As a former reporter, I can catch a writer when they’ve never had newspaper experience. But Paige Tourneur is spot on. Were you a reporter in a past life, or just a really good researcher?!?
Oh, thank you so much! No, I was never an actual reporter. I wanted to be one, but changed major my freshman year in college. I do know a lot of reporters and former reporters, and my editor, Julie Smith, was a long time journalist, first with the New Orleans Times-Picayune and then with theSan Francisco Chronicle. Any time I had a question, all I had to do was ask. She was a HUGE help to me.
Paige has a secret past. How much longer will you make us wait to find out her back story?
The story of Paige’s past is going to slowly play out over the course of at least a few more books. There’s a lot of back story there, and I don’t want to just dump it all out in one fell swoop. But there is definitely going to be a big pay-off for the readers, so I certainly hope they’ll buckle their seatbelts and come along for the ride!
Was there a challenge in writing from a woman’s POV?
Well, I was a little worried about authenticity. But I’ve always been surrounded by women—I had a sister who was very close to me in age, and I’ve always had a lot of women friends, and still do—so I was pretty sure I could get the voice right. I also had, as I mentioned before, an amazing editor who is a woman, and I knew if I made a false step she’d be on it like a duck on a june bug.
For the writers out there, do you write by the seat of your pants, or outline?
With my first few books, I outlined everything. But I stopped around Book 5, I think it was, because I kept straying away from the outline so it seemed like a waste of time, since I kept coming up with new ideas and changing everything. Now, I just have it all in my head and if I get stuck, then I sit down and outline what I’ve already written and then go from there. I may not actually use what I come up with, but it usually unsticks things. I always know how it’s going to end—it’s the getting there that changes a lot.
New Orleans is a character unto herself in Fashion Victim. Allow us into your world and describe your perfect New Orleans day.
Well, to me every day in New Orleans is perfect, but I think the most perfect day I’ve ever had in New Orleans was Fat Tuesday in 2006. It was amazing. It was after Katrina, and most of the city was still in ruins—and there had been a lot of criticism nationwide of the city for not cancelling it. But for all of us, that Mardi Gras was a symbol of perseverance and determination, a way for New Orleans to announce to the world that we weren’t going to let what happened get us down, or keep us down, to let everyone know we loved them for their help and their concern and their love and we weren’t going to let them down. And it was a spectacular day, in the high 70’s, no humidity, no clouds, just sunshine and blue sky everywhere you looked. I’ll never forget walking to the French Quarter from my house along the parade route, and all the signs like “504ever” and “Atlanta Thanks and Loves You, NOLA” and “NOLA Is Down But Never Out”—my eyes filled with tears several times that day (even now remembering I get teary) and I just knew in my heart that day that New Orleans was going to be back. Everyone was so happy, that wonderful feeling of community we always felt on Fat Tuesday was really strong that day, and everyone was in costume and celebrating. It felt like coming home.
Fashion shows are not my thing, as a rule. But this had been Marigny Mercereau’s first show in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, and my boss decided this was a big enough deal to warrant putting Marigny on the cover. She was getting the full treatment—coverage of the runway show, a cover shoot, and an in-depth interview. I wasn’t convinced she deserved it, frankly. Don’t get me wrong—I knew it was agood thing that the House of Mercereau was open for business again. Any business coming back since Katrina was terrific, a sign that things were getting back to normal—whatever that meant in New Orleans.
But a cover story on a business whose primary clientele was rich w
omen, drag queens, and high school girls in the market for a prom dress?
I pointed out to my boss this was hardly a newsworthy enough story in our post-Katrina world to warrant such coverage—even if Marigny was a huge advertiser, which she never had been and was unlikely to become. Since I’d gone to work at Crescent City we’d moved away from being a fluff magazine about the city to doing more in-depth investigative pieces—because as a monthly, we could do the kind of in-depth reporting the city’s daily and weekly papers couldn’t, and we were doing quite well with this kind of hard-hitting journalism.
I didn’t understand the return to fluff, but gave in with good grace.
Choosing your battles wisely is becoming a lost art.
I didn’t even bat an eye when the interview was assigned to me—at Marigny’s request. I knew her—I’d dated one of her sons briefly in the pre-Katrina world, and for some reason Marigny liked me. She seemed rather pretentious to me, and her sense of humor was odd…and it’s not like I was really into the entire fashion scene. But before I had a chance to say okay, my boss gave me the whole ‘team player’ speech.
Obviously, she was expecting me to pitch a fit of some sort.
But I loved working at Crescent City, and I really liked my boss. It was a great job, and a huge improvement over working at the city’s daily paper—and besides, there was that whole choose your battles wisely thing. I figured I could use the good will I’d earn doing the Marigny Mercereau interview to my advantage later. We’d scheduled the interview for later this afternoon—so I really needed to pull it together. Marigny had also sent me tickets to her fashion show last night—enclosing them in a card with the note so looking forward to seeing you again, xoxoxoxoxo Marigny—in what she called her ‘trademark’ pink ink.
After all, nothing screams ‘professional’ like pink ink, right?
Greg Herren is a New Orleans-based author and editor. Former editor of Lambda Book Report, he is also a co-founder of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, which takes place in New Orleans every May. He is the author of ten novels, including the Lambda Literary Award winning Murder in the Rue Chartres, called by the New Orleans Times-Picayune “the most honest depiction of life in post-Katrina New Orleans published thus far.” He co-edited Love, Bourbon Street: Reflections on New Orleans, which also won the Lambda Literary Award. He has published over fifty short stories in markets as varied as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine to the critically acclaimed anthology New Orleans Noir to various websites, literary magazines, and anthologies.