Brooklyn Heights-based Camille Perri’s second novel, “When Katie Met Cassidy,” hits shelves June 19. amNewYork caught up with the author of “The Assistants,” 39, to chat about her summer reading list, her writing process and how New York City inspires her storytelling.
What’s on your summer reading list?
I’m currently reading Jessica Knoll’s “The Favorite Sister” and I just finished Jennifer Armstrong’s “Sex and the City and Us.” I really, really enjoyed it. Sometimes you don’t always know if you’ll get into a nonfiction book about TV, but I loved it. I also have a few galleys that I’m hoping to blurb this summer. I’m most excited about Sarah Weinman’s “The Real Lolita,” which is nonfiction about the kidnapping of Sally Horner.
Where do you like to buy, or borrow, your books?
I’ve basically moved into Books Are Magic, Emma Straub’s bookstore in Cobble Hill. One of the best parts of living in my neighborhood is having that bookstore within walking distance to my house, to attend events and buy books.
Where do you like to write?
I do most of my writing in coffee shops. I wrote most of “The Assistants” at a pie shop called The Blue Stove in Williamsburg. Since I moved, I now set up shop in a Cobble Hill cafe called Swallow, I love writing there. I’m pretty much a regular now. Most of the staff has learned my name, they don’t really have a choice since they see me every day. If I’m not writing there, I’m writing at home in my apartment. On a long writing day, I’ll go over to Clover Club before it gets crowded, have the bartender make me a spicy margarita, and do an hour or two of work.
Both of your novels take place in New York. How does writing in this city inspire you?
I’ve written two very New Yorky novels, not even by design. I wanted to set my books in New York because I’ve lived here most of my life. Getting to write the city is so much fun, not only for setting, but for characterization. How a person interacts with this city and reacts to it, whether you’re a newcomer or a native, the different ways that you adapt to New York living says so much about a person. That’s really interesting to me, in addition to all the fun stuff, like writing about cool restaurants.
How do you fictionalize New York as it appears in your novels?
In my first book, I was using names of real places and I didn’t realize how long it takes for a book to come out. Unfortunately some of the places that I had written about [early on] so dearly had closed and I had to go back and change them. Nothing lasts forever in New York, that’s one thing we all know about this city. So for this book, the main place is the bar, Metropolis, where the characters all hang out. It’s based partially on The Metropolitan, which is a bar in Williamsburg that I frequented for many years, but in the book the bar is in Manhattan, so it’s really a composite of a number of bars; I used my favorite parts of each of them to create Metropolis.
Do you ever face writer’s block, and what do you do about it?
I don’t believe writer’s block is a thing. I think we love to label stuff because it makes us feel like we have some sort of control over it if we call it a thing. If I’m struggling with my writing at any given moment that usually means I need to get out and walk away from a screen for a little while and go outside, get some fresh air, exercise or see a friend and come back with fresh eyes. The other thing that may happen is that I’m focused too much on output rather than input; I need to bring some sort of inspiration into myself in order to get over whatever challenges I’m facing in the text. Writing is hard. That’s the process. But no, I don’t think writer’s block is a thing.