Helen Cox is a UK author. She made her on-screen debut in The Krankies in 1990. Given the choice, her Mastermind topic would be Grease 2 and when someone asks her if she is a god she says 'yes.' Oh, you want to know about her books? Best click some of the links below.
As part of the ongoing research for my New York-based fiction, I’m conducting a series of short interviews with people who live and work in one of the five boroughs. Today’s interviewee is author and life-long New Yorker Meredith Schorr. Somehow, Meredith has made the time to write a staggering five novels, alongside her work as a trademark paralegal, four of which are set in New York.
Though Meredith started out penning stories for children, she has since written an uplifting series of chick lit volumes which have thoroughly entertained her readership. They even come with a serving suggestion: best consumed with a cocktail in hand, preferably a pink one.
As you might imagine, Meredith’s schedule is jam-packed so I’m incredibly grateful to her for taking the time to talk to me about New York City. She was very open about her experiences and I was deeply moved by what she shared, as I’m sure you will be too.
Helen: You’re a life-long New Yorker. What do you feel you know about New York that people from outside the city don’t?
Meredith: A little known fact to people who live outside of the city is that it never gets pitch dark here. Ever. I can wake up at 2:30 in the morning and I don’t require a night light to use the bathroom and I don’t need to feel around with my hands to find my bed when I’m done. When I visit people outside of the city, I find I’m a little afraid of the dark! And the first time I slept at an old boyfriend’s apartment in the suburbs of Seattle, I almost went to the bathroom in his closet because I thought it was the bathroom! This would never happen in New York City because, like the old saying goes, “it’s the city that never sleeps” and the sky is always illuminated by cars driving by or the lights from skyscrapers in the distance. (Most of the people I know have blackout shades to help with this!)
Helen: What is your favourite thing about New York?
Meredith: Honestly, the architecture is beyond beautiful in some places. Unfortunately, most residents and commuters are in such a hurry to arrive at their destinations that they don’t look up enough, but a visiting friend suggested I pay more careful attention. I listened to him and am so happy I did. I particularly appreciate the differing facades of some of the attached brownstone row houses as well as the cobblestoned streets deep in the west village, but there is beauty everywhere—you just need to look for it. I like to take pictures and post on Instagram every so often to keep a record, but most of the time, I’m like everyone else—in a rush to get where I need to be.
Helen: What has been your scariest moment in the city?
Meredith: Without a doubt, September 11, 2001. I remember the day so vividly. Back then, I was super-stressed about work all of the time. I constantly worked overtime and was a high achiever at my day job as a trademark paralegal. (This was before I discovered my passion for writing. Now I prefer to leave work on time so that I can work on my novels in the evenings!)
September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday after a long weekend. It might have been Labor Day Weekend, but I don’t recall. I had taken off both Friday and Monday and remember feeling more relaxed and stress-free than I had in ages. I’d seen John Cougar in concert with friends, spent time with my sister and niece and nephew, went to the beach with my mother – it was a great weekend. I arrived at my office building on the corner of 44th Street and Avenue of the Americas (midtown) early on Tuesday morning to catch up on work I’d missed and quickly reverted to my usual “all-business” attitude. A colleague of mine called out to me, but I dismissed her because I thought she wanted to chat about my weekend and I was more concerned with getting work done. After several attempts to catch my attention, she yelled out, “A plane hit the World Trade Center.”
I immediately stopped what I was doing to find out what had happened, but my first thought was that it was an accident because back then “terrorism” was not on my radar. I couldn’t get on the internet so I called my sister and asked her to put on CNN and the moment she did, the second plane crashed. It then became obvious it was no accident. I remember wondering if it was my punishment for finally being relaxed. When I think back on it now, I’m pretty ashamed that I made it all about me even for that one moment.
No one knew what was happening and most of us were in a state of shock for most of the day, but the city changed forever after that. I would say the world irrevocably changed, too. I’ve had equally scary personal moments in my life, but that one was certainly tied to New York City like none other.
Helen: How does living in New York contribute to or inspire your writing?
Meredith: All but one of my novels is set in New York City and the setting certainly inspires the book, most specifically the characters. All of my characters have a little “bite” to them. None of them are victims of circumstance, and they all share a certain aggressiveness that I don’t find in many books of my genre set outside of The Big Apple. I don’t do it on purpose, and it was only brought to my attention by a fan recently that you can tell I’m a New Yorker from the personalities of my characters. You need to be somewhat assertive to survive here.
Helen: What would you say is at the heart of New York City?
Meredith: The people. What I love most about the city is the diversity of the people and the fact that individuality is not only expected here, it’s embraced. This island is truly a melting pot of old and young, gay, straight, and everything in between, Wall Street types and creatives, religious folks and atheists etc. and there is room for everyone. New Yorkers get a bad reputation and are often portrayed on television as aggressive and rude. As I mentioned in my last answer, a certain degree of assertiveness is necessary in order to survive merely due to the amount of people living here and the fast pace of life, but the people themselves are some of the kindest and most tolerant in the world. I should know as I am one of them!
You can find out more about Meredith and her books here.