So we’re coming up on year’s end. We’ve bought the people we love important gifts like book-themed socks and bottle openers, and now we’re looking at 2016 and wondering, “Gah, why did I spend $25 on a bottle opener that looked like John Green?” Here’s where Dina Gachman and her book Brokenomics come in. Take a look – you’ll see what I mean.
1.Tell us about your book.
It’s called Brokenomics,and it’s a book of humor essays and tips about money. It’s not a Tony Robbins get-rich-quick guide; it’s a tongue-in-cheek look at the ways we screw up our finances in our 20s and 30s (or at least at the way I did) and what we can learn from those mistakes (like prioritizing boxed wine over essential toiletries at the grocery store, for example). So it might not make you rich, but I hope it’ll make you laugh.
I was laid off in 2010, and I started blogging about being laid off and unemployed in Los Angeles because I needed to fill my time in between applying for lame Craigslist jobs and staring at the walls wondering if I was going to have to change my identity and move to Bolivia to avoid paying my student loans. The blog took off, and the book was born out of that. My main goal with the book is that people laugh. Honestly, that’s it. I hope people are entertained, I hope they laugh out loud, and I hope they tell their friends to get a copy.
2. What stories, themes, motivations do you find yourself drawn to in your work and in the works you read?
With my own work, I feel like humor is my truest voice. When I was younger I thought all good writing had to be very serious, like Toni Morrison or Goethe, so I wrote very serious poetry and short stories. They weren’t awful, but they were very… angst-ridden and oh so DEEP. Then when I started writing my blog, it just came out in this very tongue in cheek, humorous voice, and I felt like – that’s it! That’s me, not me trying to impersonate Toni Morrison and failing miserably. I’m always drawn to character-driven stories. But good writing is good writing. I still love Toni Morrison, but I also love Sloane Crosley’s writing. I grew up in Texas – as a Jew in Texas – so I think I’m also drawn to stories about people who are outside the mainstream, outside the norm. And there’s a specific type of humor in the South, and I think that made its way into my writing as well – self-deprecating, and a little over the top.
3. What do you do when you’re not writing.
I think about what to write next! I read a ton. I write about books for Bustle and LA Review of Books so I always have a stack of books to read. I watch movies, I watch bad TV like Scream Queens. I stare at photos of my niece and nephews. Cook. Jog. But mostly I think about what to write next or I obsess about a project I’m working on. Right now it’s a comedic sci-fi TV pilot, so I obsess over that in my spare time.
4. What made you believe you could write a book? How did you dispel doubt as you wrote?
I’ve always wanted to write, since I was about thirteen. I just always wrote – journals, poems, stories. I just loved it so much, and it was that clichéd thing of feeling like – this is what makes me feel like my best self. That sounds so cheesy, but I definitely didn’t feel like my best self when I was solving an algebraic equation or memorizing the Periodic Table of Elements or playing basketball (I’m 5’2” on a good day). But writers always have doubts, right? Periods of doubt followed by periods of, “I can do this!” in a never-ending circle. When I have those doubts I just keep writing, and remember that everyone writes things they want to burn or delete or stash away forever. That’s part of the process. Maybe Toni Morrison doesn’t have that, but the rest of us do.
5. Describe the first 2-3 steps of your process in writing your book.
It was sold as a proposal, so the first step was writing the proposal and shaping that with my agent. The second step once it was sold was sitting down and tackling each chapter. I had a full-time job when I was writing it, so I worked on the book every Friday to Sunday, and then on weeknights after work. The third step was obsessively going over each chapter before turning it in to the editor. I loved the process of writing the book. There were some hard moments, a few chapters that were not working that made me panic, but the actual process was joyful for the most part. I was writing a book!
6. How do you balance what will sell with what you want to say?
Since my writing is a little like memoir – humorous personal essays for the most part – I always think: What will readers get out of this and what am I trying to say? It’s important to ask that question so you’re not just churning out self-indulgent personal stories that don’t have any connection to the wider world. And you really don’t know what will sell until it’s out in the world, so you have to write what feels true to you. If you just worry, “Will this sell?” you’re going to dilute your writing.
7. Which is more difficult – drafting or revising? Why?
Because it’s the blank page, and there’s the fear of putting something awful down on that perfect blank page. Or putting nothing at all, which is worse. Good editors make your work better and challenge you to go deeper, so I enjoy that challenge and I like the back and forth, arguing your point (nicely) and collaborating. That’s with good, smart, sensitive editors – if an editor chops up your work and doesn’t have a feel for your writing, that’s not such a fun process, obviously.
8. What is your favorite part about being a writer?
Those surprising moments when a character says or does something unexpected, or when a joke or a phrase comes out that actually takes you by surprise and makes you laugh. Creating something from nothing is a satisfying thing. And connecting to other people. When someone relates to what you’ve written or it makes them laugh – that’s a great feeling.
9. What is your least favorite part about being a writer?
When people devalue what writers do and ask them to work for little to no money, “for the exposure.” UGH!
10. When you write, who do you imagine as your reader?
People who have a sense of humor? People who understand that sometimes in life, even when things suck, you have to be able to laugh.
11. What are a few of your favorite books of all time?
Well, Beloved of course because of my teenage Toni Morrison fixation. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry is probably my all-time favorite book. It’s not a humor book by any stretch, but if you want an engrossing story with incredible characters, read it immediately. I bawled at the end, mainly because I was so devastated that the book was finished. It’s like 900 pages, too, so it’s not like you can just casually reread it real quick. I also love The World According to Garp, anything by David Sedaris, and I love Eleanor & Park. It captured teenage love perfectly.
12. How did you learn to write?
By reading constantly, and by writing a lot of crap constantly until I hit my stride.
13. What are some things that get in the way of your writing? How do you move them out of the way?
Self-doubt. Your day job. With your day job, you just have to designate specific writing times and stick to that, like, All day Friday is dedicated to writing this book or this script, with no exceptions. With self-doubt? You just have to be your own therapist and talk yourself off the ledge and sit down and write.
14. What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
I went through a Henry Miller phase in my early 20s, and he often wrote about the need to write with joy, to truly, passionately love the act of writing. So when I’m having doubts or feel stuck, I remind myself that this should be a joyous thing (with moments of terror/horror/fear/doubt, of course) – otherwise, why bother? If you really hate it and it’s making you miserable, why do it? So, write with joy.
15. If you could inhabit the setting of one book, where would you live and why?
This is a good question! Lady Chatterley’s Lover because the woods seem so lovely and Mellors was a hottie, but the women in that society had very few rights then so… there’s that.
16. What’s your philosophy and practice about reading reviews of your work?
Obviously you’re never supposed to read the comments, but we’re only human. I’m glad a lot of sites like Broadly and Bustle don’t have comment sections – I think it just eliminates so much negativity. It’s always best NOT to read everything online because one bad review can send you into a spiral, but I think it’s best to limit it. And if your book has been out a while, stop searching for reviews and focus on your next project. It’s much more productive. And stay off Goodreads! I got that advice from several authors right before my book came out.
Dina Gachman‘s comedic blog, Bureaucracy for Breakfast, was featured on Marketplace on NPR and ABC’s 20/20. She has written for Jezebel, Forbes, The Hairpin, Bustle, Refinery29, Salon, and xoJane, and Brokenomics is her first book. You can find her on Twitter and on her website, dinagachman.com