Everybody wants to belong.
It's 2006 in the Manhattan of the young and glamorous. At 26, bright, funny and socially anxious Evelyn Beegan is determined to free herself from the social-climbing mother who propelled her through prep school and on to the Upper East Side.
Evelyn has long felt like an outsider to her privileged peers, but when she gets a job at social network site People Like Us, aimed at the elite, she befriends glamorous queen bee Camilla Rutherford and steps into a promised land of private schools, regattas, second homes and the society pages. Evelyn soon finds the lure of belonging intoxicating and starts trying to pass as old money herself.
Her lies start small, but with her lawyer father being investigated by a grand jury, and with money and class colliding in a city that is about to go over a financial precipice, Evelyn's position on the rickety social ladder begins to shake. After every rise must there be a fall?
In the bestselling tradition of social-climbing tales told by an outsider such as The Great Gatsby, The Devil Wears Prada, Prep and Gossip Girl, comes this extraordinary debut novel by Stephanie Clifford.
Stephanie Clifford is a Loeb Award-winning reporter at the NEW YORK TIMES. She grew up in Seattle and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son and two cats. Everybody Rise is her first novel.
Author: Stephanie Clifford
Question: What inspired the story of Everybody Rise?
Stephanie Clifford: When I moved to New York, I had a really hard time - I couldn't get a job, and was getting by freelancing, but was barely making rent. The film and novel narratives I saw about moving to the city didn't reflect how hard city living can be for a lot of us. I wanted to write about someone who's struggling in New York, which Evelyn, the protagonist, is. That helps explain why she's so attracted to this glamorous world of regattas and parties when she falls in with it, and why she's willing to lie to be part of it.
Question: What was the best part about creating the character of Evelyn?
Stephanie Clifford: She's so eager to fit in that she's willing to do anything to get there, and seeing her decisions become wilder and wilder was a lot of fun. She went from a place we've all been in, where you might fib a little to smooth things over, to these huge lies that she can barely keep up with. I loved seeing how she justified that to herself, and it was great fun putting her in difficult situations and seeing her often disastrous decisions.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Stephanie Clifford: I pulled a bit from real life, of course, but I also found huge freedom in writing fiction. In my day job, I cover Brooklyn courts for the New York Times, and that is entirely fact-based. Fiction was the opposite. It was so fun to throw out a character who wasn't working, or to play with a setting. I did constantly listen for interesting bits of conversation when I was going about my daily life, and would frantically scribble them down when I heard something captivating - lots of those fragments made it in.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Stephanie Clifford: What worked best for me was fitting writing into my everyday life. I started writing Everybody Rise years ago, then put it aside because it seemed impossible to balance with my job as a reporter. Evelyn kept nagging at me, though, so about five years ago, I looked at my schedule, realized that I did have two hours free in the morning, and so every day, I'd get up and write from 6 to 8 before work. The years where I was writing daily ended up being even busier - I switched departments at the Times, I got married, I had a baby, I moved - but I didn't give up on those morning hours. Most of us don't have the luxury of leaving our lives behind to pursue creative projects (and that has its downfalls, anyway) - but there is a way to make it work within your existing life. It just takes a lot longer than you might expect!
Question: What's next, for you?
Stephanie Clifford: Fox 2000 has bought movie rights to Everybody Rise, so I'm excited to see where that goes. I'm at work on a second novel, set in the criminal-justice world. For me, though, it's so thrilling that Everybody Rise has become an actual book - I wrote for so long and basically in secret, so to have it in readers' hands is a dream. The day I see someone reading it on the subway, I may faint!
Interview by Brooke Hunter