Angie from Open Book Society recently had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Nicole Chardenet, author of Young Republican, Yuppie Princess. Chardenet proved to be just as witty in her interview as she was in her novel. There is a spoiler in the interview, so pay attention if you don’t want to find out how it ends. You can read Angie’s review of Young Republican, Yuppie Princess HERE.
OBS: When did you get the inspiration for this story?
Chardenet: I wrote the first draft close to twenty years ago during a recession and I was depressed about ever finding a full-time job again. I was in a medieval re-creation group called the Society for Creative Anachronism and I met a guy at an event who was from New Jersey, really loud and with that awful accent. I thought to myself, “Man, he’d make a great villain!” and Prince Chip was born. Now he just needed some people to villainize…
OBS: I enjoyed Joyce’s witty sarcasm. Is she based on someone you know? Are any of the characters on people you know?
Chardenet: The two male characters, Hacker and JB, are old boyfriends from college. (It was kinda like the TV show Friends – as the years wore on our crowd changed partners every now and then!) Raven is based loosely on myself and my college roommate. Joyce is simply all the tightassed Young Republican students I met at Kent State.
I pulled the story out of mothballs during the 2008 financial crisis and decided to do a second draft just for practice’s sake. But now, Joyce’s right-wing dedication and career goals were much more ironic than they were in the early Clinton years. I thought, “This could be really funny today!” So I rewrote it, taking advantage of the characters’ historical cluelessness such as Joyce saying, “I promise you, there are no surprises on Wall Street!” Hmmmm, I wonder how she handled the Crash of ’87.
OBS: Did you set the story in the Eighties to highlight the selfishness of the era in stark contrast to the selfless mission that the friends must accomplish?
Chardenet: Uh, no, I can’t say as I did, although that’s an interesting interpretation. Honestly, I set it in the Eighties because those were happier times for me compared to ten years later when life hadn’t turned out quite as I’d planned. Although by the time I did the second draft the Eighties were a different era, a distant past for many, therefore ripe for nostalgia. Although I never romanticized them. I remembered how brutal the Reagan years were – the union-busting of PATCO workers, his release of the mentally ill onto the streets which brought about widespread homelessness, the attacks on social programs and women’s rights, particularly with abortion choice – and of course ‘trickle-down economics’, which didn’t, and for which we can thank Reagan for helping create the mess we’re in today.
OBS: This story deals with the very deep issues of rape and abuse. What was your reasoning behind including something so serious in a story that has the potential to be just a fun lighthearted fantasy?
Chardenet: When I was in the SCA we re-created the Middle Ages the way we’d have wanted them to be – with personal hygiene, equal rights and everyone coming from a higher class. The fact was the Middle Ages were brutal for almost everyone. Chivalry and courtly love sound glamourous but in truth women had few rights and certainly not over their own bodies or destinies. And that’s what Joyce and her friends would have faced in a patriarchal society – especially with an overprivileged royal to whom no one ever said No. Contemporarily, think of Michael Jackson, a modern-day king (of pop) to whom no one ever said No, not when he wanted sleepovers with children, not to his insane shopping trips when he wasn’t making any money, or to all the drugs he took which eventually killed him, with our without his accused doctor’s alleged help. What a rude awakening for a woman accustomed to being in control when in reality she’s been given that control – reluctantly – by men over the last few decades with women’s liberation, and which men like Ronald Reagan and conservative extremists would like to take back. Joyce has no idea she’s sleeping with the enemy.
OBS: I was really rooting for Joyce and JB. I thought they were sweet together. But at the end they aren’t together. As I processed the story I wondered if you were trying show that even going through a life- altering event it doesn’t have to alter your life. Joyce never wavered from her goal of working on Wall Street. Not even for love. Most stories like this end with a “happily ever after” but you didn’t do that. Is there a reason for that?
Chardenet: In truth, the Joyce and JB characters were both committed enough to their respective career goals that yes, either one would let the other go, out of respect for the other as much as for one’s self. It may also have something to do with the fact that when I was seeing JB’s inspiration, he was having a hard time finding a job locally and when his old roommate, now in another state, called with a job offer, he jumped at the chance to move away for this opportunity. I was disappointed and hurt but I also knew that I would do the same because while I wasn’t unemployed – I was temping – I had a hard time finding a real job myself and had I gotten the chance I would have done it too (and I did, a year after his departure). He later wanted to get back together and we began an on-again off-again long distance relationship for the next few years but by then the magic was gone for me and I eventually split with him for good.
I have a rough outline for a sequel to Young Republican, Yuppie Princess which gives Joyce and JB a second chance together. Whether one or the other or both blows it is still a mystery – with competition for Joyce’s favour coming from a highly unlikely source.
OBS: You didn’t leave anything unresolved. So is it safe to assume that there won’t be a “Book 2: Generation X Edition”?
Chardenet:Actually, I did leave the book open-ended in a subtle way for a possible sequel. In the Epilogue I’ve set up everyone for trouble down the road, knowing that the sequel would commence in 1987. Forthcoming trouble is most apparent for Joyce but there are clouds on the horizon for everyone. And if I do write the sequel, the portals will be accessed by characters on both sides. There will be plenty more 80s humour since there will be three more years to play with.
JB is off on a secret mission and no one knows where he is. Where could that be in 1987? Hint: Joyce will find out via the mass media.
END SPOILER ALERT
OBS: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to? What is a typical playlist for you?
Chardenet:I usually listen to music without singing when I write, otherwise it’s too distracting. I might make an exception for apropos music, like Eighties music while I was revising YRYP. I’ve got a Harry Potter soundtrack, some Rick Wakeman, Pagan music, and creepy mood music by Midnight Syndicate. I have an extensive European symphonic/speed metal collection too.
OBS: What kinds of things do you enjoy when you’re not writing?
Chardenet: I live in Toronto now where I have lots of friends so we go out a lot. I’m always in search of a cheap martini! I read, and I tease the cat, I walk for exercise with my iPod and work out plotting issues.
OBS: If you were offered the chance to make a movie of Young Republican, Yuppie Princess, who would you choose to play the lead roles?
Chardenet: Wow! I have to admit I hadn’t thought of that. Truth is, my celebrity-fu is seriously out of date because I don’t watch much TV or movies anymore. (Hey, a writer’s gotta write.) I suppose Rob Lowe and John Cusack are too old to play college students anymore, huh? I envisioned JB as a tall Tom Cruise type but Tom’s old enough to play his dad today. I have to admit I Googled here for ‘hot young stars’ because it’s obvious my concept of babemeisters is a few years of date. Some dude named Ian Somerhalder who I guess is a vampire on True Blood – he’d make a good JB, don’t you think? Is he tall? Maybe Kristen Stewart for Joyce, if she played down her looks. Daniel Radcliffe for Hacker? If he lost the British accent? Those bushy eyebrows give him a geeky look. Selena Gomez for Raven – totally geeked out but ready at any time to become the red-hot superbabe she aspires to be. How about Charlie Sheen as the horny Prince or even the heavy metal troubadour/sorceror? Or both?!?!
OBS: What projects are you working on now?
Chardenet: I have a completed project I’ve put aside right now while I promote YRYP. It takes place in contemporary Toronto. Various characters looking for love in the big city – and Toronto is one of the most romance-challenged cities in North America – find themselves thwarted by the world’s most beautiful demon, capable of performing the world’s most incredible sex act, and she’s stalking the city looking for male virgins (remarkably easy to find here 😉 However, shagging her is absolutely the worst and very last idea you will ever have. There’s also bizarre historical band of radicals who bring a new twist to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian land dispute.
What I’m working on now – the first draft of which is about to go into its fourth year – is a cautionary tale of why you should never have sex with dead people. No matter how hot and alive they may be. Don’t do it. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
OBS: What is your website? Do you Twitter or Facebook with your fans?
Twitter – #nchardenet
I’m on Facebook, and I friend damn near anyone who didn’t torture me to death in high school. Oh wait, I befriended that guy too. I forgot, I have the boundaries of the starship Enterprise. It would help, though, if you’re a guy, to include a message about YRYP just to keep you separate from all the horny losers out there trying to collect female Facebook friends in a desperate, pathetic attempt to look studly, or something. (It won’t help your case at all if your profile shows you sitting on a bed wearing nothing but your Calvin Kleins with a beer can sticking out of the top. Yes, I’ve gotten that friend request before. What do you think my response was?