I’m pleased to introduce everyone to one of the books I’ve talked the most about this summer, and by talking I mean to real people in real conversations in physical locations—not online. Just today I was talking about dog rentals, the run-pee app that tells you the best times during a movie to go to the bathroom, and self driving cars that come equipped with coffee machines.
On the other hand, my kids are always begging me to put my phone down. It is always buzzing me for some reason—app notifications and breaking news and occasionally cute videos of my nephews. How many hours do I spend staring at one screen or another, and at what cost? A chat used to be something done in a grocery store or on a sidewalk, now chatting is generally taken to mean voiceless communication done with fingers. It seems as if everyone is chatting IRL and online about the tractor beam hold screens have over our lives, and whether intimacy is the price of technology, or is enhanced by it. If you are wondering if we are headed towards further isolation and a “post-touch” society, read on.
Sloane Jacobsen is the most powerful trend forecaster in the world, and her recent forecasts are unwavering: the world is overpopulated, and having children is an extravagant indulgence.
So it’s no surprise when the tech giant Mammoth hires the woman who predicted “the swipe” to lead their groundbreaking annual conference celebrating the voluntarily childless and their growing reliance on technology. But soon Sloane begins to sense the undeniable signs of a movement against smart devices that will see people embracing compassion, empathy, and “in-personism” again. She’s worried that her predictions are hopelessly out of sync with her employer’s mission (and that her closest personal relationship is with her self-driving car) when her French “neo-sensualist” partner publishes an op-ed on the death of penetrative sex—which instantly goes viral…
You can buy the book here, or enter our give-away to win a copy of TOUCH. To enter, simply retweet us or share our post from Facebook. We will select and contact the very lucky winner on October 6,2017 (US Only).
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) September 30, 2017
Virtual interview with Courtney Maum:
The road to publication is twisty at best–tell us about some of your twists.
My first novel, I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN HERE WITHOUT YOU, was originally called THE BLUE BEAR. I wrote it when I was 24 years old and living in Paris. I very quickly got an agent for it, and an editor, as well. It felt like all my dreams were coming true, and so quickly! I edited the manuscript for my editor at Doubleday over the summer—we had planned to meet in the fall when I would—coincidentally—be moving to New York. About a week before our meeting, this editor emailed my agent to say that she was terribly sorry, and that this wasn’t at all professional, but she’d changed her mind. I was absolutely gob smacked. I was too young and green then to know that you have to have a publishing contract to have things set in stone. We had had phone calls and emails and I’d been revising the manuscript per her wishes—I mean, she was calling me on my cell all the way across the Atlantic—I had no reason to doubt her intentions. My agent assured me that she was the first person who had seen it—that it would sell to someone else in no time at all. It was, instead, refused by 18 other editors. It didn’t sell until ten years later, when I was on my third literary agent, and I had re-written the book over from scratch. In the ten years between its first chance at publication and its actual publication, I moved on, of course. I wrote many other things, some published, most not. I always assumed that THE BLUE BEAR would stay in this little black box where I keep unpublished manuscripts. It took a lot of hard work and fortitude to get it out of that box!
What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?
The easiest is that I get to set my own schedule and I’m doing what I love. I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate because of this. The hardest is not really having colleagues. Certainly, when I have a book finished, I’m in touch with the people at my publisher quite a bit, and on the phone a lot with my agent, but the years in between when I am trying to work on something new are very silent ones. I would say that in general, this dichotomy between what is essentially solo, quiet work and the very loud and public work to promote the book once it’s finished is the hardest thing about being an author. You’re constantly going back and forth between feeling totally invincible or absolutely vulnerable. And, on a more practical level, not having health insurance from an employer is the pits.
What three things would you want with you if stranded on a desert island?
Yorkshire Blend tea (and something to heat the water for the tea with), my daughter, and “Infinite Jest” because I still haven’t finished it and I probably would have enough time on the island to get that done. Also, I would really need a pad of paper and a pen. Or just a pen—I could write inside of “Infinite Jest.”
What’s your next big thing? (new book, new project, etc.)
I’m working on adapting my chapbook, “Notes from Mexico” into a novel. It’s really hard because it’s written in a more experimental style than my other books, and so I have to learn to stay relaxed and just trust my instincts and play with language, without freaking out that I might be writing something “non-commercial” that my agent won’t want to try and sell. This project really demands that I find my way into the pure joy of writing again without thinking about any of the publishing industry questions that could derail this fragile process. I’m also looking ahead to planning the third year of the collaborative, interdisciplinary retreat I founded in Connecticut, called The Cabins. We bring artists, musicians, writers, dancers, filmmakers and other creatives together for a long weekend to learn from each other and get out of our creative silos. It’s in this gorgeous part of Connecticut on a lake—we usually do it in the summer but I’m tempted to try a winter retreat this year. Ice skating, anyone?
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
All of my jobs have been strange! But the strangest was probably the three years I spent as a party promoter for Corona Extra in Paris. Strange for a number of reasons—I don’t particularly like Corona as a beverage, and I’m not really the party promoting type, but the French company that distributes Corona offered me a Visa—they really wanted an American to portray the “beach” lifestyle, which is hysterical, because although I love the beach, I’m a Type A Virgo, not the easy-breezy, surfer girl type at all. I drove around France in this yellow and blue Coronamobile filled with beer and inflatable bottles of Corona. I also had a fleet of hosts and hostesses in neon catsuits who would come when I called to dance on tables. I mean this literally—I had a hotline for them. I would call the hotline and they’d meet me at whatever bar in their horrid catsuits and jump up on the tables. It was quite a time.
Courtney Maum is the author of the novel Touch, a NY Times Editor’s Choice, and one of Publisher’s Weekly Buzz Books for 2017. Previous works include the acclaimed novel I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, and the chapbook Notes from Mexico. Her short fiction, book reviews, and essays on the writing life have been widely published in outlets such as The New York Times, O Magazine, Tin House, Electric Literature, and Buzzfeed, and she has co-written films that have debuted at Sundance and won awards at Cannes. At various points in her life, she has been a trend forecaster, a fashion publicist, and a party promoter for Corona Extra. She currently works as a product namer for M·A·C cosmetics and other companies from her home in Litchfield County, CT, where she founded the multidisciplinary creative retreat, The Cabins.
Find Courtney on the Web: