Sarah Pekkanen is the internationally-bestselling author of THESE GIRLS, SKIPPING A BEAT, and THE OPPOSITE OF ME. A former journalist, she lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her family. Nanny X conducted this interview exclusively for The Nanny (tmb) 2012.
Sarah … would you give us a very quick over view of what THESE
GIRLS is about?
Cate, Renee, and Abby have come to New York for very different reasons, and in a bustling city of millions, they are linked together through circumstance and chance. Cate has just been named the features editor of Gloss, a high-end lifestyle magazine. It’s a professional coup, but her new job comes with more complications than Cate ever anticipated, including resentment from colleagues who wonder if Cate’s talent earned her the promotion, or whether her good looks dazzled the flirtatious editor-in-chief. Cate’s roommate Renee will do anything to nab the plumb job of beauty editor at Gloss.
To engage readers, the magazine decides to have the candidates interact on-line through social media before selecting the winner. But snide Internet comments about Renee’s weight send her into an emotional tailspin. Soon she is taking black market diet pills – despite the racing heartbeat and trembling hands that signal she’s heading for real danger. Then there’s Abby, who they take in as a third roommate, and who, like the other two women, is also hiding a secret.
Once a joyful graduate student who worked as a live-in nanny while she studied to become a teacher, Abby abruptly fled what seemed to be a happy life in the D.C. suburbs. No one knows what shattered Abby – or why she left everything she once loved behind. Pekkanen’s most compelling, true-to-life novel yet tells the story of three very different women as they navigate the complications of careers and love – and find the lifeline they need in each other.
The character of Abby is of particular interest to our audience. Why did you create her? Where did she come from?
I have three kids, so I wanted a character who is deeply involved with children because so much of my own life revolves around little ones. Giving Abby a job as a nanny made sense, and many of the emotions she experiences – the exhaustion of schlepping grocery bags and a cranky child home from running errands, the tenderness toward a sleeping child who looks like an angel – are my own. I really felt for Abby, who became a second mother to little Annabelle, and I’ve since heard from some former nannies that saying good-bye to the children they came to love were among the most painful experiences of their lives.
Did you research women who were graduate nannies?
I tend to do a good bit of research for my novels, but not for my characters – they need to spring up organically in my mind. So although I did things like get an early-morning, behind the scenes tour of a top New York glossy magazine’s headquarters as background for the workplace for Cate and Renee, Abby is purely fictional.
What is your connection to NYC?
I adore New York! I go there every few months for meetings with my publisher or agent, so it’s a city I’ve come to know a bit. I grew up in the D.C. area and still live here, so although I adore traveling, I don’t know many other places well. It’s fun to set books in my hometown and New York – and every time I visit the Big Apple, I discover new restaurants or parks to weave into my books.
Female solidarity appears to be a strong theme in THESE GIRLS. How vital do you think a woman’s network of friendships are?
Incredibly important, especially if someone comes from a broken or damaged family. Friends can become the family we choose!
Do the ways in which women connect with friends differ to that of men?
Yes, because men are socialized differently. I think it’s changing now, but men generally used to be discouraged from talking about their feelings – whereas women often bond by talking about their feelings! Most men I know tend to share activities, whereas my women friends and I try to get together just to have marathon talks over a glass or two of wine.
Where can we get your book?
At bookstores everywhere, as well as online. My books, along with my two short estories, are also available for e-readers like Kindle and Nook.