Friday Q&A + links
Today we're talking to the redoubtable Kristi Coulter, and in the links, we've got Dolly Parton and more
I first became aware of Kristi Coulter maybe four or five years ago,
when I was struggling with writing my memoir. My agent, who is also Kristi’s agent, suggested I read her then-newly published sobriety memoir in essays, Nothing Good Can Come From This, for inspiration. And I was inspired (although not to finish my book) by Kristi’s sharp, incisively observed writing. Now she’s got a new memoir out, Exit Interview: The Life and Death of My Ambitious Career, which covers her time working at Amazon, and is a really juicy, smart, and slightly harrowing read. I was so excited that she agreed to answer the following questions.
Kim: You were 48 years old when you left the security of a lucrative job at Amazon to become a writer. What was it like to make that pivot? Were you scared? Was there a specific moment you knew you were ready to make the change?
Kristi: In hindsight, it probably should have felt scarier than it did. My first book was coming out in six months, so I was definitely moving toward something, not just away. I had no illusions of that book making me any serious money, let alone Amazon money. But the security of Amazon money had enabled my husband to launch a successful startup, and now he could return the favor by supporting me while I made a go at full-time writing.
By the time I left Amazon, I was also pretty sure I wanted to write a memoir about it, and if I was going to do that, I figured I’d better show myself out. Mostly to gain time and distance, but also because from an ethical and creative standpoint it just seemed cleaner. I didn’t want to have insider access to Amazon documents or data while I wrote this book. I really wanted to write a purely literary memoir, from memory. So I left, and my most striking emotion was a lack of emotion. After twelve years of exhilaration and fear and self-loathing and curiosity and anger, I had just run out of ways to feel about the place.