An Interview with Andrea Marcusa

Your story takes place in the beauty department of a mall--a space that is at once promising and discouraging for some women. What inspired this piece?

Early on in my career, one of my jobs was to write copy for fashion and beauty products and companies. I always loved playing with words and had always been fascinated by the glamour of the cosmetics and clothing worlds, so fashion and beauty copy was fun to write and it was also fun to use beauty terminology in a short story. As a result of this work in the fashion and beauty industry, I spent a lot of time in makeup departments and talking to people who marketed cosmetics and fragrances.  I always thought that  the names of perfumes and cosmetic collections that the marketing people dreamed up for their products were pretty amusing and so it was logical for some real and some made-up names to appear in this story.  Also, the intensity of the salespeople trying to press their wares on people hurrying through the department on their way to another floor was always kind of annoying but also kind of part of the "sport" of the business.  .

Fast-forward a bunch of years: I was walking through the very crowded beauty department at Bloomingdales in New York City on a Saturday afternoon and I paused to take it all in. I was a bunch of years older, happily married, hadn't written beauty copy in years, feeling like a lot of the makeup there probably would look silly on me. There was a beautiful young woman trying on makeup and that's when I got the idea for the story. 

Can you tell us who or which bodies of work you enjoy and/or have shaped your own writing? 

I'm constantly influenced by what I'm reading. I learn so much about writing from poets. Some of my recent favorite writers are: Poets Philip Levine, Edward Hirsch, Bob Hikok, Danez Smith; prose writers Marguerite Duras, Bonnie Joe Campbell, Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion, John Cheever, Isaac Babel, Alice Munro and Joyce Carol Oates.

Read Andrea's short story "A Situation in Beauty."