This Week's Author - Ashley Prentice Norton and her new release THE CHOCOLATE MONEY
Set in 1980s Chicago, this debut novel follows the glamorous Babs Ballentyne, heiress to a great American chocolate fortune, who does whatever the fuckshe wants. Lavish parties in her Lake Shore Drive penthouse with lewd installations. An affair with a married man who “admires her centerfold” after hours on the golf course of his staid country club while his wife is asleep at home. Crashing funerals and leaving souvenirs under coffins.
At the center of it all is Babs’s sensitive, bookish ten-year old daughter Bettina, who is enthralled by her narcissistic mother and wants nothing more than her affection and approval. Instead, she must put up with humiliation after humiliation before escaping to an elite East Coast prep school. Once there, she struggles to fit in with her conventional peers (one of whom happens to be the son of Babs’s lover) as she walks the fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction. Will she escape Babs’s mesmerizing maternal shadow and finally make different choices, or remain in an abyss of violent sex, compulsive lying, and self-sabotage?
This electric debut could be described as Mommie Dearest, Prep, and 50 Shades of Grey all rolled into one.
And somehow, Norton manages to combine Babs’s careless cruelty with biting comedy, so the novel is as funny as it is bleak.
1. How did you come across the story of Bettina and Babs?
20 percent from real life and 80 percent from my head. Once I started writing they came alive to me and took over the book.
2. Who would you cast as Bettine and Babs if your books were to be turned into a movie?
Gynweth Paltrow as Babs and a young Claire Danes as Bettina. I’m not that familiar with child actors working today.
3. If you could go back in time and give your 12 year old self some advice, what would it be?
Try a lot of things and don’t be afraid of failing. Nurture your friendships because they will carry you through life.
4. What is your favorite flower?
5. Who is your favorite fictional heroine?
Lily Bart in Age of Innocence.
About Ashely Prentice Norton
Born, Chicago. Mom: “No, we did not name you after that wimp in Gone with the Wind.” Education begins. Montessori. Learn how to dry dishes and put coat on. Parents divorce. (No correlation.)
Chicago Latin School. Best friend Fiona and I lock bathroom stalls from inside, have water fights. Separated into different homerooms indefinitely. Outraged, we begin our memoirs. I am put in advanced reading group. Accomplishment: being uncool, a dork, something that sticks.
A character in The Young and the Restless is named after me (Ashley Abbott). Dynasty/Michael Jackson years. Mom humors me and buys me a replica of Thriller jacket and a sequined white glove. Many pictures taken in this get-up, without irony. God bless my family.
Exeter Years. Am not especially smart, but represent Midwest geographic so they take me. Pendleton plaid pants, feathered bangs, braces. Diving Team. Terrible idea. Bathing suit in winter, puberty, and a serious cinnamon Pop Tart habit. Junior Year in Rennes, France. Drink heavily. Somehow master passé simple. First Boyfriend.
Georgetown. Stop drinking but smoke heavily. Write French sonnets and make up pretentious witticisms based on Janis Joplin songs. Run out of money. Work in a tanning salon wiping down beds. Then, telemarking calling magazine subscribers who are dead. Second Boyfriend (no correlation).
M.F.A. in fiction at N.Y.U. Make no progress on my book but marry second boyfriend. Three babies in five years. Work on novel, but not really. Mommy and Me classes. Breastfeed second until she is able to walk. Starbucks with mommy friends. Read six books a week, go to lots of movies. Time to get off my ass. 2009, write, write, write. Clinical depression. Book gets slow and boring. Smoke heavily again, take long walks around the Reservoir. Keep going. Finish.