‘Ellipses’ Author Vanessa Lawrence Talks About Glossy Magazine World Versus Fiction

Life can be like one long ellipses, but for Vanessa Lawrence, “Ellipses” is the title of her first novel.

The setting of the Dutton-published page-turner is the glossy world of New York City media — familiar territory for the author, a Yale grad with a nearly seven-year run at WWD during its Condé Nast era and nearly seven more at W magazine as senior features writer. During the pandemic, as an Elle Décor senior editor, Lawrence started to write the first draft at night and with the unexpected gift of a little extra time. “Working from home, as so many of us were able to or fortunate to be able to, gave me [some extra time.] I didn’t have to commute,” she said, after a talk at the Mulberry store in SoHo Thursday night.

Gracious and insightful, Lawrence’s debut zeroes in on a young woman who is knotted in a toxic mentorship with an older, hard-charging beauty mogul, who is described as “one of the few queer women in a corner suite.”

Needless to say, career choices, belonging and the thorniness of relationships in the digital age come into play. Inevitably, people will wonder, who “Ellipses” is about. Lawrence said, “It’s a protagonist. It’s really a coming-of-age story. It’s about a young magazine writer who is searching for agency and ends up in a toxic mentorship with a beauty executive who she meets at a party. It’s really just about a 32-year-old woman who is trying to figure out her life.”

The fictitious magazine writer “Lily” interviews influencers, actresses and fashion designers for her magazine’s stylish pages, while navigating office microaggressions. Stalled in her job and concerned that her plum print career will soon be singed by the rise of social media, the main character is also at a standstill in her relationship with her girlfriend “Alison.” On top of that, Lily is unable to voice her true self while others’ perceptions of her mixed race and bisexual identity repeatedly drown her out.

Prior to “Ellipses,” Lawrence had penned another book that was never published. “I just had ideas, thoughts and questions that I wanted to explore in fiction so I spontaneously wrote that first novel. Obviously, that was never published. But that taught me that I really love fiction and I really wanted to try doing this.”

Lawrence, who started freelancing in the summer of 2021, applied to MFA programs and decided on the fiction track at Sarah Lawrence. But she ended up writing “Ellipses” beforehand and sold it after her first semester.

The cover of Vanessa Lawrence’s debut novel “Ellipses.”

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And Lawrence has already sold her second book to Dutton. That one centers on a beauty mogul who is confronting the potential fall of her career — and the lead-up to that point.

As for the inspiration for the beauty executive, Lawrence said, “On one hand, she is a superconcentrated distillation of every intimidating, powerful woman that I have ever interviewed at a party or admired from afar. Obviously, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people [though thousands might be more accurate]. But honestly, the inspiration was my own youthful fantasy of what a woman would need to be to be successful. She is a very tough and very domineering woman.”

As a self-described “older Millennial, who is on the cusp of Gen X,” Lawrence was raised “with that idea that to be professionally successful as a woman you have to be tough and hardcore. So I manifested that youthful fantasy when I was dreaming up Billie.”

Lawrence was welcomed Thursday night by Mulberry North America’s general manager Laura Kaplan to the event in celebration of Women’s History Month. And The Zoe Report’s Kathy Lee moderated the talk. Afterward, guests lingered to chat with Lawrence and to have her sign their copies. Although some authors would readily reward themselves with an indulgence upon publication, Lawrence was content just to connect with readers and drink it all in.

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