by Sophie Schmidt
Erin Chack is probably better known through her posts on BuzzFeed, but her debut book This is Really Happening shows the young writer in a whole new light. Absolutely hilarious and riveting, Chack’s stories have the reader engaged and saying, “Is this really happening?” We got the chance to chat with this awesome woman about life, her new book, and her best friend.
Justine Magazine: What is something about you that we can’t read about in your bio?
Erin Chack: What’s something about me that’s not in my bio? It says I work at BuzzFeed, it says I live in Queens, it says I live with my boyfriend, that I’m from New Jersey, that I wrote this book, that I love bagels — I feel like this everything that I am in one. Okay here’s something — I bike to work every day. It’s a six mile distance each way so I bike 12 miles every day. I like it for so many reasons: 1) I hate the subway, 2) it saves money, 3) I get exercise.
JM: That’s really great! I wish I got to bike more often. So talking about your book, what inclined you to write it?
EC: I was approached by an editor at Penguin who read an essay I put on BuzzFeed. She said she really liked my writing and that she thought the essay could be pulled out to be book length, which was a dream come true because I’ve always wanted to write a book since I was able to read. The trouble was that after we had that idea, it was hard trying to figure out which essays would fit this collection. There was a lot of pitching ideas to each other, like stories about young love, best friendships, stories about cancer, stories about college, and they all have to have a unifying thread. The thread we came up with was moments that made you feel like “Wow, this is really happening” and that’s where we came up with the title, too.
JM: I love that! How did you determine your common thread?
EC: A lot of it was trial and error. It was like, “I’m going to take this theme – best friends, and I’m going to write.” When we had all 13 essays – we cut a few for the book – we re-read them back to ourselves and asked what is the one thing that unifies this. It was this feeling of “This is really happening,” but also the only thing you can do is to keep going. Messing it up but still getting through it, which I would say is probably the theme of the book. I think it’s really relatable to anyone growing up. We’re all flailing around, we have no idea what we’re doing, but as long as you keep going that’s the only thing that’s important. You’ll get there eventually, wherever “there” is.
JM: Compared to BuzzFeed what’s the biggest difference between writing your book and writing for them?
EC: There’s a huge difference. At BuzzFeed, I think of an idea for a post at 10 A. M. and by 4:30 it’s live on the website, and people are tweeting at me whether they like it or not. With this book, I thought of the idea over two years ago, and then I wrote for a year and a half. Even when I was done writing the essays, there were six months before I was going to find out if people were going to like it. Having to wait that much was excruciating for me, and a lot of doubt crept in. I kept thinking, “Is this even the book I want to write? Is this even funny? Are people going to like this?” I don’t have enough time to think about this with BuzzFeed. If something bombs, I just move onto the next thing, and with this book it feels like I built this sculpture and it took me two years and people are finally gonna see it. They might hate it, but there’s no getting rid of it because it’s huge.
JM: That makes complete sense! I’m sure people will love it — we love it, and can’t wait for others to fangirl over it with us. So what chapter or memoir was hardest for you to write?
EC: Probably the one about death. That was hard only because it was one of the few essays where I wasn’t telling a story, there was no narrative. It was more telling people these thoughts I have in my head. It was really hard for me to structure something like that because I realize that although I’m very open to telling people about my life, telling people about my opinions is a lot harder for me. I don’t feel as insecure telling people about my life than I do telling them my opinions.
JM: People can judge you more about your opinions versus facts from a story you’re telling. If that was the hardest to write, which one was your favorite?
EC: The one about Alijah! It was a blast to write because she’s my best friend. I haven’t had a chance to write about her until now, and she’s such a crazy character. The moment I met her I felt like she was a character out of a book. I forgot how much I love her until I got to write about her.
JM: You and your best friend remind us of everything we love about best friends – love it! Before we wrap this up, are there any closing comments you’d like to make?
EC: I just hope people like it. I hope people can read it and feel less alone. I want them to know that it’s okay that you’re flopping around, that we’re all just flopping around. It’s going to work out. It doesn’t really matter what happens to you, what matters is that you keep going. Don’t stop!
And that’s a wrap on our chat with the lovely Erin Chack! You must read her book This is Really Happening. It’s chockful of shocking, laugh-out-loud, and poignant stories that definitely make you feel less alone.
Erin Chack (c) Sean Colello