Petula Parker’s debut novel Kate’s Escape from the Billable Hour has stopped by my blog today, as part of it’s blog tour. Today I have an exclusive Q+A with the author herself where you’ll get to learn a bit more about her and Kate’s Escape. But before that let’s learn a little bit more about the book itself. Enjoy!
Kate Billings, a burnt-out, second-year attorney working in the dysfunctional world of Big Law, regains consciousness after a late night, career-ending meltdown at the office. Can she scramble to undo the damage? Or does she even want to?
Kate is a Red Bull-dependent, yoga-hating attorney at Krapp & Lipschitz, L.L.P., Arizona’s largest and worst-dressed law firm. At first blush, Kate leads an enviable life. At only 26, she earns a six-figure salary, owns a quaint downtown bungalow, and has managed to shed the 80 pounds that have plagued her for most of her adulthood.
A devastating performance review by firm partners Krapp, Butts, and Waddleberger, however, calls Kate’s chosen career into question. Her confusion is compounded by a stranger’s innocent inquiry: “Are you happy?” Finally, when Kate receives her annual bonus — consisting of a smoked ham and skin concealer — she cracks. Upon realizing that she has been passively allowing her life to unfold under the belief that at some point things would just click into being perfect, Kate ransacks the partners’ offices, quits her job, and buys a one-way ticket to Barcelona, planning to stalk (“it’s not ‘stalking,’ it’s ‘reconnaissance'”) the Spanish exchange student she has been secretly in love with since high school.
1) Introduce yourself.
I’m Petula Parker, and “Kate’s Escape from the Billable Hour” is my first novel. It’s based on my many years spent practicing law in mammoth law firms, and, of course, time spent in Spain. I’ve probably spent over five years collectively in Spain, so all of the Spain references, from the television shows to the Spanish-language idioms to the food, are pretty authentic.
2) Why Chick-Lit?
I wanted to write in a genre where comedy is not only tolerated, but expected. A genre that doesn’t take itself too seriously, where the protagonist is permitted to be a bit self-obsessed and crazy, but still likeable and relatable. And where there is not as much judgment. With that said, I think so many popular stories from other art forms would fall into the broad “chick-lit” arena, such as the television show “Thirty Rock,” the movie “Bridesmaids,” and (a personal favorite from a long time ago) the iconic movie “Nine to Five.”
3) What or who was your inspiration for Kate’s Escape from the Billable Hour?
I was basically inspired by my years at behemoth corporate law firms, and the numerous characters I encountered there. You can bounce from law firm to law firm, and you always find the same people in the halls. I know some people might read “Kate’s Escape” and question the authenticity of some of the more egregious law firm characters — Marcus Butts, for example — but let me tell you, I have known at least three Marcus Buttses during my legal career, and the Butts character portrayed in “Kate’s Escape” could actually be considered a watered-down, more humorous version of the real, flesh-and-bone Buttses working in Big Law. But there are also many people at large law firms like Kate’s mentor Jillian, who are supportive and nurturing. I wanted to show readers the fun but also overwhelming and absurd environment that a large law firm can be for a newly-minted attorney. I was also inspired by the little-known fact that so many attorneys in the world of Big Law have escape plans. Get a few beers into a Big-Law attorney, and they’ll eventually tell you that they are only doing the job until they pay off their law school loans, or are forty years old, or what have you, at which time they will do what they really want to do. Sad thing is, that day never comes. I wanted to play with the idea that a younger attorney might catch a glimpse of what lies ahead and proactively decide to take fate into her own hands, societal expectations and judgment be damned.
4) What are the 3 things you liked best about Kate?
I like that she remains naïve and idealistic throughout the narrative. I like the ugly-swan aspect of Kate, that she was and will forever remain a socially-awkward “geek” in love with Chewbacca, no matter how polished she may appear on the outside. And I like that at times she is bat-sh*t crazy.
5) What did you find the most difficult to do, whilst writing this book?
By far the most difficult thing was balancing real-life schedules and responsibilities with writing. I’d often write in the hours between 4:00 am to 6:am, before the house and city wake up. I also found it emotionally difficult to edit out plot lines and characters interwoven throughout the book during the final editing process. You get attached to the characters you create! It almost feels like amputating a limb. But in the end, upon a fresh read of the book, those were the right decisions.
6) What books have influenced you the most?
Gosh, I love to read! But, at least with respect to this book, I can’t say I was influenced by any book in particular. I was, instead, influenced by the desire to make a woman a strong, but fragile, comedic heroine who drives the narrative along. If anything, you could say I was inspired a bit by the television show “I Love Lucy,” where Lucy and Ethel always manage to get themselves into outrageous situations, that are fun to watch but also cringe-inducing.
7) Who is your favourite author and why?
Wow, I cannot narrow this down. I LOVE Margaret Atwood, Alain de Botton, Rushdie, Hemingway, Eudora Welty, Kurt Vonnegut, and I could go on. But in terms of sitting down with a book and laughing my *ss off, you can’t beat Laurie Notaro or Jenny Lawson. And Elizabeth Gilbert — as a writer and a person — will always inspire me.
8) What book are you reading right now?
Two books right now: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, and “I Was Blind But Now I See” by James Altucher. I’ve just started “the Goldfinch” and the first chapters — with Theo Decker’s futile waiting for his mother to come home — had me in tears, so much so that I’ve had to put the book down for a week; I tear up just thinking about picking it up again, but I know I need to in order to get through that sad place right now. The Altucher book is golden. I just discovered Altucher this year, on Linked In of all places. His blog and his books provide shockingly realistic, funny, in-your-face recipes for how to wake up and live an authentic life, whatever that may look like.
9) If writing books didn’t work out, what would you do for a living?
I’m a sucker for fixing up old houses and am addicted to HGTV, especially any show where a couple buys an old house in a foreign locale and fixes it up. So I would love to rescue and rehabilitate crumbling castles. That’s probably why I love the book and movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.”
10) Can we expect a sequel for Kate’s Escape from the Billable Hour?
Readers have already asked for a sequel, but I would only write a sequel if I were sure the story line fit Kate’s character trajectory, and I’m struggling with that right now. A prequel, I could definitely see.
11) Any other new and exciting projects expected in the future?
Right now I have a number of plot lines going on in my head, and I carry a notebook around so I can capture any new characters or language that come to me spontaneously during the day. So yes, I do have several books taking shape right now. It’s a very fun process!
1) Favourite colour?
Anything but beige
2) Favourite book?
“Possession” by A. S. Byatt and “Status Anxiety” by Alain de Botton
3) Favourite fictional character?
Buck McNutter in “A Man in Full” by Tom Wolfe. I have known so many Buck McNutters!
4) Favourite word?
5) Favourite movie?
“Room with a View,” “Love, Actually,” and “Blades of Glory.” (And anything “Indiana Jones”! But, Harrison Ford, enough with that earring, already!)
6) Favourite T.V. Show?
“House Hunters International” and “Silicon Valley”
7) Describe yourself in 3 words.
Spontaneous, over-caffeinated, and optimistic
There you go folks! Thanks for stopping by Petula! I had a great time and hope you did too! If you would like to buy Kate’s Escape, you can do so here.