About Cathy Alter
Q. What is your birthdate?
Q. Previous occupations
A. My first job out of college was working for Bloomingdale's, as the assistant manager of their Bloomingdale's NOW! department. Then, I worked as a copwriter in a big fancy ad agency.
Q. Favorite job
A. If my favorite job wasn't writing, I'd be in big trouble.
Q. High school and/or college
A. William H. Hall High School in West Hartford, CT and Franklin & Marshall college before transferring to and graduating from Colgate University
Q. Name of your favorite composer or music artist?
A. I think Elvis Costello is a brilliant songwriter whose voice just gets better with age. I'd make a comment about fine wine but that's just silly.
Q. Favorite movie
A. Call me a gay man, but I love Mildred Pierce with Joan Crawford. Vita is the meanest daughter of all time!
Q. Favorite television show
A. If The Real Housewives of NYC was on 24-hours a day it wouldn't be enough for me.
Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
A. Saved my life with women's magazines. Thanks, Cosmo!
Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Avoid making excuses or standing in long lines.
Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. The never-ending grief of a loved one's death. Gee. Thanks for bringing me down.
Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. Rome! Or back in Punta Cana on my honeymood. Or way back, in first grade, listening to my favorite teacher read a book.
Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Mark Twain. Yes, I'm serious. I grew up near where he lived and loved to visit his house. It felt so familiar to me.
Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. This feels like a trick question devised by my mother. Whom I actually do admire greatly. I also admire my father a great deal. Mostly because he made it through my book and is still speaking to me.
Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. I swear like a sailor, so I'm afraid my most overused word rhymes with 'duck." Interestingly enough, my other most overused phrase is 'I love you,' which I enjoy saying almost as much as the word that rhymes with duck.
Q. What do you regret most?
A. I regret not spending more time with my aunt before she died. She loved words, loved what they could do, and loved what I could do with them. She always made me feel so special.
Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. Okay, finally an easy question. I would like to acquire the talent of rhythm so I could play a big monster drum set and join a really cool band.
Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Some days I feel like my greatest achievement is just remembering to put on pants before leaving the house. But, on a larger scale, I think writing my book was pretty huge. There were many days when I just wanted to chuck it all and get a job at Queen Nails.
Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. I tend to let my nutty imagination override a pretty stable reality. Which is a fancy way of saying, I can often invent problems that aren't even remotely possible in the real world.
Q. What’s your best quality?
A. If I like you, I will be more loyal than a dog. I am also unfailingly on time.
Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I sure hope a copy of this questionnaire isn't going to my shrink! Hmmm. I only know how to be me - so I pick me, but a version of me that doesn't watch so much bad television. Has the long-term effect of The Hills been cleared by the FDA?
Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. Is "tall" a trait? If not, I'd say my capacity to talk with my hands is pretty noticeable. And dangerous at times.
Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. I really loved the narrator of Dave Egger's "You Shall Know By Our Velocity."
Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Every single character in Franzen's The Corrections.
Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. I'd like to meet Jim Morrison and ask him if I could borrow his leather pants for a week or so.
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. Slow walkers! Hurry up, people!
Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Looking for treasures at the fleamarket.
Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. After superstar drummer, it would be archaeologist.
Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Loyalty, humor, compassion.
Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. McDonald's French fries.
Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. I'd wear it proudly, by Elvis Costello; New slang, by The Shins; Pink Night, by Jason Colett; Rise up with fists by Jenny Lewis; The Seed, by The Roots
On Books and Writing
Q. Who are your favorite authors?
A. In no particular order: Carolyn Parkhurst, Jennifer Egan, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Franzen, Martin Amis, Shalom Auslander, Mark Twain, George Saunders, David Sedaris, Mary Gaitskill, Alice McDermott, Charles Dickens, Vladmir Nabokov (have to get in the classics, right?)
Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. This is too hard! A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius really changed the way I thought you were allowed to write memoir, so that was a big one for me. Wuthering Heights - it's one of the few books I've read and reread - and not for homework! Dogs of Babel - Carolyn Parkhurst is one of the most inventive writers I've ever read - and such a nice person, too. Geek Love. I could not get enough of this book The Journalist and the Murderer - every journalist should read this!
Q. Is there a book you love to reread?
A. Other than Wuthering Heights, I find myself pulling Jonathan Franzen's memoir, The Discomfort Zone out and reading passages again and again because they are so funny.
Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
A. Get it out of your head and onto the page.
Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
A. How did you have sex in your cubicle without getting caught.