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‘How Could She’ author Lauren Mechling on NYC writing spots, drawing inspiration from the city

"How Could She: A Novel" by Lauren Mechling.
"How Could She: A Novel" by Lauren Mechling. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A Canadian girl moves to the big city, swayed by swanky jobs, seemingly successful friends and illustrious rooftop parties. But relocating to New York is not always the smoothest move, as protagonist Geraldine discovers in Lauren Mechling’s novel, "How Could She," which is equal parts hilarious, biting and gritty in the ways you crave for a summer page-turner. For July’s author spotlight, the 41-year-old Gowanus resident shares how bank lobbies, overhearing loud and ironic startup chatters and New York City helped shape her novel.

What inspired you to write this novel?

It didn’t come from a "looking for an idea for a book" place, but I had an obsession on the way that women treat each other. Before, I’d written high concept, plot-driven YA. In my off hours, I was thinking a lot about what was going on in my relationships. Exiting my twenties and entering my thirties was sort of a very heavy period for a lot of people in my social cohort, in terms of changes in our lives and our interpersonal relationships. We had to reorient ourselves around our new situations. Suddenly, I was someone with a baby. I was Interested in how we reacted, and love, loyalty and resentment.

What made you want to set a story about women and relationships in New York?

New York is such a wonderful canvas for stories about ambition and insecurity. I’m also a native New Yorker. I don’t think the story would have worked in Cleveland or Santa Barbara. New Yorkers are people who will do whatever they need to do in a relentless city.

How does living in New York influence your writing?

Wandering around the streets, I’ll listen to people. It’s very exotic. I usually just live within my phone. I’ll sometimes emerge from the subway and feel like a foreigner because New York is changing. My writing is social commentary and satire and I like observing the energy of people around me, like a person screaming on the phone at her mother about an Apple watch that she doesn’t want. Or listening to people cooking up a business plan that’s disruptive but feminist. I just walk around and be a little creepy and eavesdrop.

Where in New York do you like to write?

I go to a coworking space and can write at home, but I live with people who are children, so that’s hard sometimes. I wrote this book in a lot of different places. There was a period where I was very, very busy and I wasn’t in any place to be writing a book. I had a full-time job. I carried my computer everywhere with me and would sit somewhere for like ten minutes and write, like the lobby of the Chase bank in Brooklyn Heights. I love public libraries too. If I need to be somewhere else, I’ll take the subway to the 42nd Street Library. I’ve sat in a bunch of strange hotel lobbies while writing this book.

Any book recommendations for New Yorkers this summer?

This is an LA book but it’s a kindred spirit to New York. It’s called "You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again" by Julia Phillips, a big Hollywood producer in the ’80s. It’s so ferocious. It’s chutzpah on a page. This woman lives very dangerously and ambitiously. She has an amazing memory and describes meeting Erica Jong and Madonna, in a way that appeals to ambitious New Yorkers. She’s a big Hollywood someone. It’s amazing. I started it thinking it would just be campy fun, but it’s literally blazing.

What are you working on next?

I’m starting a new novel, but I’m not ready to talk about it. The city will be big character.

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