The opening paragraph of Georgia Clark’s new novel The Regulars, can have any woman laying claim to it as pretty much an autobiography. Evie Selvy, a smart young twenty-something living in Brooklyn is prepping for an online date. As she critically studies herself, Evie internally acknowledges her physical shortcomings and recognizes them as a constant, hostile enemy.
Despite her mother’s impassioned insistence to the contrary, Evie Selby had never thought of herself as beautiful. There were moments when she felt cute: some high-angle, low light selfies that made her dyed black hair and small, intent face look pixieish, even sweet. There were moments when she felt cool: the day she started wearing the thickest black-rimmed glasses she could find, the night a line of poetry was inked into her pale forearm. But beautiful? No.
Clark, an Australian-born Brooklynite, is astonishingly acute in pointing out the common denominator that unites most women, particularly younger ones, in a complex arena: the fear of not being pretty enough and therefore, not good enough to succeed.
The Regulars might be mistaken for a novel that simplistically points out the non-existence of actual problems, but in between witty plot lines and occasional slap-stick comedy type situations, Clark intelligently presents a plot that picks the bone clean at the injustice and the often insurmountable amount of pressure that women are subjected to on a day-to-day basis.
Add to the usual gender inequality the added ingredient of just being different from the mainstream white, heterosexual woman. Evie is gay; her roommate and friend Krista is of Malaysian and Sri Lankan descent. And Willow, the final member of this down-on-themselves triumvirate, refuses to see anything good about her life, her talents or her looks and battles with continued episodes of depression that threaten her relationship with a boyfriend who is pretty much in awe of her.
But it doesn’t stop there. Their lives are tinted with constant professional disappointments. Edie finds her job as a copy-editor at a Cosmopolitan-type magazine called Salty, a dead end to her effort as a feminist writer and an insult to women who refuse to be seen solely as sex objects. Although she pours her creative energy into posting keen observations about life and love for a twenty-something woman under the name “Madame Snark” on a self-launched website, Evie is as unsatisfied with her career as she is with love and her own sexuality.
Krista has nothing to show from her acting career that continuously bombs, stopping short at preliminary auditions, while Willow tries and fails to live up to her artist father’s fame. Although these girls are frequently guilty of being annoyingly dense and constant saboteurs of their own happiness it’s hard not to relate to their youthful insecurities and self-doubts.
Their lives suddenly lurch into a momentary realm of fantasy when a mysterious woman gives Krista an unforeseen solution to their problems; a purplish liquid called Pretty that grants the ultimate wish of changing them into breath-taking beauties. The catch? It’s only for one week. Do they take it? Yes. What happens after? Needless to say that this one-of-a-kind group of friends will come to realize that being beautiful isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. And that when you begin losing the very essence of yourself and of who you truly are, it gets harder and harder to look in the mirror.
In a phone interview, Georgia Clark explained how the inspiration for The Regulars came about and how she sees herself, her characters, and feminism. Oh, and did we forget to mention? She also wants to teach fellow writers how to market their novels successfully.
When did you first start thinking about being a writer?
That would actually be two different questions; when did I start writing, and when did I start to do it for a living. When I was in what you call middle school here, I was always writing in a notebook, always expressing myself through writing. I was a big reader as well because growing up we didn’t really have a television, or rather we did but it didn’t have a proper reception. So I read a lot as a child, went a lot to the library and secondhand bookstores. Later, I fell in love with series like “Sweet Valley High”, because it was such a great representation of pop-culture, which I’ve always been a huge fan of.
When I was in high school I thought of becoming a film director. Later in my twenties, I decided that being a screenwriter could be a more enjoyable creative process, but when I moved to New York I suddenly realized that I could be one more screenwriter in a town chock-full of them, or I could tell stories through the novel form. Although I have always worked in the publishing world in different capacities, I only became a full-time author when I sold The Regulars.
What inspired you to write The Regulars?
I started having conversations with girlfriends about different things, like what would happen if you had a magic potion to make you pretty that would actually work? What would happen later, when people you know see you as a completely different person, a stranger? I thought that this idea had enough strength for a novel.
There was a point in my life when I first moved to New York, barely making ends meet, that I started to find myself very unattractive. I really struggled with that, thinking that I was truly ugly and that no one would ever tell me the truth about that, and how I would never find a partner because of that. It was really something awful to go through. But the writer in me wanted to explore that feeling.
The Regulars seems at first glance more fantasy or even sci-fi more than general fiction. How do you see the novel?
I think I enjoyed knowing that it would be more on the side of contemporary fiction than sci-fi or fantasy. Pretty is actually a magic potion, but in a sci-fi story that would be more of a concern. In The Regulars it’s just a little glitch in reality that the characters accept, and then the story itself is more about relationships and what’s going on in these girl’s lives.
Willow, Evie, and Krista are all terribly insecure about their looks. Is that perhaps more related to the insecurities related to their youth than true lack of beauty and allure?
Absolutely. When you’re a teenager or a young woman and you’ve just started to establish your opportunities in the world but also your limitations, your paths, where you’re going. I think that for women, dealing with age and beauty standards is a life-long experiment because as you get older, you then have the concern about aging but also you become a bit more assertive with yourself. But I think confidence really comes from within and from the people around you.
Velma Wolff, a writer Evie has a huge crush on, tells her: “Fiction can’t create truth, because each reader creates truth for him or herself.” As a writer, do you believe that?
That’s a really interesting conversation between them. And yes, I do believe that. Everyone is creating a different reality for themselves all the time, and that is why we have different views and disagreements about things. But I also believe more in a universal experience rather than in universal truth; if we are unloved or rejected that isn’t good for us. But more importantly, finding your tribe is very powerful as is finding people that think like you and have interests similar to yours.
Which character in the novel was the hardest for you to write?
I think I would have to say Willow was the hardest, because she was the one that was most dissimilar to me. If anything I’m more similar to Evie, and Willow is someone that is mysterious to others and mysterious to herself. Initially, Mark (Willow’s boyfriend) had a point of view in the first draft of the book, but my editor suggested that I needed to get inside Willow’s head and think more from her point of view, work out what she was about, and it’s so interesting to write about characters that are nothing like you.
The thing that I like the most about different points of view is that it creates interesting discussions about topics which I think about from one perspective, but then one of the characters has a completely opposite view, like when Edie has a discussion with Jen, her editor, about feminism and whether the magazine is truly feminist or not. And they both present very different but very valid points of view.
Is there a reason we never find out the origin of Pretty?
One of my concerns with the Pretty was that if we started digging into it, where would it take us? It would mean getting to a place where we’re basically explaining magic in a novel that is otherwise pretty much grounded. I wanted it to feel like Brooklyn, 2016; these girls would be on the subway, out and about, doing their thing. I felt that if I got too much into the backstory of Pretty, then we would be mixing two different genres that don’t really mesh. That being said, we are in conversations for the possibility of adapting the novel to a television show. If that happens, then we might have to think about explaining the Pretty a bit more.
Is The Regulars a feminist novel?
Oh yes! Absolutely. I specifically set out to write a feminist novel, and I’m interested in different ways that feminism can be expressed. I have my takes on the world and my friends and I have sort of similar values. I wanted to write a book that sort of takes my experience and put that center stage, while making it also entertaining and fun. Although I am a fan of pop-culture, I find sometimes that it has become a little white-washed.
For example, in television shows all the characters are pretty much the same and there really isn’t the sort of conversations that my friends and I have. I think that’s why when I first saw Lena Dunham’s Girls on HBO, I felt like it was almost invasive. I never had the experience of seeing my life represented so clearly on screen. I was so used to seeing the bleached-white perfect kind of girl and that’s great, but it was so amazing to see something different. That’s what I set out to do with my novel: Present characters that are diverse, gay, who talk about issues like feminism in a way that feels relatable.
What would you like readers to take away from The Regulars?
I want to answer that by saying what I took away from it. I think that it’s an important part of being woman to come to terms with your physical appearance. I still don’t look in the mirror everyday and give myself a thumbs-up, but I’ve come to terms with it. A happy life can be led by anyone, and it doesn’t matter what you look like. We can be like, “This is me, this is what I look like, and fuck it”. That’s my take on it.
What projects are you working on right now?
I’ve sold my next book, but I have to say I’m barely in the research stage. At the moment, I’m about to launch an online course for writers called The Pro-Active Author on GeorgiaClark.com, and it’s directed at writers that are either traditionally publishing or self-publishing on how to successfully launch their novel. It’s not about the craft; it’s more about marketing, publicity, social media and how to create their brand. It will launch in the next couple of days, so by the time this article comes out it will be live on my website.