ROUGE Blog Tour Q&A with Richard Kirshenbaum
- How did you become inspired to write ROUGE?
“I’m part of the first generation of men to have worked for the first generation of female entrepreneurs and executives. As an ad man, I also ran many cosmetic accounts throughout the U.S., from Avon to Revlon, and much in between. I was inspired by the female entrepreneurs who founded the first multi-billion dollar female driven industry, and was surprised that there hadn’t been a novel about the industry before this.”
- Can you talk about your research process?
“Over the past thirty years, a lot has been drawn from biographies of well-known people who run these cosmetics companies. As a novel, Rouge is a compilation of characters based on women and men who founded these companies. I often draw from those biographies. I also do an enormous amount of research online. Today vs. 25 years ago, where you had to go to the New York Public Library, it’s a joy to be able to access so many articles and books online. I think it’s really important, when writing a period piece, to understand world events that happened during that time. It’s hard to set a book in the 1920’s and place your character at a bar, if that’s when prohibition was in effect. So unless you really understand what’s going on in the world, you can’t give an accurate portrayal. One has to do a year-by-year deep dive if you’re writing historical fiction.”
- How was the experience of writing ROUGE, a novel, different from your last book, Isn’t That Rich?, which was nonfiction?
“Essays are mostly observational and contemporary, so I was always intrigued by the people I know and some of the ridiculous things that occur in a certain group. Creating fictional characters is actually in many ways more rewarding for me. I believe that when you create strong characters and come up with a great plot line with characters who drive the story, it’s fascinating to bring so much life. It’s the ultimate creative process.”
- Tell us about some of the locations where you wrote ROUGE?
“In the acknowledgments at the back of the book, I include places, as well as people. I was inspired by writing in different locations. For example, in the villa in Jamaica where Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels. You can rent out the villa, which includes a manual type-writer, and it’s really inspiring to write in a place like that with such literary significance. It inspired me to write something worthy. Every time I go someplace, it adds to the tapestry of what I’m writing about.”
- What’s the last book you read?