Don’t Write Alone | Interviews

Christine Sneed Is Permitting Herself to Have Fun

Melissa Fraterrigo interviews Christine Sneed about her novel ‘Please Be Advised,’ the nostalgia of the office job, and the publishing industry.

Please Be Advised

Please Be Advised

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Melissa Fraterrigo: I had so much fun reading about the day-to-day peculiarities and foibles of Quest Industries—self-described frontrunners in collapsible office products as they inspire their absurd version of corporate culture through nearly a year of memos. Some of the memoranda include office matchmaking, the annual Secret Santa exchange, the flawed Wellness Survey, and more. What are some memos you chose to expand upon and which did you ultimately choose to cut?

Please Be Advised

MF: At times, I felt as if I were an employee, reading one of these memos in my inbox. What are your hopes for how the book might speak about corporate America in the 21st Century?

repeated lives in a place they wouldn’t choose to give those hours to if they had income from other means. If only we all had jobs we loved so much, as the saying goes, it feels like we never have to work a day in our lives! (I don’t know if I believe that’s possible—even a job you love must have its good days and not so good days.)

MF: A Workflow Specialist reminds employees that bathroom visits must not exceed two per day and Mid-Level Management instructs employees not to leave a collapsible paper cutter on their desks during Bring Your Child to Work Day. With such an array of characters, it would be easy for them to lack distinction, but that’s not the case at all. The company-wide storytelling program, Your Story of Personal Triumph, really assists with this. Were you aware from the start that you’d need to include such a throughline to bring these characters and the office community to life, or did these aspects evolve on the page?

Please Be Advised

MF: I always feel like each book we write teaches us something. What are some of the key takeaways you discovered through the drafting of ?

MF: You have said, “A strong protagonist does much of the heavy-lifting in a work of fiction. The plot itself might not be very compelling or original, but if you have characters that seem to live and breathe on the page, they will more likely than not keep a reader invested.” Two protagonists who seem to do just this are the new office manager, Ken Crickshaw Jr, who left his previous position as a county coroner under unusual conditions relating to the autopsy of his wife, and the often irrational and sometimes drunk President Bryan Stokerly, Esq. Can you talk about these characters and how they aided the narrative?

MF: I found myself laughing out loud throughout the book, so much so that my thirteen-year-old daughter later picked up my copy and was grinning soon after. It is obvious reading these pages that you were having a great deal of fun drafting this book. That seems to be such a basic aspect of the drafting process—that the writer should find joy in the process. Were there particular authors or works of humor that offered guidance?

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MF: You’ve published three novels and two collections of short fiction with traditional and university presses, and your third is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press in 2023. Congratulations! What are some of your current observations about the publishing industry? How has it changed throughout your career, and how do you help your students at Northwestern University and Regis University navigate these changes?

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