Author Interview: Laura Hankin

Happy & You Know It is a dark, witty page-turner about a struggling young musician who takes a job singing for a playgroup of overprivileged babies and their effortlessly cool moms, only to find herself pulled into their glamorous lives and dangerous secrets. We spoke with author Laura Hankin about her inspiration, the challenges of releasing a book during the pandemic, and more.

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

The novel is about a musician who ends up singing for a playgroup of babies and their wealthy mothers, a job I actually did for many years. (Yes, “Wheels on the Bus” haunts me.) I spent much of my twenties going to various beautiful apartments, staring at the moms, and wondering what their lives were like after they closed the door behind me. Were these women satisfied? Happy? And would I too be happy if I lived in an apartment where the elevator opened right into my living room? Eventually, I decided to stop just wondering, and wrote a book about it.

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

I had to audition to narrate it myself–turns out authors don’t just get to do that automatically if they want to! Also, I had to hold a pillow over my stomach half the time I was narrating, because the microphone was picking up too many gurgles.

Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?

I have listened to it (a totally narcissistic move?), and what struck me was that I could hear myself learning how to read an audiobook in real time. We were supposed to record in mid-April with a very hands-on director and plenty of time to play around, since it was my first narrating experience. I was maybe even going to take an audiobook class to prepare!

And then because of COVID-19, in mid-March I got an email basically saying, “Okay, go into the studio tomorrow. You’ll have a director who hasn’t had a chance to finish the book yet Skyping in. Read until you can’t read anymore and pray that the city doesn’t shut down before you finish.” So listening to the finished product, I could hear myself growing more confident in the different characters as I went along, or learning how not to tire my voice out so much on the second day versus the first, to give just a couple of examples!

Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?

Yes! Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a thrilling one. The oral history format lends itself to audio so well, and the cast of voice actors does an amazing job of making it all feel so alive. I also really enjoyed Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and Rachel Harrison’s The Return.

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

Independent bookstores have always been some of my favorite places in the world. Browsing their aisles is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. I was so looking forward to touring around to some of them with Happy & You Know It, and–no surprise–cried a bunch when I found out those events were canceled. But I’ve been incredibly impressed by how bookstores have adapted to these new circumstances. I’m grateful to the booksellers who made it possible for me to have a virtual event attended by people all over the country, to those who gave the book shout-outs on Facebook Live, and to those making sure that readers have the books that we need to entertain and/or teach us right now.

Laura Hankin on independent bookstores

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Below is a music video I made for Penguin Random House called Indoor Book Tour, about my pandemic publishing experience.

Header photo by Ricardo Quinones

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