Last week, author Lucy Jackson released her second novel Slicker, the follow-up to 2007′s Posh. Jackson said she wouldn’t label the book as chick-lit, because she believes it “has what [she hopes] is a depth to it.” But I think that’s arguably just semantics. If you like chick-lit, you’re going to like Slicker.
This time around, Jackson tells the story of Desirée Christian-Cohen, a native New Yorker, who packs her bags and escapes to Honey Creek, Kan., population 1,623, a place she found by closing her eyes and pointing to a map. Which I do believe is the scientific way of choosing a travel destination. At the same time, we learn about Desirée’s unhappy, recently separated mother, Nina. Dad, Patrick, just so happens to be gay and has taken up residence with his new boyfriend.
Please note: Honey Creek, Kan., is not a real town. Jackson did visit the town it was based on, but she wouldn’t tell me the name of the real Honey Creek. That secrecy mirrors Jackson’s own life. You see, Lucy Jackson isn’t even the author’s real name.
The real woman behind Lucy Jackson is established literary author, Marian Thurm. Thurm has published seven books under her own name, and has had seven short stories run in The New Yorker. Clint Eastwood even optioned one of her novels. But when she started Posh, which was modeled on the private school her children went to, she considered writing under a different name. Thus, Lucy Jackson was born. Thurm stopped by the EW offices to talk about her new book, and her alter ego, “Lucy.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you decide on the name Lucy Jackson?
LUCY JACKSON: “Anonymous” was the name I was going to choose. I told this to my agent who was a brand new agent. I told her who I was. I had to because she was my agent, but I told her I wanted her to send [out Posh] without any name on it at all. And then I was told that the big book buyers would order less copies if there was no name on it. So I had a very brief window of opportunity to choose a name. I do all my writing on my bed, and my two cats are always with me. One of them was named Lucy, and the other one was named Jackson, but we call him Jack for short. So there they were … It’s funny when people call me Lucy, because my cat is actually sort of overweight. She weights 18 pounds. She’s a beautiful, beautiful creature actually. But it’s just very funny to me because when someone calls me Lucy, that’s the first image that comes to mind. Just my big cat.
Very few people, including your editor, didn’t know who you really were. How did you keep this up?
There are many writers who write under pseudonyms, but of course their editor and publisher and everyone else knows who they are. But I just thought this world is a very small world—the world that Posh comes from. So it just seemed wisest to be very, very careful. So [I used] a new email address. I actually have two. One is Lucy Jackson, and another one is Lazy Hoffman, the character who is the head mistress of the school [in Posh]. I had the Lazy Hoffman email address, and I was in contact with my editor back and forth. And she calls me Lazy to this day. She didn’t know who I was for many, many months. She was wonderful about it. She just called me Lazy. And I like the name Lazy, so that’s the name. I love coming home, and I’d have a voicemail saying “Hi, Lazy. This is your editor.” People who do this sort of thing always tell their editor who they are. Everyone at Saint Martin’s [Press] was wonderful about it, and they just didn’t know who I was.
And so you just went along as Lucy or Lazy even in social settings?
One of the funniest things was the publicist who took me out to lunch, and they still didn’t know who I was. There were like four people at the table. They were all seated, and I got there. The men all stood up and said, “It’s nice to meet you, Lazy,” and they all shook my hand. And there I was. I had a two-hour lunch with four people who had no idea who I was. They knew nothing about me, and actually I began to take pleasure in it after a while. It’s very interesting. It’s just become a part of my life. My mother will say to me, “What’s the matter with you? I gave you a perfectly good name. Why are you walking around telling everyone that you’re Lucy Jackson or Lazy?”
Do you ever almost use your real name instead of Lucy?
Never. It’s just absolutely second nature to me. And I never falter for an instant when I tell people I’m Lucy. It’s almost like it’s the name I was born with. That’s how it feels to me. I almost feel like an actress of sorts. It’s never something I could have imagined myself doing, but I’ve fallen in a way almost naturally into this other persona. It has really sort of emboldened me. I could have never done this under my own name. It would be like asking for favors which I can’t do. Under this other name it’s not a problem at all.
What are some of the benefits of writing under a new name?
One of the good things that came out of this was that it enabled me to sort of start over again. No one knows anything about you or who you are, so it gave me the confidence to sell myself in a way that I’ve never done. Writers understand that today you have to sell yourself and writers don’t necessarily, especially me, have the kind of personality [to do that]. If you’re shy, which I used to be, it’s a hard thing. But there are trade-offs. It can’t feel exactly the same. When people say wonderful, positive things about your work under this other name it feels good. But probably not as good as when it’s my own name. And when they say terrible things about it, I say, “Well, it’s not me.” You can talk yourself into that, I think. The big trade-off is that all the critics who have taken my work seriously over the years obviously don’t know this is me, and so they just see it says Lucy Jackson. They don’t care about that. It’s a big trade-off. I have so many wonderful blurbs accumulated over the years from all my work, but you can’t put anything on the back. It’s a difficult thing to have to accept, I guess.
And now that we know who you are, will you still publish under Lucy Jackson?
Ideally I would love to be able to continue to publish under this name and also my real name. If that were possible. I’ve been working on short stories recently, and that’s how I started. The New Yorker published my first story. Short stories are where my reputation lies, actually. I have another book I’ve been working on for a while and it’s unclear to me where this Lucy Jackson will be going. I just feel that it is very fortunate that I was able to find a willing editor to take me on not knowing my name or anything about me at all.
And what’s an interesting fact about you, Marian, not Lucy?
I write everything in longhand, so all of my books have been written with a pen and a notebook. I write everything in longhand, and at the end of the day I would type it up because my handwriting was so small. It would come out to be two pages typed. Then, I just got a laptop about 18 months ago, and I just recently started doing some actual writing on the laptop. But every one of my books has been written in a notebook. It’s actually fun sometimes. Things that I wrote years ago you can just flip through, and I can see. I can get more than one novel in a notebook because my handwriting is so small.