Karen Abbott is a journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Sin in the Second City, an exploration of the role of brothels in the cultural and political life of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Prior to publishing Sin in the Second City – which took her three years to write and research – Abbott worked for Philadelphia magazine and for Philadelphia Weekly. Abbott, a native of Philadelphia, received her BA from Villanova University in 1995. The critically acclaimed Sin in the Second City tells the story of Chicago’s Everleigh Club, a famous high-end whorehouse that was known as the “finest brothel in the land.” Abbott lives with her husband in Atlanta and is working on her second book, a portrait of Gypsy Rose Lee and Depression-era New York.
Karen Abbott: A lot of procrastinating. No. But no, when I was writing this book I listened to Ragtime every morning. I can’t listen to music when I write. I need silence, but I liked to use it as a primer and get myself back in the time period. Particularly with Ragtime, it’s such a distinctive time that immediately it transports you back into, you know, a century earlier. So that was really helpful to me. And I try to . . . I have to unplug the Internet a lot, or else I start surfing like the superficial at Gawker and all these gossip web sites. So I’ll unplug that. And I need to, you know, set daily goals pretty much because the writing group is . . . We check in with each other at night. And if we don’t reach a certain word goal we’re not allowed to sort of . . . At night we have like a wine toast. And if we don’t reach our word goal, we’re excluded from that wine toast and you get ignored for that night. So it’s sort of an incentive. You get to hang out at night only if you get . . . you achieve your word count for the day, so . . .
Recorded On: 1/22/08