It's a rainy Manhattan afternoon when I throw on some nude pumps and head uptown to DryBar at The Parker Meridian. It seems a little silly to get a my hair done on a wet day like this, but a little pampering never hurt anyone. Inside, a bevy of bloggers- myself included- are treated to bubbling champagne, girl talk and world-class blowouts. What's the special occasion? Award-winning New York Times reporter, Stephanie Clifford, is celebrating her debut novel "Everybody Rise" and we get the first scoop.
Looking glamorous and keeping with the high-society theme of Clifford's novel, we head to The Plaza for High Tea. Despite the five-star treatment, which mirrors the luxury and opulence of her characters' lifestyles, Clifford assures us that "this novel is based on a world that is not mine. I live in Brooklyn, but I did a lot of reporting around the women who live in this world and what it’s like."
"Everybody Rise" is a book about fitting in and figuring out who you are... it follows a 26-year-old named Evelyn. She’s from Maryland, she moves to New York and is trying to find her place here. She ends up thinking she’s found it when she falls in with this old, money-set driven job. In order to fit in there, she begins lying--she changes the way she dresses, she changes the makeup she wears, she changes her hair. The lies quickly get bigger and bigger until she has to reckon with the sort of made-up life she’s come up with."
"It was important to me have a heroine who wasn’t redeemed or rescued by a man. She gets herself into a ton of trouble, and she’s the one who has to scrape herself out of it in the end. It’s also a story of mothers and daughters. It’s sort of fitting with having tea at The Plaza because one of my favorite scenes in the book is Evelyn at age 10 visiting New York with her mom for the first time. Her mom is there to revisit her own glory days, and at tea Evelyn can’t do anything right. Her mom is like, “No. No. No. No lemon in there. Cream in there. Don’t hold it like that, Evelyn.” That sort of anxiousness in wanting to please her mom builds a lot of what happens later on, 16 years later when she’s a young woman in New York. She’s still trying to gain acceptance, still trying to be seen because she was never quite seen by her mom."
Sitting down with an award-winning New York Times reporter is kind of a big deal. As a proud feminist, I can say with complete assurance that it's incredibly inspiring to gain perspective from a real Boss Lady. You know what they say: "If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere," and this is especially true for women. Climbing the ladder of success is no easy feat.
Clifford notes: "When I came to New York I had a really hard time. I couldn’t get a job for two years. I was barely making rent. I didn’t have enough money to go out with my friends."
It was memories like this that served as inspiration for "Everybody Rise." Instead of depicting exclusive nightclubs, expensive yachts, and Louboutins, Clifford wanted to show the real struggle of moving to Manhattan. Sure it's fabulous, but it's not that easy to "make it" and avoid temptation.
"It’s so easy to get seduced by it. Even if it’s not New York high-society, we’ve all had that moment where we’re trying to be somebody we’re not or trying to fit in to a clique that’s not really for us. So it was drawn from that too."
We continued to nibble on crust-less sandwiches, miniature cakes, and macaroons, and while the rest of the bloggers and I tried to focus on her novel, it was hard not to dive into the secrets of her success. Stephanie Clifford is a woman who seemingly has it all: her dream career, a beautiful family, and a fabulous social life. It's a lifestyle that many women aspire to, but struggle to maintain. So how does one turn their dreams into reality?
"The kid part happened at the very end, so while I was on maternity leave actually I was like 98% done with the book." When it comes to executing whatever it is you want to do, "my advice is to fit it into everyday life because when I started this and put it aside, I kept being like, 'Well, if I’m going to write, I need a summer off. I need, you know, a cabin somewhere where I can really write.' That’s just not feasible for most of us. So, squeezing it into daily life actually took some of the pressure off because I did have a job [and] I wasn’t dependent on this for money."
She suggests creating a morning ritual: a predetermined time-slot carved out to work on your goal.
"I just started to figure out what window I could predict. I realized if I had to get up every morning and decide whether I wanted to write, I wouldn’t do it. So my deal with myself was I just had to sit there for two hours. If I didn’t do anything, if I stared at the ceiling, that was fine. It became a habit and I set up the space to be creative."
Want YOUR free copy of “Everybody Rise?”
To enter to win a free copy of "Everybody Rise," repost this Instagram using the hashtag #EverybodyRise and tag us @BigCityLilBlog. 1 winner will be chosen at random by September 1st. Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by St. Martin’s Press.
Here are some sample captions:
"Can't wait for #EverybodyRise to hit bookshelves August 18th! @BigCityLiLBlog has the scoop on www.BigCityLittleBlog.com"
"Check out @BigCityLittleBlog's interview with author Stephanie Clifford's #everybodyRise at www.BigCityLittleBlog.com "Everybody Rise" It hits stores August 18, 2015."
"Head to www.BigCityLittleBlog.com for the scoop on Stephanie Clifford's new book: #EverybodyRise! It hits shelves August 18th.
About the Author: Stephanie Clifford
Clifford is a Loeb-award winning New York Times reporter who has covered business, media, and courts for the paper. She grew up in Seattle and graduated from Exeter and Harvard. As she covered the financial crisis's impact on consumers, she observed that large-scale new wealth hasn't done away with class hierarchy in the U.S.- it's increased anxiety over it. Clifford is also a regular guest on NPR and has appeared on Today, CBS This Morning and Dr. Oz. You can learn more about her by visiting StephanieClifford.net or following her on Twitter and using the hashtag #EverybodyRise.