NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Mary Carlomagno, the New Providence based author of three books, sat down with Tapinto to talk about how her newly published novel, “Best Friend For Hire,” came to be. Over coffee at Starbucks, and in between her local friends stopping by our table to say hello, Carlomagno opened up about life in New Providence with her husband and two young children and how she got her first novel out of the desk drawer and into the publishing house.
After a few minutes with her, you will quickly realize that Carlomagno never met a deadline she didn’t love or an assignment that didn’t motivate her. She likes order, period. So much so, she named her clutter control company just that. She even based her first book on giving up everyday indulgences in an orderly manner.
In 2005, her book “Give it up; My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less,” was published following a 12 month deprivation exercise after realizing her lifestyle and shopping had gotten out of control. “I was living this over-busy, over-scheduled privileged life and just going out for drinks and shopping like crazy, but it wasn’t giving me any great happiness,” she recalled. Then one day everything changed. Her spending habits literally knocked her over the head. “My aha moment came when a shoe shelf fell on my head getting ready for work one day. I thought something’s got to give.” That something was a year of giving up one indulgence each month (alcohol, shopping, elevators, cell phones), which she chronicled in her first book, which landed her a segment on The Today Show.
Carlomagno went on to write two more books (Secrets of Simplicity and Live More, Want Less), the second of which got the attention of The Oprah Winfrey Show and lead to an appearance in 2009. But Carlomagno never forgot she had a novel sitting in a desk drawer that had yet to be addressed, “I have such incredible admiration for writers, but I didn’t think I could do that, so I let that paralyze me for a while.” That “while” turned into ten years, when Carlomagno had a epiphany, “I decided I don’t have to be Tolstoy, I want people to laugh,” she joked, “That was a big awakening for me, there’s space for everybody, I’m letting this idea be what it is.” Her experiences working with New Yorkers who hired her to tame their clutter-crammed apartments informed the story. “It’s never really about the stuff,” she reflected, “and I liked the idea of entering into other peoples lives as an impartial observer.”
That novel, over a decade in the making, turned out to be “Best Friend For Hire,” just released this week. It is based on her adventures in the publishing world and is a look at life through the eyes of a Jersey girl. “It’s familiar territory, it’s about a woman who lives in Hoboken, with an Italian background, and works in publishing, and gets downsized,” much like Carlomagno. “My job was eliminated, so I found myself much like the character in my book, trying to recreate myself,” she continued, “I went off to figure out what I wanted to do, I did all the things my main character does when you’re exploring your life journey.”
Carlomagno, who wears many hats in addition to her writing, does design work, has an organizing business, is a corporate spokesperson, dabbles in furniture restoration, and even finds time to produce maple syrup in her backyard with her husband and two kids. “We love it here,” she said about New Providence, “We love what we have here and we love this town.” Her new life credo is portion control, not just for dieting but also for living. “Portion control your life, portion control your shopping, portion control your television watching,” she suggests, “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all on Tuesday.” Her new life maintenance plan seems to be working just fine.
You can meet Mary Carlomagno at The New Providence Public Library on Tuesday, June 27th at 7:30 p.m. Join her as she talks about her new book. She will be signing copies as well.