From Fox news anchor to debut author – Brigitte Quinn
By Brigitte Quinn
Anyone who reads Anchored will likely have two questions: Was the Phoenix News Channel really the Fox News Channel? And, were you in love with your co-anchor? ♥
To the first question: No and yes.
If I wanted to write a tell-all about Fox, I would have written a memoir. But truth be told, I was never a household name in media and I’ve had a slow and steady career in a business notorious for dramatic flame-outs. My departure from the network was not spectacular. We parted ways because I needed to take care of my family. That memoir and novel has already been written a few times.
But yes, there are elements of my experiences at Fox in the book. Some scenes were also inspired by my two years at MSNBC — I started my cable and television career there when the network launched in 1996. How’s that for fair and balanced? Any similarities between the Phoenix and the real-life cable channels lie primarily in the unruly nature of an upstart — the energy, and quick camaraderie forged among colorful co-workers.
In describing the atmosphere at the Phoenix, I tried to give the reader a taste of what it feels like to be a television anchor, under the lights and under pressure to deliver the news accurately and gracefully. I did not, personally, experience pressure to spin the news and had no evil nemesis or would-be puppeteer. But where would the fun be in reading that?
As for the characters who populate the Phoenix, I suppose every writer infuses — subconsciously, or not — fictional characters with quirks and characteristics of people they’ve known, and loved or hated. Some of the characters in Anchored might be amalgams or composites of people I’ve know. But even then, their traits were not necessarily those of people in the news business. Tex the stage manager, for instance, was inspired by a family member who loved to tell gruesome stories at the holiday dinner table.
What about Barbara? I harken back to a pearl of wisdom dispensed by a professor at Sarah Lawrence which went something like this: If protagonists are our alter-egos, they are far more interesting, bolder, brighter, daring and entertaining than we are. I wish I had once in my career dared to lose my temper and (if you haven’t read Anchored yet, this is not really a spoiler alert, because it won’t make sense) assaulted a piece of sushi.
OK, I’ll cut to the romance. The answer to the second question is “no.” The corollary to that writing advice is this reminder: Fictional characters can do things we would not. Writing about a co-anchor who’s strictly a pal? Boring. From Bogey and Bergman to Moonlighting’s Dave and Maddie, I’ve always been a sucker for a story of forbidden love or sassy workplace chemistry. So I created a character who has a bit or a randy past, and set her on a collision course with an irresistible co-anchor whose Don Draper good looks (I was watching a lot of Jon Hamm in Mad Men at the time) make him impossible to think of as just a friend.
Finally, lest anyone think Barbara’s struggle was my own, I paraphrase another Sarah Lawrence Sage: The character’s dilemma and the climax of the novel should utilize the story’s setting. Had I written a story which ended with “So she asked her boss to cut back her hours because she needed to spend more time at home and he said, ‘okay,’” you’d hear the collective slamming shut of Kindles.
Ah, but what if the protagonist had an evil boss who masterminds a true dilemma, putting the protagonist in a tough spot culminating in a torturous choice (…your hero must be in a real bind!).
Now, that might be a good read.
Brigitte Quinn has worked in broadcasting for more than thirty years, and was a television anchor at the Fox News Channel, MSNBC and NBC. She holds an MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a BS from Cornell University. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and three children, and is currently anchoring mornings at 1010 WINS radio in New York City. Anchored is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.