Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.
LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.
Today we're launching Marlowe Granados' debut novel Happy Hour, which is being championed by Jen Sookfong Lee, who writes, "In Happy Hour, Isa, a young woman whose future is stretching out in front of her, moves to New York City, where every chance meeting is an opportunity to start fresh. Funny and complex, Happy Hour is not just a coming-of-age romp, but a loving exploration of young womanhood, of the ways we carry our pasts and identities with us wherever we go, and the deep friendships we accumulate and lose along the way. So often, women, and especially women of colour, in their 20s are dismissed in popular culture, and Granados provides us with the exact opposite experience. Isa is authentic, wry, sad, thoughtful, and joyful, as full a human as a reader could ever want."
49th Shelf: What particular something have you managed to achieve with this book that you’re especially proud of?
Marlowe Granados: I wanted to write about women writing themselves. The novel is a story about women in the midst of creating themselves and the very specific control that comes with telling a story from your point of view. I guess I’m especially proud of not punishing them or subjecting them to trauma that they take the book to get over.
I have known girls like Isa Epley and Gala Novak for a very long time. Through disappointments, they are unwavering in their hopefulness. They are self-assured without fully grasping their own power or presence, each time testing how far they may go. My aim was to create two female characters that similarly navigate their way through womanhood and upward mobility on their own terms. For this reason, it was important to depict young women who are unapologetic about themselves and their actions.
49th Shelf: Tell us about your ideal reader, and where you imagine them reading your book.
MG: I think women in their twenties and early thirties who are similar to women I’m friends with. Women who are whip-smart, bold and love to be a little wild. Then there are those who wish they could be like Isa and Gala. I think those people are my ideal readers. I hope that they find a courage reading the novel and live a little, too.
I hope people are reading the novel alone at patios, or when they’ve decided to take a moment for themselves. It’s also a good novel for when you’re in between somewhere, like on a plane or on the subway. I have a friend who once told me whenever she reads my work she feels like she needs to be drinking alone at a bar with her legs crossed.
49th Shelf: What authors and works inspired you on your journey in creating this book?
MG: I read plenty of memoirs by glamorous women, Slim Keith’s is a good one. I was definitely taken by Modernist women writers. I get a lot of inspiration from Pre-Code films…Screwball comedies especially. There’s something about the way those women characters were written that is just perfect.
49th Shelf: What’s something you know now that you didn’t know when you set out to write your book?
MG: I finished writing the manuscript when I was 25 and the experience afterwards felt so much like grief. I had been thinking about the characters for so long that once the manuscript was completed there was this void that felt so unexpected. I filled it with a lot of bad things! I just had so much energy afterwards that I had funneled towards the book that needed somewhere to go… I didn’t expect to have such a long adjustment period after writing.
49th Shelf: What are some misconceptions about the novel?
MG: Oh god, I find people’s comparisons quite jarring. I think that happens whenever there’s a book out about young women in New York. The thing about my characters is that they’re the real deal. They come from a lineage of women coming to New York without any money and getting by with charm and smarts. They see right through the layers of hypocrisy in the worlds they move through. People who try to profit off the girls’ youthful authenticity, kids with money who are slumming it—they see these worlds very clearly and are able to get the better of them. Also, Isa is a woman of colour! I feel like people overlook that.
49th Shelf: What bookstore are you most excited to walk into and see your book displayed on the shelf?
MG: Oh, any bookstore. When I was twelve or so I would go to any fiction section and make a space for where my last name would fall. It’s taken some getting used to opening the actual book and connecting the idea that I wrote the words in it. It’s a very bizarre feeling.
49th Shelf: Who are you most grateful to for support in bringing your book into the world?
MG: Of course, my publishers. People often say the publishing world is like dating. You have to find editors who truly understand you. That’s the case with Martha Sharpe and Emily Keeler. We were a match from the very beginning. In the same vein, my agent Harriet Moore stuck with me through so many ups and downs of this novel and never wavering in her faith in it. For that, I’m entirely grateful.
So often, women, and especially women of colour, in their 20s are dismissed in popular culture, and Granados provides us with the exact opposite experience. Isa is authentic, wry, sad, thoughtful, and joyful, as full a human as a reader could ever want.""
Refreshing and wry in equal measure, Happy Hour is an intoxicating novel of youth well spent. Isa Epley is all of twenty-one years old and already wise enough to understand that the purpose of life is the pursuit of pleasure. She arrives in New York City for a summer of adventure with her best friend, one newly blond Gala Novak. They have little money, but that’s hardly going to stop them from having a good time.
In her diary, Isa describes a sweltering summer in the glittering city. By day, the girls sell clothes in a market stall, pinching pennies for their Bed-Stuy sublet and bodega lunches. By night, they weave from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side to the Hamptons among a rotating cast of celebrities, artists, tech entrepreneurs, stuffy intellectuals, and bad-mannered grifters. Money runs ever tighter and the strain tests their friendship as they try to convert their social capital into something more lasting than precarious gigs as au pairs, nightclub hostesses, paid audience members, and aspiring foot-fetish models. Through it all, Isa’s bold, beguiling voice captures the precise thrill of cultivating a life of glamour and intrigue as she juggles paying her dues with skipping out on the bill.
Happy Hour announces a dazzling new talent in Marlowe Granados, whose exquisite wit recalls Anita Loos’s 1925 classic, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, updated to evoke a recent, golden period of hope and transformation—the summer of 2013. A cri de cœur for party girls and anyone who has ever felt entitled to an adventure of their own, Happy Hour is an effervescent tonic for the ails of contemporary life.
“Marlowe Granados's Happy Hour is as refreshing as a gin fizz. It is a wild careening joyride through a hot sultry summer in New York in 2013, and it evokes that time with such sparkling specificity that you can feel the heat coming off the pavement. If you are looking for romance, ambition, glamour, and a story about what it means to be young a …