A few nights ago I went to a cocktail party to celebrate Tatiana Boncompagni’s third novel, Social Death. Tatiana wore a killer Nanette Lepore red jumpsuit with striking red lips, a gorgeous blowout and black patent leather four-inch heels. I loved seeing her glam side, because normally we’re racing past each other in workout clothes, no makeup and sloppy ponytails at drop-off. (Our kids go to the same school.) Like me, Tatiana is a supermom in disguise because she works from home and doesn’t have to crank out a stylish outfit every day, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less stress to keeping it all together. Tatiana has three kids, Enrico, 9, Valentina, 7, and Felix, 3, and somehow manages to take care of them all predominately on her own while working from home. She’s a regular freelancer for the New York Times (usually the Skin Deep column in the Styles section), a busy journalist and a prolific novelist. We had a lot to talk about…
PI: First, tell me about Social Death. Are you so excited it’s finally out?
Tatiana: My first two novels, Gilding Lily and Hedge Fund Wives are, for better or worse, chick-lit and much more about socialites and the glamour of NYC. I wanted to get away from that in Social Death. It’s still about high society, but a mystery and grittier.
PI: The summary on the back cover says “A beautiful socialite is brutally murdered in her exclusive New York City apartment building. A high-powered lawyer’s trophy wife and the night doorman are the last two people to see her alive.” Were you inspired by our neighborhood, the Upper East Side?
Tatiana: Yes, but my first inspiration was in creating the lead protagonist, Clyde Shaw. Her real name is Cornelia, but she was given the name Clyde as a young kid. She went to a prep school and because she was heavy set and wore clogs, other kids teased her and called her Clydesdale, which got shortened to Clyde. Once she graduated from high school, she was Cornelia again, but the nickname came back to haunt her when her boss, who’s a real spitfire and swears like a sailor, learned that Clyde was her nickname and brought it back to life. Her appearance plays a massive role in the book. She’s tall and curvaceous with big boobs. I was nursing Felix when I wrote this and knew I wanted to create a character with massive breasts! She’s really a tough girl, but vulnerable at the same time. She has this past with booze, men and bad decisions, too many short skirts and too many tequila shots. She’s trying to rebuild her life.
PI: This is perfect for spring break reading!
Tatiana: That was the idea and summer is around the corner.
PI: How do you juggle working from home with three kids?
Tatiana: It’s not easy. I’ve become very productive with the time I have. I can’t waste a minute. If I’m not helping a child, packing a lunch or making a bed, then I’m writing. I actually have a story in The New York Times today (African Oils, Exotic and in Demand). The biggest secret I have for moms who work at home is to make sure you carve out that time. I get so much done in two hours, it amazes me. Try not to get distracted, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. I was up past midnight cranking on a story last night because the last two days I’ve taken the kids to the park because the weather has been so great and I felt guilty keeping them cooped up inside while I worked. So then I had to stay up for four extra hours to get my work done. But that’s what we do as moms, right? Yesterday I did four school runs, took a yoga class, spent an hour chasing my three year old around the playground (only lost him twice!), wrote an article and made three pizzas from the dough up. Plus all the other little stuff. And today I get up and do it all over again! I’ve also been trying to wake up at 6 a.m., because that’s another great pocket of time. That’s when I catch up on emails, write a to do list and focus. This way, when I come back from dropping all my kids off, I can get straight to work.
PI: Are there any spring trends you’re looking forward to?
Tatiana: I’m kind of obsessed with jumpsuits. I wore a Nanette Lepore Sweet Reverie Romper, $448, at my launch party because it was at her store and she asked if I wanted to pick something out. I have another romper, which is a vintage Jacques Fath that I got in college. It has kind of a sailor look. I love it. Jumpsuits are a little Man Repeller, in the sense that I don’t think men find them particularly sexy, but I think they’re so sexy. I also want to try a crop top. This could be my last shot to wear one! It’s very sexy to have a little skin show. But, I’ll get one that’s really cheap, because it’ll go out of fashion quickly. I’d wear it with high waist pants or skirt. It’s on the bucket list for spring.
PI: Which shoes did you wear with the jumpsuit?
Tatiana: I wore my black peep toe Christian Louboutin Very Prive Patent Pump, $845. I never wear them unless I know I’ll have so much adrenaline, that I won’t feel my feet for a few hours. They’re definitely the most expensive pair of shoes I own and they get the least use. The irony. But when they need to perform, they do.
PI: Are there more affordable shoes that you like?
Tatiana: Vince Camuto makes great shoes. They make me wonder why I spent all of my money on my Louboutins or Jimmy Choos. I wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. My shoes have to be comfortable. I bought a pair of Clarks sandals that I swear look as nice as Miu Miu sandals. These Dolce Vita Flat Fabrica Sandals, $119, are similar. I have some Michael Kors Giovanna Wedge Sandals, $150, that I love. I am also all about the Birkenstock trend. I love the Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed Black Suede Sandals, $130. They’re so comfortable and in fashion now, great!
PI: I know your working from home wardrobe is all about workout wear. What are some of your favorites?
Tatiana: I feel like I live a double life. A lot of us New York moms do. I work from home and schlep the kids around all day, then if I go out, I look like a different person, especially with my hair and makeup done. I mostly wear my workout clothes because I like to hit the gym at one point. That’s for my sanity as well as my physical fitness. I wear a lot of Athleta and Gap. I just got an Athleta Striped Racerback Dress, $89, and Athleta Dip Dye Middy Maxi Dress, $98 that I know I’ll live in this summer. I’m still on the quest to find the perfect top because I’m very broad and have armpit vagina. Have you heard of that? Jennifer Lawrence said “I know I have armpit vagina, and I don’t care” in an interview! I’m obsessed with mine and want to try CoolSculpting to get rid of it. That’s a good treatment for little tablespoons of fat.
PI: Vôtre Vu created a gorgeous red lipstick for Social Death. Is that your signature look?
Tatiana: This is a true and funny story. My mother raised me not to wear red lipstick. Her word for it was chickana. She’s Latina, so she can get away with saying that. She believed red lipstick wasn’t appropriate for a proper Latina girl because it looked cheap. But, last year I started seeing really cute 20-something girls with their really cute bright lips, and it seemed like an instant way to look trendy. I was committed to finding the perfect red. I’m not gonna let the ghost of mama hold me back! I went to all these stores to try on the best reds, and several beauty counter makeup artists told me not to wear red and kept putting pink on me. Even they could see red wasn’t doing me any favors! I’ve learned that red can bring color to your face if you’re pale, but if you have more medium-toned skin, like mine, it enhances all those little acne scars, veins and blemishes, instead of bringing attention to your mouth and letting everything else fade away. I gave up and went back to my pinks. But when I decided on my book cover, which has a big red lip print, I teamed up with Vôtre Vu to create a lipstick named Social Death, $23. It was so fun. We settled on a beautiful brick red that’s warm and actually flatters my skin tone, but really looks great on all skin colors. Finally, it’s the right red for me and I feel confident wearing it. It’s very buildable. I prefer to wear it at night, but if I’m in a brighter setting, I blot it down and put on a little Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, $3, which makes it look like a stain. I do that with all my lipsticks.
PI: What’s your pleasure?
Tatiana: My joke is that I’ve added a glass of wine with every child. I’ve earned that glass with each additional child! We can’t have a fourth kid because then I’ll just be a drunk all the time. But seriously, working from home while juggling kids, having a glass or two at night is just my way of taking it down a notch. I’m trying to be a one-glass-a-night girl. I like to drink when I’m cooking dinner, even though you’re supposed to drink after dinner. I cook a lot.
PI: What do you like to cook?
Tatiana: I cook very simple food. That’s the Midwest girl in me. I’m mostly vegetarian, but I cook grass-fed meat and organic chicken for the family. There’s this new Air Chilled Chicken on Freshdirect that I love. There’s a huge difference, taste-wise. They don’t process the chicken in water, so it doesn’t have that watered down flavor.
PI: Does your whole family sit down together and eat?
Tatiana: Yes. My husband gets home by 7:30, then we start eating right away. We don’t do everything perfectly as a family, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but one thing we do consistently is have family dinner.