“A Small Affair” dives into fashion, Instagram and adultery – WWD

As a writer with subtle cunning, Flora Collins knows what she’s talking about.

Tuesday’s edition of HarperCollins’ page-turning A Small Affair proves this. It’s part of a two-book publisher deal that follows Collins’ New York City debut, “Nanny Dearest.” Wanting to write another psychological thriller, Collins said the initial inspiration for “A Small Affair” came from a 2018 documentary about the Chris Watts case. Watts killed his pregnant wife and two daughters “in part to be with his unwitting mistress,” Collins said. (After pleading guilty, he is serving a life sentence for the crimes.)

Recalling watching a true crime film in 2020, she said, “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I wonder what it would be like to be her.’ She had no idea what was going on. She seemed oblivious to the fact that he was still married and caring for children.”

The documentary served as a springboard, and she watched it only once.

Most days, Collins does his main job at a tech startup, in the marketing department, writing blogs and running the company’s LinkedIn page Monday through Thursday. Fridays are reserved for writing. After a morning workout, some procrastination, and perhaps lazing around, Collins hits the keyboard when he knows he wants to start typing. He hides his phone before taking out his laptop and writes at least 2,500 words – about 10 pages – in his Brooklyn apartment or at a nearby coffee shop.

Echoing Nora Ephron’s dictum that “everything is a copy”, the main character of “A Small Affair” has an integral role in social media and marketing for the New York direct-to-consumer fashion brand, and her former romance was led by a bro-loving start-up.

Collins’ mother, Amy Fine Collins, has long been a respected insider of the fashion industry and now helps oversee the “International Best Dressed List”. Whether she’s covering the fashion scene or a New York tech start-up in A Small Affair, Flora Collins does it with a familiar lightness that can be attributed to having grown up so close to fashion.

“I asked my mother a lot for advice or research regarding Vera’s work in the book. AND [with] technical issues, I wouldn’t say they are inspired by my work. I just know a lot of people who have worked in technology or are working in technology. It’s just normal millennial work,” she said, adding that she had deliberately made obscure references to technology to avoid having to explain little things.

There is a prismatic element to the plot where Collins satirizes how the main characters are mirrors of themselves, more specifically their ideal selves. The superficiality that appears is no accident. “It’s kind of poking fun at those one-percenters in Brooklyn. I live in Brooklyn Heights so I’m always watching. I think and watch all the time. Sounds terrifying [laughs]. But I write scary books,” she said.

While online dating and social media are threads running through the book, Collins said she wasn’t trying to impart any lessons. “I have a lot of experience being on Instagram and dating online… I think too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. But I’m not trying to make any moral statements about anyone’s use of these apps. There are certainly similarities and risks. But I would never tell someone, “Don’t use dating apps.” Or “Don’t use Instagram.” Because I love these things. I’m not a hypocrite in that regard.”

Readers should know how fashion is an art form that requires deep thought. Collins added: “There are also more goals in fashion than in other industries. I don’t want to spoil my book, but it becomes more apparent as you delve into it.”

The cover of Collins’ new book.

Another conclusion is that the person whose name is on the label is not always the person who makes things happen for the brand. “This is very true. As in any industry, many people work in the background to keep things going. This is often forgotten… staying in the background and moving the puppet strings is in some ways more powerful than putting your name on the door,” she said.

There will be no Instagram campaign for the book’s launch on Tuesday, but Collins enjoys sharing positive reviews and DMs with fellow authors such as Hannah Mary McKinnon, Emily Freud and Clemence Michallon. Collins attended Chapin and later graduated from Vassar College, and has pursued storytelling and reading for many years – writing has always been her “dagger”, she said.

Her parents’ support was a plus, as was the rejection. “The more you are rejected, the thicker your skin becomes. I wrote one manuscript that didn’t sell to publishers. It died after giving up, as they say,” Collins explained. “It was a great learning experience. I could have written “Nanny Dearest” right after that.

The writer, whose followers include InkWell agent Stephen Barbara, is currently reading YA books by author E. Lockhart, Megan Abbott and many other thriller specialists. “I will say that I read almost exclusively in my genre. It’s my favorite thing to read. I learn a lot reading other thrillers. Sometimes I fall outside that category, but most of the time that’s what I enjoy,” Collins said.

She is very sociable, going out almost every night of the week, having dinner with friends, going to parties, meeting new people and getting into the arts and culture. Hundred pages into his next non-contract book, Collins plots a plot around a girls’ private school.

As for the inevitable autobiographical question or whatever, Collins said “definitely not” in “A Small Affair”. She added: “It’s easy for me to set up books in New York because I grew up in New York. But I wouldn’t say I’m one of my characters. There may be elements of me in some of them. But no one is a substitute for me.”

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