Erin McKean, author of one of my favourite novels, The Secret Lives of Dresses was kind enough to entertain my blog readers with an interview. If you haven’t read The Secret Lives of Dresses yet—do it! It is a beautiful story exploring the relationship between a Grandchild and her Grandmother, it is beautifully written & is just amazing! You won’t be disappointed.
Lisa: As a child, what were your career dreams?
Erin: I really wanted to be a lexicographer
(http://www.wordnik.com/words/lexicographer) from the time I was about
eight years old. Seriously! I even have the article in the paper that
inspired me — I put a scan of it up here:
Lisa: Are there any literary influences from your childhood
that particularly played a role in shaping you into a writer?
Erin: Oh, that’s a tough one. It would probably be easier to say what writers
DIDN’T influence me! I read voraciously and insatiably (and still do). I
would say that my favorite romance writer is Kathleen Norris — her
descriptions of clothes and food are wonderful, even if her plots are a
little creaky. I’m also a devotee of Trollope, I love Kipling, and O.
Henry, and Noel Streatfeild, and E. Nesbit, and Donald Westlake, and …
too many other to list!
Lisa: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Erin: I’m still not sure I consider myself a writer-with-a-capital-W. I’m not
Lisa: If you won the lottery, what would be your first big purchase?
Erin: I suppose I should be sensible and say something like “two hours of a
financial planner’s time” but then again, it’s not very sensible to play
the lottery. I think I would buy my husband a very fancy chair that he’s
Lisa: How did you make the leap from writing about the world of words, to the world of dresses?
Erin: It wasn’t so much a leap as a juggling — I still do write occasionally
about words, and for a very very long time I did quite a lot of both,
simultaneously. Writing about sewing and dresses sort of grew out of
becoming more serious about sewing; I was doing all that sewing (which
is very good for thinking) and didn’t really have anyone to talk about
it with, so of course I thought: “I’ll start a blog!”
Lisa: Which do you prefer writing: fiction or non-fiction?
Erin: Oh — they’re so different to me, it’s like asking whether you prefer
dancing or the moon! I like fiction because you can create a world; I
like non-fiction because the world that already exists is so fascinating!
Lisa: In your novel, The Secret Lives of Dresses, a beautiful relationship
between a grandchild and granddaughter is explored.
What inspired the relationship between Mimi and Dora?
Erin: I really have no idea! I know it seems odd, but one day I just thought
about what it would be like to raise a grandchild after losing a child,
about doing things “the second time around,” and then about what it
would be like to be that grandchild. And then it was “Mimi and Dora.”
Mimi is named after a close friend of my family, whose own grandchildren
are like my cousins. She always had a kind word for everyone, too — but
that’s where the resemblance ends.
Lisa: The Secret Lives of Dresses is one of the most amazing pieces of
literary art I have ever read. While writing this novel, what message
did you want to send to readers?
Erin: Oh, how kind of you! I’m afraid I’m not a very message-y writer. I just
wanted people to have an enjoyable few hours with fun people and pretty
Lisa: What drives your love for vintage?
Erin: I love the silhouettes — vintage is really just FUN to wear. Not like a
costume is fun to wear, but the feel of a vintage dress, full skirts and
big collars and interesting prints. That’s what I like best.
Lisa: What are some of your favorite places to shop for dresses?
Erin: Right now, my sewing room! I have so many patterns and fabrics waiting
for me to make them, I haven’t bought a ready-made dress from a store in
a long time! When I do look for dresses I tend to look for vintage on
Etsy or Ebay (and I think Lands End has some nice shirtdresses right
now, too). My favorite “store” right now is probably Betabrands
(Betabrands.com), mostly because their copywriting is so hilarious (and
their mens’ corduroys are very nice).
Lisa: Any style icons?
Erin: I think Diana Vreeland was the most stlish woman that ever lived. She was amazing.
I can’t wait for the new movie about her to come out (The Eye Has To Travel)!
Lisa: There is so much hype surrounding the undead in both the worlds of
cinema and literature. Are you team Zombie, or team Robot?
Erin: I love to read about zombies — I’m a huge fan of World War Z and
Walking Dead (the comic — can’t deal with the tv show) but I really
prefer robots, aesthetically.
Lisa: Any inspiring words for hopeful fashionista’s and writers?
Erin: Just find something that makes you really, really enthusiastic. If your
friends can’t get you to shut up about it, that’s what you should be
Lisa: You are a woman who knows your words!
What is your favourite word in the English language?
Erin: I don’t really have an unfavorite word (me not like a word? That’s
unpossible!) but I do admit to having a big list of “loved” words on
Wordnik — it’s here: http://www.wordnik.com/users/erinmckean/favorites
Be sure to check out The Secret Lives of Dresses!
Follow Erin on twitter @emckean