The Boys’ Club is a salacious tale about sex and power. It follows the female protagonist as she navigates the exciting and sometimes treacherous world of a big law firm in New York City. It was listed as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2020 by Buzzfeed and Best Summer Reads of 2020 by Cosmo. It’s also being made into a Netflix movie
I interviewed the author who’s a lawyer herself and writes under the pseudonym Erica Katz. We talk about her writing process, what inspired this very captivating book that’s the talk of the town, and what next is in the works from her. Read below
Why did you choose to write under a pseudonym as opposed to your real name?
The primary reason I write under a pseudonym is that my life parallels the protagonist’s in certain notable respects. I went to a top law school, I have worked at a big firm, I live in New York City and, I’m brunette. The book is total fiction and, I didn’t want to detract from its message, which is: to engender an honest conversation about how and where things need to change for women and minorities in the workplace.
If people are busy trying to figure out which firm was in the book or figure out who the people in the book are, that it would muddy the message. The truth is it is no firm. It’s not any firm that I’ve ever worked for. The characters are fictitious. They serve a purpose to spawn conversation. And the conversation is dulled if people think that they’re real. Without giving anything away, there is an assault in the book and, I’m very uncomfortable with the way people talk about victims of assault. Anyone at any given time can be a victim or an aggressor. The character who gets assaulted in this book does a ton of things wrong. And hopefully, people become very comfortable criticizing the things she does wrong while also agreeing that something wrong was done to her. And I think people are uncomfortable doing that with real people, which is another reason I don’t want people thinking she’s real.
And then practically, it’s a lot easier for me to have two identities. A hat that I am a lawyer with and a hat that I am not. It’s easier for me to separate my life that way, my emails that way etcetera.
“The Boys’ Club provides people with the fruitful dinner table conversations about where big business in America misses the mark on promoting women and brown and black people in particular, as well as LGBTQ.”
So even though the protagonist is a fictitious character. How much of your personal experiences as a lawyer informed your writing?
I will say that the general anxiety that Alex Bogle (The protagonist) felt walking into a huge law firm on her first day, the air of competitiveness, and the demanding hours were not blown out of proportion in the book. Then there’s the lifestyle that you are exposed to by way of fancy dinners and clients who have unlimited funds and their expectations. The basis of that is real. But none of it was my experience by the way. I had a wonderful experience in big law. I’m still working in big law. But it does exist. And the general framework, the rapid-fire emails, and the sort of celebrity status that some partners have at the firm are all informed by my own experience.
And then, the more like salacious undertone as well as some of the more scandalous parts of the book are not super far farfetched, unfortunately. They exist and everyone who has ever read a newspaper recently has heard stories about them.
What should your readers expect from the book?
I hope that the book is an escape from this world we’re in right now. I hope that it reminds people of a very different New York City. New York City is very much a character in the book, and it’s filled with open restaurants and nightlife and very different from the world of COVID-19 we’re in right now which makes me sad. So I hope that people use this as a vacation or a staycation from their life right now.
The Boys’ Club is good fun and fast-paced and it has a purpose. I hope that people read it and become completely absorbed in it. And if they’ve never seen life in corporate America, it’s a window into that life. And I hope that it provides people with the fruitful dinner table conversations like it did with my friends and my family about where big business in America misses the mark on promoting women and brown and black people in particular, as well as LGBTQ. The book touches on all of that in a nonjudgmental way. I sort of say, this is this, these are some of the issues, read my book, go and talk about it.
I want to talk a little bit about your writing. How long have you been writing or interested in writing?
Sure. My entire life, I’ve always been an avid reader and a writer, but not a professional writer. I was always a salty teenager who would get mad at my parents and write my thoughts in a letter that I never gave them and break up with a guy and write a letter and never send it. So my thoughts always sorted themselves when I wrote them. But I never tried to write professionally until late 2016.
I felt as though I had to write because I found myself having a hard time figuring out how so many people in this country had perspective so different from my own. Trump was president. Brent Kavanaugh was having his hearings. The MeToo movement was in full force, and half the people thought that that was way too much for the MeToo movement. And half thought it was just heating up. And I couldn’t make sense of how different the opinions of people around me were. And I started writing mostly because that’s how I’ve always made sense of things. But the weirdest part was that my thoughts came out in the form of fiction. Which in retrospect makes sense, cause I was having trouble understanding other people. And when you write fiction, you have to put yourself in their shoes, unless you’re going to write a boring novel that doesn’t consider any other points of view. But I hope that my novel brings a lot of characters with very different actions and opinions and mistakes to life. And in writing those characters, I found peace in the universe, and I became a lot less judgmental by the way.
What was your writing process like for this book?
My writing process was fairly organic. Like I didn’t sit down to write a novel. I sat down to make myself a more stable human being at a time I felt very unstable. And then it occurred to me about nine months into it that it was a great story, but the story was about an inter-office affair. And I thought it was amazing. And then I read it after I thought it was done and it sucked. Like it was a terrible story. It was really flat and I kind of hated the protagonist.
So I kept maybe like 10 or 20% of that and built another whole story. It included more about her friendships at the firm and her relationships with clients around that interoffice relationship. And I think it makes for a far more interesting read. I mean, you could almost say that I tried to write a different book first, and while the characters were the same, I scrapped it. So this kind of my second attempt.
What is one major thing that you didn’t know going in that you know now about writing a book?
I learned the power of planning and outlining. I still am not an outliner, to be honest. I did this podcast with Megan Miranda. Who’s this brilliant author. And she said she likes to “write her way into a novel” and I thought it just hit the nail on the head. That is exactly what I do. I sort of write and find my characters by just typing. That being said, there is value to sitting down and figuring out what you want things to look like. I’m writing my second book right now and I hope we sell it. I found the process is far smoother if you spend some time planning before you sit down to write. It took a lot of rewriting and a lot of patience from my editor because I kept wanting to go back and do different things and realizing things about my characters. So I learned the value of planning.
“I hope that the book is an escape from this world we’re in right now”
I also learned the value of not being afraid to scrap what you’ve done. Sometimes, there’s so much work that goes into the production of a written piece that people wan to hold on to it, even if there’s that part of their brain that says this isn’t that good. I took an honest look at what I wrote the first time. And I was like, this is not very good, which was difficult. But I will tell anyone who’s thinking of changing direction or doing a rewrite that the work you’ve done is never in vain. You will always learn a tremendous amount about your characters by writing them or about any situation by writing it. And you will use it later. I knew my protagonist so well because I wrote basically a whole different book about her first. And it wasn’t a waste.
So you say you draw inspiration from, working in big law and your experience in corporate America and being in New York City. Where else, or what else do you draw inspiration from when writing and creating these characters and stories?
I do a fair bit of research. The internet is an amazing thing. People are constantly sharing their stories online. And so whenever I wanted to write about something, I didn’t know, and I didn’t know anyone who experienced it rather than sort of spending so much time trying to find someone to talk to about their experience. I just went online. You can go down so many rabbit holes. For everything that I hadn’t experienced, I could find hundreds of firsthand accounts by women and people who had. And then, you become very emotionally invested in these stories and as soon as you let them marinate, you can write honestly.
People often ask me, “are you going to quit your job?” You asked me that question when we first met, and I told you I am terrified that if I quit, I’m going to have no good thoughts. If I sit in my apartment trying to have good thoughts and ideas they won’t come. So I don’t begrudge being a lawyer.
I don’t think inspiration strikes when you’re sitting there trying to make it strike. So live your life, and don’t be afraid to experience things. I used to say, get on planes and travel and eat new food and do all of that. But it’s just such a sad thing that I can’t say that right now, but one day we will be able to travel again. I’m a huge fan or was a huge fan of Anthony Bordain and he always said “travel as far as you can, as often as you can and meet new people.” Go into different situations and cultures and religions with an open mind and available ear, and your writing inspiration will come.
The Boys’ Club is being made into a Netflix movie. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Congratulations by the way.
Yes, Netflix optioned it. This amazing producer named Michael Sugar read it, and bid on it. And he’s the only non-female I surrounded myself with. My editor, my, my publicist, my agent are all these like rockstar women. And then Michael Sugar pitched me on the movie idea I was sold. And I am fine with giving him my book to make into a movie. I think he’s going to do a great job if he does it. These things are always iffy but from what I hear it’s being worked on. It would be so fun to see these characters on film. But as far as I’m concerned, I wrote a book. So everything else is just gravy, you know!
I think it would make a great movie. I can’t wait to see it.
Yeah. I think so too. But I’m biased.
You mentioned you’re already working on your second book. Can we get a little sneak peek on what it’s about?
The second book is set in the art world, and it’s really fun and high octane. And it’s about someone who unwittingly becomes involved in a forgery scheme.
So there’s a lot about being fake in arts, in life, on Instagram, in your friendships and your relationships. I’m exploring that theme. It’s good fun, and it has a purpose, like the first book. I’m excited about it.
So the last question before I let you go. Are there any books you like or are currently reading?
I was very late to the game, but I read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and I thought it was incredible. Kimberly McCreight just wrote A Good Marriage, which came out like a month ago. I thought that was a great book, super sharp. Stephanie Danler’s second book Stray, I thought was a really beautiful piece. And I just started the vanishing Harpe and I’m loving it.
The Boys’ Club came out today. Buy it here.