Generation Next: Coupland's back with 'Miss Wyoming'
January 25, 2000
By Jamie Allen
(CNN) -- It's probably not symbolic in any way. But it's worth noting that Douglas Coupland, the author who has been called "the voice of his generation," has laryngitis.
He's talking on the phone in his Washington D.C. hotel room between sips of a Diet Coke, his voice a muddied rasp.
The subject of discussion: how he got into writing in his mid-20s.
"I was living-working in Tokyo," Coupland says, "and I sent someone a postcard and she put it up on a fridge in Vancouver. The editor of a local city magazine read it and said, 'Hey, this guy can write.' Two days later I was down in Beverly Hills investigating a guy that was doing art swindles, and it was fun and easy."
A few years later, Coupland decided he was ready for a life of writing fiction. The moment is particularly Coupland-esque, a mix of pop-culture references and messages from above.
"It was early 1989 I was standing outside the Golden Griddle Pancake Restaurant in Toronto, Ontario," he says. "The sun was going down and it stopped raining and it was like a visitation or epiphany or something. It was like, 'Doug, you have to write fiction now. That means you have to stop everything else you're doing and devote your life to it.' It was really scary."
Coupland, of course, went on to write his first novel, "Generation X," the pop-culture work that tapped into the zeitgeist of the 20-something set, and gave them all a name for their generation.
He says after that success, his life didn't change all that much.
"The only time I ever felt something different was a few months ago," he says. "I got all these phone calls around 7:20, 7:30 at night from people saying, 'Doug, Doug, you're a "Jeopardy" question!' I really, really think that's cool."
Since "Generation X," Coupland has written six other books, including his latest, "Miss Wyoming" (Pantheon Books), the tale of a Hollywood producer and a cheesy sitcom star who fall in love and set off for adventure through the "strip-mall landscape of California."
Coupland says this book is different from his previous works. He winged it. He used to take copious notes, researching his environs, and eventually turning those notes into a book. For an example of this, witness his silicon ode, "Microserfs."
"Miss Wyoming" helped him let go, he says.
"I just learned I didn't need notepads anymore," he says. "I could invent what I needed. It was written from beginning to end, no notes at all.
"You have the characters and they become much more real and don't become tokens or emblems and you put three of them in a room and they say things," he says. "I'm like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe they said that. Wait, I said that.' And that's new. That's still kind of an amazing thing to me."
He's touring this book through January, laryngitis or not. Then he's going to have a party, he says.
"I always recommend writers have an 'It's over' party," he says. "Because when is it over? When it goes into Norwegian paperback? It never ends, so after your tour you have a party with your friends and you ceremonially burn a copy of the book and you wake up the next morning and you're not waiting for things to continue happening. Any writer, it's good advice."
Coupland says he plans to keep writing into the new millennium. But for now, he's still trying to figure out the 1990s.
"It's still a nameless decade," he says. "The decade just shifted. It was like two half decades wasn't it? One was grunge, and the other was Gap."
"Hubs" by Douglas Copeland
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