We talk about the book-to-film adaptation process, and then we take a deep dive into secret societies, exclusive clubs, and how they work (or don’t). We also take a side trip into public vs private or hidden narratives, and why people want to belong.
Do you know of a secret club or exclusive society? Do you belong to one? Tell me all about it? I’m very nosy.
Thank you to Tara O’Connor for setting up this interview!
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
You can find Laura Hankin on her website, LauraHankin.com.
Curious about some of the places Laura mentioned? I’ve got LINKS.
- The design aesthetic of The Coven coworking space
- The Wing coworking space
- LA Mag: The Wing is finally open in LA
- The Cut: What Happened to The Wing
- Wikipedia: Skull and Bones
- Paragraph Coworking Space in NYC
And, of course, the two covers for A Special Place for Women:
❤ More ways to sponsor:
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Sarah Wendell: Hello there, and thank you for inviting me into your eardrums. I hope you are well and content today. I’m Sarah Wendell, and this is episode number 512 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books! My guest today is Laura Hankin. Laura is the author of Happy and You Know It, A Special Place for Women, and the upcoming book The Daydreams. The paperback of A Special Place for Women is out on May 24th and, as I learned, is being adapted for film too. We are going to talk about that process, but we are going to take a deep dive into secret societies, exclusive clubs, and how they work – or they don’t. We also take a side trip into public and private narratives and why people want to belong. I want to thank Laura for hanging out with me, and I also want to thank Tara O’Connor, her publicist, for setting up this interview.
Hello and thank you to the Patreon community! How are you today? I hope you are fabulous. Thank you so much for supporting this show. You make sure that each episode has a transcript! And that each episode arrives on schedule! (I do love a schedule.) If you would like to join the Patreon community and support this here podcast, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
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Are you ready to enter secret societies and secret clubs? Let’s do this interview: on with my conversation with Laura Hankin.
Laura Hankin: I’m Laura Hankin; I’m the author of Happy and You Know It; A Special Place for Women, which I’m also adapting for TV; and the upcoming The Daydreams!
Sarah: Wow, okay! I did not know that A Special Place for Women was being adapted for TV! What is that process like? Are you also a scriptwriter? Holy crap, that’s amazing! Congrats!
Laura: Thank you! Yeah, you know, it’s so wild talking about it, because I’m, like, in the process, but –
Laura: – who knows what will happen? I feel like making something for TV is like you have to jump through five hundred different hoops, and they’re all on fire, and at the end you have to, you know, tame a lion, and I, I’m like at the point where I’ve jumped through four hundred of the flaming hoops?
Laura: But there are still – [laughs] – a hundred to go. But it’s so fun! Like, I, I got to write this script; I have a great team of producers and a studio; and I get to kind of just do, like, the part that I really love about writing a novel, which is write dialogue and plot?
Sarah: Oh, dialogue is great!
Laura: Yes! Yes! It’s the best!
Sarah: Now, in this process – I don’t know as much about this one, but in, in this process, do you have more people giving you feedback as the script progresses than you would when you write a book and then it gets edited as a finished piece or – I mean, you might get feedback from beta readers, you might get feedback from critique partners, but with a book, goes to the editor, the editor evaluates –
Sarah: – the whole and then sends you back, like, you know, 5,812 comments in a, in a document.
Laura: [Laughs] Exactly.
Sarah: With scriptwriting, there’s more voices contributing; am I write about that?
Laura: Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean, so at this point, you know, we have maybe a couple producers and then like four people from the studio, so that’s like six people giving notes on a script – [laughs] – which is a lot.
Laura: Luckily, they’re all amazing, and they coordinate their notes beforehand so I’m not getting six totally different views. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh, how considerate! ‘Cause I don’t think –
Laura: I know!
Sarah: – that always happens that way! [Laughs]
Laura: I don’t think so either! Yeah.
Laura: And, like, if we’re lucky enough to sell it to a network, I’m sure that there’ll probably be, you know, seventy-two more people –
Laura: – from the network who give notes, so.
Sarah: Of course.
Laura: Yeah, of course!
Sarah: Well, it sounds like you’re really far along in the process; you have a studio, you have producers. That’s really exciting!
Laura: It’s so cool, Sarah! Yeah, the next step is pitching to networks, so.
Laura: You know, talk to me in a few months, and either I’ll be, like –
Sarah: Fingers crossed!
Laura: – flying high, or I’ll be like, well, that dream died. On to the next! [Laughs]
Sarah: And I noticed that the paperback of A Special Place for Women, which is about to come out, I noticed that the paperback got a, got a new cover. It’s different –
Sarah: – from the original cover. What did you think of the, of the, of the makeover for this book?
Laura: Oh my gosh, it is such a makeover. I love both of these covers, actually, and I think what’s so nice about them, they’re both designed by this woman, Emily Osborn, who is just a magician. I think they just really highlight different aspects of the book. The hardcover –
Laura: – for those who haven’t seen it, it’s like these beautiful, pink, glowing doors that seem like they could go on forever, and –
Laura: – there are all these intricate patterns on the wall, and it, it feels like it’s really sucking you in, and it’s got that whole secret club vibe to it, and –
Sarah: Yeah, it’s a little Elizabeth Arden style. Like, ooh, these doors are special, yeah.
Laura: Yeah! I think it’s also similar to, like, Glossier? I don’t really know anything about them – [laughs] – but –
Sarah: Yes! You’re right, yes.
Laura: – I’ve heard that. And the funny thing, too, actually, is that there’s another women’s co-working space called The Coven that, like, exists in real life, and somebody sent me a picture of them, and it looks just like this book cover! [Laughs] So I was like, wow.
Sarah: Oh my gosh!
Laura: Emily, the book designer, did an amazing job capturing this sort of exclusive women’s space.
Sarah: And you wouldn’t think of that as an aesthetic, but it totally is!
Laura: It totally is! And so with the paperback, you know, the interesting, wild thing about this book is that it really shifts in the middle of the book and, like, takes a turn –
Laura: – and the vibe gets real different, and I think we were really trying to hide the ball on that with the hardcover, and now with the paperback we’re like –
Laura: – screw it! [Laughs] You know, let’s let people see, see the vibe shift.
Sarah: What’s happen- – well, it, it almost, the cover of the hardcover and the paperback are almost a progression. Like, the hardcover is the door and the paperback is what’s behind the door.
Laura: Exactly! Oh, that’s such a good way to look at it. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah! So what will readers find inside this book? Because I, I’m fascinated by so many of the elements inside.
Laura: [Laughs] Well, thank you! So A Special Place for Women is about Jillian, a reporter who really desperately needs a story to save her career, and so she decides that she’s going to try to infiltrate this secret club for women only, and she’s heard all sorts of rumors about them. You know, maybe they handpicked New York City’s first female mayor; maybe they brought her down; maybe they’re like the hot female Illuminati. So she gets herself into this club, and the deeper that she’s sucked into their glamorous lives and, you know, discovers their wild secrets –
Laura: – the more she’s going to have to decide if she wants to expose them or join them.
Sarah: Right. And one of the things that happens after she joins is that she has access to an incredibly powerful network that makes her life so much easier.
Sarah: And it’s sort of like an access to a level of privilege that you don’t have to necessarily buy, but you do have to achieve by being the right person to get in in the first place.
Laura: Yeah! Yeah, and I think her beef with these women going in is she’s like, oh, they’re so elitist.
Laura: You know, they’re like, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
Laura: They, they’re so interconnected.
Laura: That’s not fair.
Laura: And then as she gets to have her own back scratched, it’s a little like, ooh, this, having your back scratched feels good!
Sarah: Wait a minute! Yeah, and it’s –
Sarah: – and it sort of plays with class too, because it, it elevates her into a very specific group or class of women, but inside that group are women of many different social stratuses.
Laura: Mm-hmm, yeah!
Sarah: So it’s both, it’s, like, both subverting and confirming class exclusivity.
Laura: Mm-hmm. Yeah. ‘Cause, you know, I, I was thinking a lot about these sorts of clubs in real life, and I –
Laura: – know so many of them are quite elitist and –
Laura: – often expensive to join. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh gosh! Oh yeah.
Laura: The dues, my God! [Laughs]
Sarah: And I am, so, I, I have so many questions about your research for secret clubs, secret societies, and how they maintain their exclusivity, because it’s tricky, right? You have to be well-known enough to be known as exclusive so people –
Sarah: – want to get in and can’t, but you not, can’t necessarily be too obvious because then everyone’s going to want to know, and everyone’s going to want to get in because they can see it. And I, and I, and you see this happen over and over, like with different levels of wealth in different places, there’s always been these very special social clubs or group clubs –
Sarah: – and sometimes it was by interest, and now there’s, like, the Soho House and all of these different, very exclusive groups that are both very public and very private. What did you learn about these societies and these clubs, and what kinds of, what, what different kinds are there?
Laura: [Laughs] Yeah! Well, so I think you might know this: this book was inspired by The Wing.
Sarah: Yes! Tell me everything! Tell me everything!
Laura: [Laughs] Okay! So for those who don’t know, The Wing was this sort of like women’s only co-working/networking space/club. I speak about it in past tense, but it still exists.
Laura: It just went through sort of a series of scandals and some backlash where it came out that, like, they were not treating their workers very well, particularly women of color.
Sarah: Shocking. Absolutely shocked I am, yes, wow.
Laura: I know! [Laughs]
Sarah: Yep. Saw that coming.
Laura: This, the CEO got pushed out. I think now it’s actually owned by a man; like, the majority stakeholder is a man? Yeah.
Laura: Such is the world, I guess. [Laughs] But, you know, I, I was living in New York, and I felt like all –
Sarah: Lots of clubs in New York. Lots of clubs in New York.
Laura: Uh-huh! [Laughs]
Laura: And I kept hearing people talking about The Wing, and they had this Instagram account that, like, I just stalked; I loved looking at it. And that, I think that’s such a fascinating thing, you talking about this line of, like, the mystery versus spreading the word. Like, that Instagram account had so many followers, but it also felt like, oh, we’re not going to follow you back, you know?
Sarah: Yes! Yes! Oh my gosh! It’s such a weird power imbalance, right?
Laura: Mm-hmm! And so a friend of mine was a member of The Wing, and she invited me to come to the clubhouse for a coffee, so I went one time, and I was so excited, ‘cause I was like, maybe I’ll go and I’ll feel like I’ve found my place, and I’ll get to be a cool girl too? And then I walked in and I was like, oh, I’m not a cool girl.
Laura: I don’t belong here! You know, I –
Sarah: So what made you feel that way? Which is not a feeling I want people to experience, that’s a crappy feeling, but what gave you that, like, oh, yeah, mm-mm, not-for-me feeling?
Laura: I think everybody just felt so, like, self-assured and so gorgeous, and, like, I, I don’t know, I walked in and I was like, are my clothes so much more wrinkled? Am I too short for this place? Like –
Sarah: Am I too short? Yes!
Laura: [Laughs] I don’t know! Okay, and, like, literally, the, the biggest thing is that I felt like I didn’t have my life at all figured out –
Laura: – and I overheard this woman talking about, like, the big struggle in her life was that it was hard dating a celebrity chef because he was never free for brunch – [laughs] – and I was just like, okay –
Sarah: Okay, time out. It’s hard dating a celebrity chef because he’s never free for brunch.
Laura: Because he has to work at the restaurant, Sarah! [Laughs]
Sarah: That’s amazing.
Sarah: Oh my gosh!
Laura: So I was just like, you know, these aren’t my problems; these aren’t my people, probably. [Laughs]
Sarah: And it’s funny because you know all of them have to have some layer of insecurity, and you, and, I mean, I would totally be the person walking in going, I have way too much cat hair on my clothing –
Sarah: – for this place, and I’d probably have like three hairs of cat hair, but it’s still three too many.
Sarah: Yeah. There’s that sort of –
Laura: Right, everybody else is, like, religiously lint-rolled or they have –
Laura: – hairless cats and –
Sarah: Or, or they have someone who lint-rolls them, or they have, like, a, I always wonder if there’s, like, a big fan in some people’s doorways that just, floop, blows –
Sarah: Like, you know when you walk into a place with air conditioning in the summer and you walk in and it’s like, whoo, I’m cold! I wonder if they just –
Sarah: – blow the pet hair off their clothes, ‘cause I can never get it all? But I, I know –
Laura: That’s probably –
Sarah: – I know that feeling of that sort of protective gloss that they, other people seem to have that you do not? [Laughs]
Laura: Yeah! But, like, the fascinating thing is that I knew that if they had just treated me differently or, like, looked at me differently and been like, ooh, you do belong here! I would have been like, great! Sign me up!
Laura: You know? [Laughs]
Sarah: So what happened when you went for coffee? What was that experience like?
Laura: I just, like, hung out with this friend for forty-five minutes, and I think she was very busy, so she had to be, like, on her phone –
Laura: – part of the time, so there was a lot of me kind of looking around, just feeling uncomfortable, and then I left and I was like, well, I think I’ve been cured of my desire to join The Wing!
Sarah: Did it, did it look particularly unique inside, or did it look like anyone’s living room?
Laura: No, I think it had that, like, very well curated, designed –
Laura: – like, millennial aesthetic –
Laura: – right, of, like, the pretty pink couches, and everything was so clean, and there were so many plants and –
Laura: – like, fun little signs of girl power slogans and stuff. [Laughs]
Sarah: Very Instagrammable, but taking a selfie of yourself with that stuff would be considered not cool.
Laura: Yeah. But if somebody else captures a picture of you while you’re, like, laughing with your mouth just perfectly ajar –
Sarah: Which never happens to me, but yes, I know what you mean.
Laura: [Laughs] Yeah! – then it’s, then it’s great; you can post that.
Sarah: It’s fascinating to me how a place like that has this, like, like we were talking about, this sort of narrative of exclusivity and, and boundary –
Sarah: – and yet they don’t survive if people don’t want to get in.
Laura: Yeah! And that’s the thing, I think; like, The Wing still exists, but I don’t know how it’s going to continue to do in the future, because I think these scandals have really hurt its reputation –
Laura: – and so, yeah. I mean, another – [laughs] – organization that I did some research on in my preparing to write this book was Skull and Bones from Yale?
Sarah: Ohhh! Speaking of Wikipedia pages, yeah!
Sarah: Okay, tell me everything.
Laura: That one feels much more secret than The Wing.
Laura: Like, there’s never going to be an Instagram page for Skull and Bones, right.
Sarah: But you know, dark academia is so hot right now! They would have The Most Popular One, you know; you just know.
Laura: Oh, a hundred percent!
Laura: Everybody who’s obsessed with, like, The Secret History by Donna Tartt would be all about it! [Laughs] But I think the fascinating thing to me from that one is that there are just so many rumors and you don’t know if any of them are really true? You know –
Laura: – there’s this rumor that, like, to get in you have to go lie down in a coffin naked and, like, talk all, like, tell all the members your sexual secrets and stuff. [Laughs] Which I assume is done for blackmail purposes, but part of me also likes thinking about it like, you know, for a while, I think they’re co-ed now, but for a while it was men only, and maybe it was a way –
Laura: – for men to be able to talk to each other about, like, intimacy and sex? Exactly.
Sarah: I love how, I love how the idea is that your darkest secrets is your sexual secrets? Like, no.
Laura: Yeah! [Laughs]
Sarah: No, other people have other kinds of dark secrets; it’s not just sex, folks! [Laughs]
Laura: Right. Murder? [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah, right?
Laura: Well, I think the other interesting thing about Skull and Bones is that just, like, how powerful the network seems to be after graduation, right?
Laura: So, like, when I was googling them – [laughs] – there was an article that was like, do you have to lie down in a coffin and tell your sexual secrets to become president of the United States? Because so many presidents or people who run for presidents –
Laura: – were part of it.
Laura: Even in like 2004 –
Laura: – Kerry and Bush, running against each other, they both had been in Skull and Bones. So it’s like, who does the secret society support in that situation?
Sarah: Yeah! And you know it’s sort of like, wow, okay. ‘Cause I’m very cynical? You know that part of my brain is like, all right, so it’s secret and it’s powerful, and I bet if you really got in you’d be like, oh, it’s gross in here and it smells like beer! Ew!
Laura: That’s – yes!
Sarah: Smells like mud, beer, and funk and shoes! Why does it smell like old shoes? What – you know –
Sarah: – you know that the reality would have to be some kind of weird let down?
Laura: I’m sure it is! There’s no way that it’s as cool inside, and you’re so right. It’s, it’s feet all over the place, probably. [Laughs]
Sarah: We are talking about college people, right?
Laura: Yeah. And a lot of people don’t –
Sarah: I mean, I remember my college dorm – ugh!
Laura: Uh-huh! [Laughs] Oh, now I’m just thinking about my college, like, communal bathroom –
Laura: So bad! [Laughs]
Sarah: The only way I think you could convince me to join a secret club is if you promise me that I will sleep better and I will have access to the most glorious bathrooms, and I’m in! I, sure, I’ll pay your dues. Absolutely. [Laughs]
Laura: That’s true. That’s a, that could be a really big seller.
Sarah: I mean, the older get, the more I just care about sleep and comfort. Like –
Laura: They’re the best; that’s all that matters is getting a good eight hours. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah, exactly?
Sarah: So what other, what other secret clubs and secret societies did you research as you developed Nevertheless, the club in your book, which by the way is a fantastic name for a club for women?
Laura: Thank you. [Laughs] Thank you! Yeah, I mean, I looked a little bit at Bohemian Grove, which is also like the, it’s the West Coast, like, fancy men’s club where it’s like a campground?
Sarah: Is that the one where Nixon was naked, allegedly?
Laura: Yeah –
Laura: – I think there was a Nixon thing there. There, like, maybe the meeting that led to developing the atomic bomb happened there, but it’s like a campground in the woods –
Laura: – where rich men go and, like, frolic around? But the interesting thing is that I feel like I, in my research, I wasn’t actually finding a lot beyond The Wing and some of these more recent clubs.
Laura: I wasn’t finding a lot of, like, women’s clubs; a lot of them were –
Laura: – men’s clubs.
Sarah: And it’s interesting –
Laura: So I was like, in this book, here we go.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah, absolutely! Now, I went to a women’s college in the South, and as a Yankee –
Sarah: – I was very much an interloper, and I learned very quickly that within that group – and it was not a large school; it was maybe, maybe eleven hundred students? It was not a big place – within that there were subgroups –
Sarah: – lots of different subgroups, and I think that’s just sort of human nature, you form subgroups, but there were very specific social rules that were unspoken and untaught that marked you as an in or out member of that group.
Sarah: But the idea, when I tell people, oh, I went to a women’s college, there’s always this moment of, oh, that’s different and interesting! Like, did you get up to things? First of all, I got up to nothing; I’m super boring. But –
Sarah: – there’s a sort of mystique that surround groups of women and secret groups of women, and it kind of intimidates the heck out of people! Have you noticed that?
Laura: Yeah! Yeah! I think everybody thinks that all the women are, like, synced up on their periods. What – yeah! I think that’s absolutely true! And I, I wonder why that is!
Sarah: I don’t know why that is either, but it, it, it plays out in your book with Nevertheless that it’s intimidating and alluring at the same time!
Laura: Yeah, and I think there is, some of that is, is this tension between, like, you know, you want to belong so badly, and you want to be seen –
Laura: – by people and, like, you know, told. Like, female friendship, to me, is one of the most beautiful things in the, in the world –
Laura: – when it’s good, right?
Laura: Like, screw romantic love. I mean, I love romantic love too, but, like –
Sarah: Oh, I hear you!
Laura: – the love in a female friendship is so, like, all-consuming and wonderful –
Laura: – and so I think these women, these women’s spaces, like, offer the possibility of that, but then there’s also, I think, this idea that women, like, know how to devastate you, you know, in this mean girl way –
Laura: – that a woman can just, like, cut down, cut your psyche to shreds – [laughs] –
Laura: – if she wants to. And so there’s that danger of that, too.
Sarah: Absolutely! Because at its heart, the enforcement of the patriarchy falls to women. We enforce it –
Sarah: – on one another.
Sarah: And it’s interesting –
Sarah: – to see a space like Nevertheless where you have women who are helping each other who are like, no, you are a member of our group. You need a place to live? I know an aunt who’s subletting an apartment, and it’s yours for like nine dollars and eighty-five cents a month. Like –
Sarah: – this kind of smoothing of the way because you are a member of the group is very beneficial, but at the same time, you know, they know all your secrets.
Laura: Mm-hmm! And there’s also, I think, this sense of, like, can these women get out of their own way and stop fighting amongst themselves? Like, what would happen –
Laura: – if they truly were able to, like, team up, expand –
Laura: – bring in other women?
Laura: Like, what would the patriarchy do then? [Laughs]
Sarah: Exactly! Oh, it’s so true, because if you erase the exclusiveness of it, becomes much more powerful.
Laura: Exactly. But then, yeah, then there’s also this whole thing about, like, safety, right. I think a lot of the reason that these women’s clubs have sprung up is this idea that, like, here you can come to be, like, safe from men and, and the people who will try to put you down and everything, and part of that is, like, controlling very heavily, like, who’s able to come in.
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. So why do you think people gravitate towards secret societies and exclusive groups? ‘Cause one of the things I was struck by with Nevertheless is that the initial process, when she was met on a street corner and then blindfolded and walked around, and she couldn’t know where it was! I’m like, this is frigging –
Sarah: – scary! This is really scary!
Sarah: Why do you think people gravitate towards these exclusive, secret things?
Laura: Yeah, I mean, I think, as we discussed a little bit earlier, like, we all do want to be chosen, and we all want to find a place where we belong, right –
Laura: – where it’s like we’ve passed the tests and people have decided that we are worthy of, like, love and acceptance and friendship.
Sarah: We have been chosen and seen and accepted, yeah.
Laura: Exactly. And then I also think there’s something about, like, sharing secrets with people really can bond you in a way that –
Sarah: Oh, that’s so true!
Laura: Yeah, right? Like, maybe I barely know somebody, but if – [laughs] – if we murder someone together and then have to keep that secret, that’s going to really bond us!
Sarah: We’re bonded. Oh yeah.
Laura: Yeah! [Laughs]
Sarah: That’s very true. I know a number of books set on that plot.
Laura: You know, like, as I was saying that I was like, oh, am I just describing the plot of We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz? Great book.
Sarah: So what, what, what is up with your new book? Tell me about your new book.
Laura: Yes! Oh my gosh, I love talking about it. Publishing is so funny in that, like, this paperback is coming out, and yet, you know, I finished writing this like two years ago –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Laura: – and so now my, my brain is so full of the new one that’s coming out next year, so –
Sarah: Tell me everything.
Laura: Great! The Daydreams is about the stars of an early 2000s musical TV show, sort of a la High School Musical, and the height of their fame they just combust spectacularly on live TV, and so now it’s thirteen years later, their careers have all gone in very different directions – surprise, surprise, the man is doing a lot better than the various women on the show.
Laura: I know! [Laughs] Real plot twist there. And they end up having to come back together again because the network wants to do a reunion special, and so it’s full of secrets and the old betrayals and unfinished business, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m really excited for people to start reading it.
Sarah: And it’s yet another way to, to play with the public and behind-the-scenes narratives. So with A Special Place for Women you have the, the public narrative of, is Nevertheless powerful enough to make and break mayors and create incredible political careers? And then behind the scenes it’s like, also, group of women complaining about stuff, because that’s what they do –
Sarah: – when they get together. And with a show like this, you have the public narrative of, we’re performing and we’re a big family and everything is great, and then behind the scenes, things are not so jolly!
Laura: And I love playing with that tension! That tension is like –
Sarah: Yes! It’s one of my favorites!
Laura: Yeah! It’s the best!
Sarah: Public and private tension is so interesting.
Laura: Mm-hmm, yeah. So this, because a lot of that, combined with, you know, early 2000s nostalgia –
Sarah: Oh, for sure.
Laura: – re-evaluation of how we treated women back then –
Sarah: Oh gosh.
Laura: – how do we move forward and forgive? Et cetera. [Laughs]
Sarah: And when you look at press coverage of shows at that time, and, and I remember how much I was steeped in that awful early 2000s, like, body shaming, sex shaming culture, I look back and I’m like, whoa, that was terrible! How did I not see it?
Laura: Yeah! Yeah.
Sarah: So what are some of the secrets in your book? Can you, can you share one of the secrets from the cast members of your, of your new book?
Laura: Oh, oh my gosh. Okay, hold on. I need a second to think about what I can share that – it’s funny; I’m, like, still learning how to talk about this book, right? But okay. So the male lead and the female lead of the show, you know, had this really will-they-or-won’t-they tension in the show? And so the whole, the whole world was really, like, into this romance –
Laura: – and trying to figure out if it was a real-life romance or not, and so a lot of the book is unraveling, like, what really went down behind the scenes between the two of them. Were they in love? Did they hate each other? Were they, like –
Laura: – playing each other so that they could have the good sexual tension on screen?
Sarah: Right. Was it real?
Sarah: Was it not real?
Sarah: Okay, so I recently learned a random piece of alleged gossip that fits this, and I want to tell you? Okay –
Sarah: – so this is old, vintage X-Files gossip.
Sarah: [Laughs] I love that reaction. Okay, so this is all alleged, but you know how in the first few seasons the tension between Scully and Mulder was the birth of a million fanfic.
Sarah: Like a million and twelve fanfics were written about Scully and Mulder and did they, don’t they, will they, won’t they, whatever.
Sarah: Well, allegedly, behind the scenes, they hooked up while filming the pilot. Like, they went to Bone –
Sarah: – they went to Bone Town, and they –
Sarah: – had an extended stay in Bone Town, and then they went their separate ways thinking that it wouldn’t get picked up –
Sarah: – and it didn’t exactly end great, and then the show got picked up, and so they had to reform all of the sexual tension when they’d already boned.
Laura: Oh my God, I love this so much! [Laughs]
Sarah: Now, I don’t know if this is true, but this is the, the, some of the rumors I’ve read, and I’m, I don’t know where I am on the internet where I’m running into X-Files gossip – [laughs] – ‘cause that is some –
Laura: You’re in the right place!
Sarah: – old gossip! But I thought, okay, that’s fascinating. The tension between the actors and the tension between the characters is completely opposite of what actually happened: they hooked up; it didn’t end well; they had to put that aside, pretend to be will-they-won’t-they; and then now they’re, like, really great friends, and they just, they, they tease each other and they seem to have a really great relationship, but for a while they hated each other!
Laura: Oh my God, it’s like the opposite of a slow burn, right.
Sarah: Right? It’s like a, like a –
Laura: [Laughs] Enemies to lovers – it’s like lovers to enemies.
Sarah: It’s like a deep combustion, but we have to pretend to like each other. Oh, oh, all my tropes in one!
I always ask this question: tell me, what books are you reading right now that you want to tell people about?
Laura: Yeah! I thought I’d do a little Last, Now, Next on this one!
Sarah: I love this plan! I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
Laura: [Laughs] Okay. Trying to do it quickly-ish. So the last one that I read that I really loved was Girls Can Kiss Now? It’s a bunch of essays by Jill Gutowitz. I don’t know if you follow her on Twitter; she’s like one of the funniest writers around, I think?
Laura: So it’s about her, like, growing up, coming out as a lesbian, being an extremely online person –
Sarah: I can relate.
Laura: Yeah, she has a great chapter about how, like, the Internet has ruined her, you know, starting with her discovery of the internet as a pre-teen and, like, AIM and all of that, up until now. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh man, I just had a nostalgic blast of the sound of the AIM instant message: brrr! Brrr! Brrr! Brrr! Yep!
Laura: Yep, yep. I think if you like that nostalgia –
Sarah: Soundtrack to like half my day. Yep.
Laura: [Laughs] Oh my God. I loved it. The away messages – ugh. So much to say! [Laughs] But yeah, so it’s super funny but also, like, pretty poignant in places. I highly recommend that.
Right now I’m in the middle of Marrying the Ketchups by Jennifer Close?
Laura: Yeah! It’s about, like, a family-run restaurant in a suburb of Chicago and, like, all the different members of the family, and they’re all, like, flawed, complicated people trying to figure out their lives, and just the character drama and character work is so good, and her writing is beautiful.
Laura: Marrying the Ketchups. [Laughs]
And then up next I’m, I’m really excited to dive into The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas.
Laura: Yeah, yeah. Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca. I’m pumped; I’m really pumped! [Laughs]
Sarah: Yep. So I didn’t include this in the questions, but it did just occur to me: what are the elements of a secret society that you would want to join? Like, there’s a secret society; what is the ideal secret society for you?
Laura: I think the fun element is what I want? You know, like –
Laura: – I want to get into the secret society, and I don’t want it to just be like we hang out and are very stuffy or, like, do creepy things. I want to, like, hang out and watch movies! You know, like –
Laura: – come to our secret club house, and we have a movie night, we eat popcorn, and –
Laura: – watch When Harry Met Sally – [laughs] – and hang out and talk about our lives.
Laura: Basically, yeah, I just want it to be a big slumber party. [Laughs]
Sarah: I would want a secret society that is welcoming and comfortable? Like –
Sarah: – no bras, no real pants – elastic-waist pants – accessible, lots of wine if you want it.
Laura: Yeah, but no pressure if you don’t!
Sarah: No pressure if you don’t. And full of introverts who value quiet.
Laura: This sounds amazing! [Laughs]
Sarah: Right? Like, I could design the space for days. Like, this is the Quiet Room; there’s no talking in this room. This is the room you go in for complete quiet –
Sarah: – deprivation. But sometimes it’s really comfortable to just be with other people who are also being quiet?
Laura: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: So it’s a way to balance loneliness and introversion so you, so you can balance both of those things.
Laura: This reminds me of, I used to belong to this co-working space in New York for writers, and I, if I had not moved to DC I would still be a member of this, ‘cause it was perfect. Basically, there was, like, a big room where you went to be quiet –
Laura: – and do your writing there, and then there was, like –
Laura: – the social room where you went and you were allowed to talk and hang out with people if you wanted, that had lots of candy and tea and coffee and stuff.
Sarah: Oh, that’s a brilliant space!
Laura: Yeah! It’s called Paragraph, if anybody wants to join it and lives in the New York area.
Sarah: I can’t believe there’s not one in DC!
Laura: Yeah! I know; I feel very sad about this. I, it’s also like, I moved down here during the pandemic –
Laura: – so co-working spaces have been – [laughs] – a little –
Sarah: Yeah, you’re not going to want to go breathe with strangers. That’s the other thing: you can’t really –
Sarah: – breathe easily with strangers. [Laughs]
Laura: Exactly. [Laughs]
Sarah: So I’ve already asked what you’re working on; you’re working on the screenplay.
Sarah: And you have a new book. Do you have another book in progress as well?
Laura: [Laughs] Yes! Yes, I am, like, just diving into the next book.
Sarah: Ooh, congrats!
Laura: Thank you! Thanks, yeah. It’s fun and also very daunting, you know. I, I’m in that part right now where I’m just, like, thinking about the plot and the characters, but haven’t tried to write the first sentence?
Laura: ‘Cause the first sentence seems so scary.
Sarah: Oh yeah, absolutely. And you have to figure out where you’re going, but you already kind of know part of that.
Sarah: Yep, there’s, like, a target; you’ve got reach it. How am I going to get there? I have no idea.
Laura: Ah! Exactly!
Sarah: Well, thank you so very much for doing this interview. This has been so much fun!
Laura: I know! I love talking with you. Thank you for having me!
Sarah: Oh, this was delightful. And please have your publicist reach out when your next book comes out so we can, you know, we can do more talking about behind the scenes in reality TV.
Laura: I would love that! And hey, you know, if I do, like, a DC event I now know that you’re an amazing moderator –
Sarah: Oh, thank you very much!
Laura: – [laughs] – from seeing the Christina Lauren event!
Sarah: Thank, and thank you for coming to that! I was floored at how awesome the space was, and –
Laura: I know!
Sarah: – it was so great.
Laura: Oh my God, like four hundred people too?
Sarah: And everyone’s, like, super chill and welcoming. I’m like, oh, I forgot how awesome all the readers are! ‘Cause it’s been, like, since 2019 that I’ve done an event.
Laura: Yeah! I, I know. I loved it, and I’m like, oh, all right, I want to just make more of a point of going to author events now.
Sarah: Now I remember why I liked doing these events. Like, it had been three years, so it took me a while to remember –
Sarah: – like, oh yeah, this energy’s awesome!
Laura: Yeah! It’s so much nicer when you can, like, actually hear people laugh, as opposed to just talking into your computer screen? [Laughs]
Sarah: Yes, yes, there’s a very unique energy, especially when everyone is there to talk about roughly the same thing?
Laura: And you did such a nice job of, like, asking questions that just made it feel like a fun hang-out chat –
Sarah: Thank you.
Laura: – but also, like, got at some deeper stuff too, which was really fun.
Sarah: Thank you! I really appreciate that. Part of that was how great the panelists were, ‘cause Ali Hazelwood and Kate Clayborn and Christina Lauren are all very funny and interesting and used to talking? But I also –
Sarah: – I mean, I do a lot of interviews, so, you know, there’s already, there’s only so many ways you can ask, where do you get your ideas? What is your process of craft? What is this, like, what is this process? And that, I think everyone can talk about convenience store snacks and –
Sarah: – you know, goofy questions that are related to a book and also tangentially not. I had a lot of fun coming up with those categories for those four authors, too. It was very fun.
Laura: I bet! I bet! I don’t know if I will ever forget Ali Hazelwood saying that her special brain talent is picturing people having sex! [Laughs]
Sarah: I will not ever, no. Me – no. And I, I wish I could have recorded that, ‘cause it was great, but that was a one-time-only experience.
Sarah: And some things are all, some things are better live and in that moment.
Laura: I think that’s true!
Sarah: Yeah, it’s like the, the, the nature of performance: there are some things that only exist when they’re happening, and then after that they don’t exist anymore, and that’s okay.
Laura: Yeah! [Laughs]
Sarah: Even though I’m terminally online and I like having digital everything, I also like things that exist in that, just that moment. And that’s sort of the idea with co-working spaces and secret societies as well, that they, that community only exists in that space.
Sarah: For better or for worse.
Laura: And so you’ve got to, like, really enjoy it!
Laura: Live in that moment.
Sarah: And actively participate –
Sarah: – in order for it to continue.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you again to Laura Hankin for hanging out with me and to Tara O’Connor for setting up this interview. I will have links to all of the books we mentioned, but I also have a whole bunch of links that will let you peek inside some of these co-working spaces and some dishy links about what happened to them when they didn’t go so well, so definitely check the show notes if you want to take a little tour of The Coven or The Wing or find out happened. It’s very dishy.
But I am very curious: do you know of a, a secret club or exclusive society? Do you belong to one? Ooh, please tell me about it; I’m very nosy. You can email me at [email protected], or you can call and leave a message at 1-201-371-3272. I absolutely love hearing from you, but if you know about secret clubs or exclusive societies, please tell me everything. I, I am so curious. Like, I am so nebby! It’s embarrassing how nosy I am. Please tell me everything; I really want to know.
As usual, I end with a terrible joke; this week is no exception! I would never leave off the joke. This comes from Maggie’s door of jokes; there are so many, and they are all so good. So here we go; are you ready?
What do you call a photo of the North Pole?
Give up? What do you call a photo of the North Pole?
[Laughs] It’s so silly; I love it! Thank you for sending me all of these jokes, Maggie; they’re amazing! I have a whole list of them, and then I pick my favorite each week.
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Thank you so much for listening. We will see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.