I actually had a French boyfriend, so it made it easier to go back. That being said, we broke up almost immediately after arriving. But I just stayed, since I didn’t go there for him.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Connecticut, and my dad commuted to New York every day. Growing up, New York, to me, was a place that you went to live when you were an adult and smelled like cologne and had a money clip. [Laughs]
Now you have an apartment in the East Village. What are your favorite places in your neighborhood?
I pretty much don’t leave the two blocks around my apartment. I love Barnyard, which is on 9th and C. I get everything – fine meats, cheese, olives. And ABC Beer opened up on 7th and C. And then I love getting a latte at Ninth Street Espresso, that’s right across from my apartment. And walking in Tompkins Square dog park and just watching people be in love with their pets.
Your first job was at Maxim, right?
My first job was at Maxim, yes it was. Oh my goodness! I was the only female intern and they had these scorecards up in the hallway that anyone in the company could add their comments to. It was separated into things like “attitude,” “dress,” “stamina” and we got public grades. I loved it. I worked for the entertainment division there. It was really fun. Most of my jobs were in New York because I had to support myself while I was writing. So I worked at Maxim in New York, then I worked in fashion PR at Kaleidoscope Consulting, we did all the PR for Thom Browne. From there, I went to Victoria’s Secret, and I’m still working for Interbrand, which is right near Union Square.
When you took that job, you vowed to go to a reading series every night.
The rent on the East Village apartment was, and still is, so expensive, that I said to myself, because I was living in the Berkshires from Friday until Sunday, that I need to make it worth my literal while. And so I pledged to myself that every single night I was in New York, I would go to one reading series and introduce myself to one person there. It worked, I met people. Then I participated in reading series like H.I.P. Lit, Literary Death Match, Sunday Salon, Steamboat Humor Series, Real Characters at McNally Jackson, The How I Learned Series, Freerange Nonfiction, and Franklin Park.
In the book, you made Lisa, the other woman, an American journalist.
Well I wanted to have someone American in the book. I really wanted Richard to be British, and I wanted Anne to be French. When you’re living in Europe, Americans are seen as highly optimistic and energetic people, and I think of Lisa as that type of person. I mean, I had to get a little bit of myself in there, and I’m American.
If there was a movie version, who would you want to play the main characters?
Okay, as if I hadn’t thought about this. [Laughs] So, Lisa is Jennifer Lawrence. She’s a little young, but it will take time for the movie to come out. Richard is Benedict Cumberbatch, the guy from [the BBC series] “Sherlock.” And Anne, if it’s a truly French cast, then Marion Cotillard would be good. Otherwise, Natalie Portman.
You write the Celebrity Book Reviews on the site Electric Literature. Explain them to our readers.
I impersonate a celebrity reviewing a book that has recently come out. The very first one was John Mayer reviewing Jeffrey Eugenides’ “The Marriage Plot.” And it goes back and forth between highbrow and lowbrow. I also did Michael Dell, of Dell computers, reviewing Steve Jobs’ biography. That was one of my favorites.
More from Courtney
On July 16th, Courtney will be at Word for Word Reading Series at Bryant Park Reading Room
Follow Courtney on Twitter: @cmaum
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