Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Interview with 'The Underwriting' author Michelle Miller

Hello, readers! I'm sorry I haven't been that active recently but exams finished TODAY and I am SO READY FOR SUMMER. Literally. YOU HAVE NO IDEA. 

But anyway, I'm going to get on with today's post, which is an interview with the wonderful Michelle Miller. I feel very lucky to be interviewing her; a) because The Underwriting was absolutely fantastic and b) Michelle Miller has been in some very fancy features and glossy magazine pages... and now she is on Delightful Book Reviews. I'm not saying it's a step down or anything, I'm just pointing it out.
Anyway. Rambling over. I was lucky enough to interview Michelle, wanting to know about the story behind The Underwriting, the real Silicon Valley, and in what ways The Underwriting is a feminist text.

How did you find inspiration to write The Underwriting?
I was working for JP Morgan in Silicon Valley in 2012: Grinder (the location-based dating app for gay men) was on fire, the Facebook IPO was making hundred-millionaires of 30 year olds, and Wall Street was under attack from Occupy protestors: there was so much material, I couldn’t help myself!

In The Underwriting, are the Silicon Valley characters completely fabricated, or are they based a little on people you’ve encountered?
I believe all the characters could exist, but none of them are based on real people, except for one, who shall remain nameless. Also Stephen Hartley, who is one of my best friends and deserved the shout out he got in Chapter One.

Is Wall Street as glamorous as it is made out to be?
God, no! The reality of Wall Street is insanely long hours in front of Excel models, surrounded by competitive people waiting for you to screw up, running against the pressure to ‘hit your numbers.’ This is occasionally interrupted by a ‘blow out’ night of excess, in which bankers rationalize the sacrifice of personal life, health and happiness by spending lots and lots of money.

What is it like being a woman in this environment?
For women my age - 30 - it’s a mixed bag, and I tried to show that in the book. There are certainly disadvantages - unconscious biases, being left out of social events - but there are also advantages - attention by virtue of being the only girl in the room, special mentorship programs, clients who prefer working with women. It really depends on the firm, the sector of finance you’re in, and (most importantly) the values that you as an individual woman hold.

What did you want The Underwriting to do in terms of reverting expectations?
I wanted to humanize Wall Street and Silicon Valley by showing the contexts of “stereotypical” characters within them. I hoped that by exploring the feelings and pressures and fears of these people, readers would understand them - and their real-life counterparts, and the news headlines they drive - a little better.

Can The Underwriting be read as a feminist text? What do you want your readers to take from it?
I hope readers take away a more nuanced understanding of the pressures and trade-offs both women and men face in the present age. I think there was a time when gender issues were a hockey match - us against them, winners and losers - now it’s more like figure skating. Still slippery, but more nuanced and more subjective in terms of determining what winning means. 

Thank you so much for being on my blog, Michelle!

Check out Michelle Miller and The Underwriting here:

Check out my 5* review of The Underwriting here:

Order The Underwriting here:

Until next time :)

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