Interview with Lianne Stokes

One thing I love about being a memoirist is supporting other memoirists! I find that there is something uniquely powerful about the sharing of our stories and life journeys. So it makes me very happy to introduce another memoir in the guest chair today, Lianne Stokes. Lianne’s debut, Below Average, hit shelves in September of this year.

Below Average reveals the untold story of the generation of women in between Sex and the City and Girls: just swap the Manolos for tall cans, the selfies for shame–and throw in a marginally insane Vietnam Vet father. Every girl who feels like she doesn’t measure up will feel less alone after reading Below Average, the story of how Lianne Stokes, a thirty-year-old virgin–and an unwelcome third in an interoffice love triangle–failed her way through the sexiest advertising agencies in New York City. If sex sells, then this memoir about not having sex could be a real knockout.

I think this review by Royal Young is spot-on awesome: Her hilarious, outrageous and sharply smart debut memoir Below Average is the new bible for anyone who has ever doubted themselves only to come out on top.”

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

I don’t recommend anyone get into it for the fame, and especially not for the money. Don’t look at writing as a career choice. Write because it’s what you’re most passionate about doing. Start writing because if you didn’t- you’d be miserable. Live the most interesting life you can, because that’s where all the juice is, fact or fiction. The best writing is raw and truthful. Words should make people laugh hysterically, cringe, and cry. Epic writing comes from the heart and happens when you’re not trying to be someone you’re not.


What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?

Writing non-fiction you’re not supposed to protect yourself. The mission is to share what about you is interesting enough to read. Exposing the most embarrassing or secretive aspects of your life seems hard, it’s easy in comparison to putting other characters out there. At least for me. When I was younger I did stand up in New York City. I was a brash broad. I didn’t tell dirty jokes, but I was a provocative boundary pusher. As I matured, I still was full of sass, but more private. I started to worry more about what people thought about me. When I published the book I was terrified that my parents would be mad about my writing about them. My father is a narcissist, so he’s excited to be portrayed in anything. But my mother is a businesswoman and not openly vulnerable in public. I was just really worried about letting my parents down. To the rest of the characters, I portrayed them accurately through my lens and my experiences with them. If they don’t like how they’re painted, they should change their behavior.


Have you ever met someone you idolized?  What was it like? 

Joan Rivers. When she died the first thing I did was give Yorkville Endoscopy one star on Yelp. I couldn’t get out of bed for two days. I was shocked and devastated. She was a hero of mine from my teenage years. I remember sitting on the floor of my mother’s immaculate kitchen eating Ellio’s frozen pizza and watching her talk show on CBS while the other kids played after school sports like lacrosse and filed hockey. I met her in 2007 after her at a show at The Cutting Room. She was my surrogate Jewish grandmother who understood me in my suburban town where I felt like a misfit. I told her, “I got fat watching you.” She laughed. She asked me where I do stand up and said, “I’ll come!” She was so genuine and excited about female comics because it was her who paved the way. Her motto was, “Put all your jewelry on, then remove one piece.” She taught me that too much was never enough.


What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?

As an often-out- of-work writer I’ve has a lot of jobs. Most of them I’ve been fired from. In 2005 I had a brief reception gig in the West Village and I remember the guy sheepishly saying, “We don’t ask for much, but you do need to answer the phones with the correct name of the company.” Then I temped at this horrible place in the Garment District. They sold cheap costume jewelry to retailers like Claire’s and Rainbow. The staff was small and made up of the owner’s children and this petulant gay guy who was also an evil pill head. One day while I was arranging 10 cent dangly earrings some misguided tween would spend her allowance on, the owners daughter looked at me and said, “Do you believe you have a job like this?” Even she was embarrassed. But I never had to clean a toilet that wasn’t my own. That, I’m grateful for.


What’s your next big thing?  (new book, new project, etc.) 

Developing a comedy web series loosely based on life after the book. It’s really about how we spend so much time pleasing others, or building to heightened expectations that will never deliver because they’re not real. I’m a champion for underdogs and preacher of authenticity. I tell people that they don’t have to march to some societal timeline. Don’t feel like a weirdo because you’re the only single one. You don’t have to feel ashamed if you’re broke when everyone around you is buying $250 moisturizer. You’re not a failure because you’e figuring things out. It’s a show about the upside of not being what other people label as successful. We’re all been there and it’s the times that seem dark, that build us.


Thanks for joining us, Lianne!

Lianne Stokes has written for The Rumpus,Hello Giggles, and Interview. Her essays have appeared in The Drinking Diaries and Rejected: Tales of the Failed, Dumped and Canceled. Her hobbies include alcohol and crushes on unavailable Jewish men.

You can find here on Snapchat (@SweetLianne) and Twitter (@SweetLianne). Be sure to pick up a copy of her hilarious memoir, Below Average here!

Author: Lynn K Hall

Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

3 Replies to “Interview with Lianne Stokes”

  1. Lynn, Thanks for sharing your interview with Lianne. LIANNE, I can SO relate to how devastated you were when learning Joan Rivers died! She was my first interview as an entertainment reporter. I remember little Spike coming in first and sniffing me and laying down by my feet. She came in next and smiled. I knew from there it was going to be fun and I lost all my nerves! I met her many times afterwards. She was a genius, mensch and is so missed! TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENOUGH! Thank you, Lianne. Can’t wait to read your memoir!

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