Confessions of a Novelist

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We at AOL love you guys whether you have jobs or not. But some people we know seem to have landed the coolest jobs we can imagine. For instance, Jami Attenberg, who splits her time 70-30 as a novelist and interactive copywriter.

We recently had the chance to ask Jami a few questions about her abundance of employment and her latest novel, The Melting Season.

Here's what she had to share.


During this time when some of us don't even have one job, you have two! Tell us about them.

About three-quarters of the year I'm working on my fiction, and one-quarter of the year I'm a copywriter for hire, creating websites and banner advertising for different ad agencies in New York City.


How long have you been doing double job-duty, and why?

My first novel came out in 2006, but I started writing it in 2004. I do it because I have to do it. I love it. It makes me a whole person.

As for interactive, I've been in it since 1998. My first gig when I moved to New York from Seattle was at Ogilvy & Mather in the IT department, and I think within a year I transitioned to their interactive department, all sneaky-like. There I started out as a producer, but eventually made my way into writing.

When I first started working in interactive I wasn't fully committed to my fiction writing, so it seemed like a solid career path. In 1998 anything could happen! The Internet was our oyster, etc. We all felt like we were a part of something big and important because it was new. And also there was money to be made. There was such a huge demand for all kinds of talent-even just for people who knew HTML. Kids were getting out of college and making close to six figures just for doing basic coding. Lots of job-hopping, lots of drama, lots of parties. It was all pretty fascinating. Now it's pretty boring (or maybe I'm just boring now), but it still pays the bills.


What are the best and worst things about your jobs?

The best thing about writing books is being creatively fulfilled. I also enjoy contributing to the culture at large. It makes me feel like I have a purpose on this planet. The worst thing about it is that the publishing industry seems to be collapsing around us all.

The best thing about doing interactive work is that it helps me to pay my bills. Also I don't mind, on occasion, having some structure to my day. And I have worked with some great people. The worst part is that the interactive industry doesn't seem to be any more organized now than it was 10 years ago.


Do you ever think about quitting copywriting and only novel-writing?

In a dream world I would just get to write stories and novels and essays and blog on my website all day long. But I suspect it will be a long time before that dream will come true. In the interim I am happy and proud to have contributed to the growth of the Internet and its role in the economy, even if it is in a small way, and am always interested to see what new technologies are being developed. It is always changing, and that is exciting to me.


Let's talk dress code. What do you wear while working?

My whole life is one big long casual Friday.


If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?

I would love to sell more books, that's about it. I'm pretty psyched with the way my life is going.


Here's the money question. Do you get paid:

a) Enough

b) Too much

c) Too little

d) Fill in your own response:____________

I think I get paid what I deserve.


As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I think I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn't necessarily believe that it was a possibility. I can honestly say I have my dream job.


How long until you retire? What will you do then?

I don't imagine running out of words anytime soon. Also, I have zero savings. So I am guessing I will probably work until I die, or at least until they aren't interested in publishing me anymore.


Have you noticed any changes in your business related to the recession? Do you think we're out of the woods yet?

Basically I've felt it most in book sales, and also in the amount of money my publisher is willing to invest in promoting me. People are buying less books. It's sad. Keep reading, people!

Advertising-wise, I'm still finding work pretty easily. I don't look that hard, but can still book gigs two or three times a year, which is all I want to work. I don't think we're out of the woods though, no. Not by a long shot.


Tell us about what you're working on now.

I'm working on launching my new book, The Melting Season, and prepping for a month-long cross-country road tour. I have a first draft of a new novel completed, but it needs some tending to. I think I'll probably get to that around spring.


Any parting advice for the aspiring fiction writers out there?

Keep writing, but keep your day job for just a bit longer!

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