Yesterday was the official launch date for my friend Erin La Rosa’s latest book The Big Redhead Book. One of the many awesome things about Erin is that she refuses to pick a genre. She writes all kinds of stuff. So for today’s post, I asked if we could pick her brain a little about her writing, both in general, and in the context of The Big Redhead Book.
(Also, I hope she will forgive me for using this screen grab from her appearance on You and Me This Morning which does not at all reflect how truly gorgeous she is, but how could I resist when they give her the tag line of “Author, Redhead”?)
Okay, here’s the good stuff:
April Dávila: The Big Redhead Book is your second non-fiction book. You also write fiction, essays, stage plays and a hilarious newsletter. All this in addition to working full time for Buzz Feed. How do you decide, on any given day when you sit down to write, what you’re working on?
Erin La Rosa: After seeing all those things, I’m honestly shocked I haven’t lost my mind yet. Actually, maybe I have and that’s why I’m doing all this? Figuring out what to work on each day is still a struggle. I love starting things, and the finishing always takes more time. So it’s super easy to be like, “Oh, cool, I don’t want to finish so let me check out the shiny ball over there!” The only thing that keeps me focused are deadlines, so I set those regularly, then miss them, then reset them… eventually I get there, though (unless I see a shiny ball in the corner)!
AD: What is your writing routine? When and where do you write?
ELR: I have a love hate relationship with my routine. Because while it helps me keep all the plates spinning, it means I get significantly less sleep. My routine is that I wake up at 6 a.m. every day (well, my cat wakes me up), go downstairs, make tea, and plant myself on the couch with my computer. I give myself at least an hour to work on my projects each day before work, and that’s all I need! It took me about a month to get myself into the routine (waking up early ain’t easy), but you too can be an overachiever if you put your mind to it. Other option? Get a cat who forces you to wake up early so you can feed her.
AD: What’s one unusual thing you did in researching The Big Redhead Book?
ELR: I don’t want to freak any norms out (norms = non-redhead people), but redheads like to do meetups. Like… gathering together to talk about ginger things kind of meetups. So I went to a lot of those, including a redhead festival in Chicago. There were things like a carrot cake competition, ginger beer, and brightest red hair contests. I’ll be honest, these meetups can be weird, because you’re literally talking to strangers about your hair, but it’s also super cathartic because reds tend to have similar experiences. (If I had a dime for every time a redhead told me about being called “firecrotch,” then this firecrotch would be living in a mansion, OK?)
AD: If you had to choose one thing you learned in writing The Big Redhead Book and use it to spin off a fictional character in a novel, what would it be?
ELR: When you’re trying to add humor, whether it’s in a scene, a piece of dialogue, or to a character, specificity is key. In The Big Redhead Book I include a personal essay in each chapter, and most of them are funny (I hope!). So, for example, when I told a story about locking my mom out of the car as a 12 year old because I didn’t want to go to the dentist (redheads require more novocaine, fun fact!), I made sure to add in details to paint that scene. Like the fact that it was the ’90s, so I was wearing stirrup pants and a Mickey Mouse tee that went past my knees. Or that I lived in Florida and the humidity turned my hair into a series of frizzy lightning bolts, making me look like a baby Medusa lording over a Totyota Previa… maybe ’90s me should be a character in a novel?
AD: You write such a wide variety of material. Did that factor into your search for an agent, or did you just focus on the one project you had in front of you at the time?
ELR: I definitely hoped I’d find an agent who could rep multiple projects for me, and where I landed was at ICM with the incredible Kristyn Keene. I loved working with her because when I suggested a fiction follow-up she got so excited. And because it’s a bigger agency, if I ever write a film or a TV script, she can connect me with agents there who can help with those. I talked with multiple agents, and many were solely dedicated to books, and for me that just felt a little limited.
AD: What’s the best thing about being a redhead?
ELR: Not that cults are a good thing, but being a redhead is a little like being part of a cult. We acknowledge each other. I nod and smile like a psycho at reds on the street, and it’s not weird. Being a redhead makes you part of one big ginger family cult.
AD: The worst?
ELR: People are obsessed with our pubes (I don’t blame them, it looks magical down there, but could we not?).
AD: I am not a redhead, but I often daydream about joining the club. Are there any special initiation rites I would need to undergo? Any changes I would need to make to my daily life to fit in as a redhead?
ELR: We would fully accept you as ONE OF US. Just don’t tell anyone about the fact that we’re soulless vampires who will outlive the norms and inherit the earth.
AD: What are you working on now and does it have anything to do with an obese bearded dragon?
ELR: I just cackled. So, our family bearded dragon (George, a female, who is morbidly obese but on a very strict diet!) won’t be making an appearance YET, but her time to shine will come. Right now I’m working on a play with the East West Players theater in Los Angeles. It’s a dark comedy inspired by some of my high school friends from Florida, and because it involves Florida it will be strange and odd — a real treat!
AD: Coffee or Tea?
ELR: Tea, now that I’m a distinguished woman in my ’30s (and also because I got an ulcer from drinking too much coffee, so now I have to pretend I like tea more).
AD: Whiskey or Vodka?
ELR: Whiskey with a splash of water. (My fave is Dimple Pinch, Google it, buy it, and you’ll thank me later.)
AD: Hemsworth or Gosling?
ELR: Recently Mr. Gosling stole my heart with his Oscar speech where he basically admitted women are the stronger sex. Well, he didn’t EXACTLY say that, but he said he couldn’t have won without his badass wife Eva Mendes, so I’m HERE FOR HIM.
AD: “Sneaked” or “snuck”?
ELR: Can’t we have both? I’m a grammar pacifist, so I will slowly back away with a white flag raised here.
AD: Wetsuit or bathrobe?
ELR: Oh, there are monsters in the ocean, so I’ll be in a bathrobe with my whiskey, thank you very much.