The last interviewee of 2006 has a new book being released next month Real Women Eat Beef (Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press, Jan. 2007). This is her second novel, a comic coming-of-middle-age tale, set in an advertising agency. She would know something about ad agencies: besides being a writer, she McArdle has over thirteen years experience in entertainment, integrated marketing and promotions, working for such companies as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting System and Twentieth Century Fox as well as renowned creative advertising agency Arnold Worldwide. You can learn more about her career history here.
What made you decide to use a pseudonym when you write? [The author's last name is Brady] Why did you choose that one?
The only reason it is a pseudonym is that it’s my maiden name, and was my name when my short story, HAPPILY NEVER AFTER and my first novel, CONFESSIONS OF A NERVOUS SHIKSA, was published. After I was lucky enough to get my first novel published, I wasn’t about to let readers forget who I was by writing under a new, married name! You know, don’t want those seven fans to have trouble finding me on Amazon….also I had a website, www.tracymcardle.net, which would have been awkward and annoying to change.
For those new to advertising, what advice would you give those in your character Jill Campbell’s situation–having to promote something they know nothing about, or even repulsed by?
Read – a lot. And keep an open mind. You never know when something you think is useless information is going to come in handy. You’d be amazed how much information is out there – both within the resources provided to you by your job / company and outside of it. Everything is a learning experience and everything is interesting if you are open to it. Now, if you have a moral dilemma with something you have to work on, that’s a different story, and the best thing to do is be honest – with yourself, then your supervisors, and depending on your relationship with them, the client. Then again, maybe not that last one. Good luck on that.
Is it difficult to switch from fiction to marketing writing? When do you make the time for your fiction?
It’s not difficult if you enjoy it, which I do. Writing fiction provides a nice escape for me from my regular job and the everyday demands of life. One of the things I love about writing (when it’s going well, that is) is that it makes me forget what time it is. When I’m enjoying a project at work, brainstorming ideas or getting lost in consumer research that’s interesting, the same thing can happen. But hobbies are different – they let us extend the idea of who we are outside of work or career. I think in America we are too focused on “What do you do?” when what we really mean is, “How do you make money?” Why does the latter distinction have to define who we are? As far as making time, I write at night, on the weekends, or when I travel, on planes or in hotels. Basically whenever I can. I keep a journal with me and sometimes jot down ideas during lunch or the commute.
What’s something that you learned from marketing that you’ve applied to your fiction?
Listen. Don’t just wait to talk – listen to the people around you. Clients, colleagues, mentors, interns and assistants. Everyone has something interesting to say, and you never know where the next big idea (or the next great line) is going to come from. I’ve taught my characters to do this too, and it makes them more interesting and hopefully, more intuitive. I’ve also learned to be a more patient and thorough reader. Knew those powerpoint decks and creative briefs were good for something.
Does the second book come easier or harder?
For me, much easier, because I had no idea what the hell I was doing writing my first novel. Also it was based on real experiences and you feel a certain obligation to honor “what really happened” even if by chance, no one but you is going to find it terribly compelling. After the 15th rewrite of my first novel I came to the conclusion that I should have done a plot outline, which I did for the second book. I also wrote 3-5 page biographies for every character and mapped out the story arc and the characters’ journeys before “writing” a single page. So I did all the structural work up front so that actually writing it was fun. Whoa–I feel like I’m giving away trade secrets here so that’s all I can say. If you’re going to write a novel, my advice is, have an idea of what you want to say. Then design a map to get you there.