How did you go from trading bonds to Bond Girl?
I was on a fixed-income sales desk for nine years until 2008 happened, and then the firm I was working for basically disappeared. I found myself out of a job. I always wanted to write about Wall Street. So that’s what I did with my unemployment: I sat down and started writing.
But how’d you teach yourself to write a novel?
Dumb luck! Honest to God. I was an English major in college, and it’s what I always wanted to do — it was a pipe dream, you know? When you’re 19, you think, ”God, I would love to be a writer” the same way you think, ”God, I’d love to be a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.” Sitting in front of a computer for 10 hours a day wasn’t hard for me because that’s what I’ve always done.
One striking thing about your heroine, Alex Garrett, is the sexual harassment she’s subjected to. Is Wall Street really like that?
Everything is done to an extreme. There’s one button: on. That’s it. You work hard, you play hard. You have to go out, stay out late, and drink too much, and God help you if you’re not at work in the morning on time. You better be able to do both. It would be completely unrealistic to say that there was nothing bad to deal with as a female, especially when you’re starting out. It exists. I don’t know of anyone who necessarily goes to Wall Street and thinks that it’s a candy walk. You’re signing up to be surrounded by a bunch of aggressive guys all day. You’re going to have to roll with the punches, and if you’re overly sensitive, it’s probably not the right business for you.
What’s the oddest thing you ever saw on the trading floor?
There was a guy who’d worked for the same firm for 25 to 30 years. On his last day, he rode his Harley-Davidson around the floor three times. We were all sitting there thinking, ”How in God’s name did he get that in the building?” We never found out.
Given what’s going on with the economy, do you think the book might infuriate some people who hate Wall Street already?
I do. I think — especially with Occupy Wall Street and how much venom people have for the industry — that I just made it worse by making it look like everybody sat around and played all day and everything was one big party when the universe was blowing up.
Think there will be backlash from old colleagues — the ones who made you fetch coffee and made remarks about your legs?
As soon as people heard that a woman was writing a book, they hit the deck. They were like, ”I was nice to her, right?”