A conversation with Lianne Oelke


    Brenna Ehrlich spoke with Lianne Oelke about why people find comfort in predictable media, how reality TV covers nearly every aspect of the human condition, why there’s no value in not enjoying what we read and cats’ mysterious ability to feel love.

    I’m guessing that the people who watch these movies unironically do so because they want to to exist in a bubble of whiteness, good ol’ fashioned family values and predictability.


    Brenna Ehrlich

    You say you worked in the film industry, specifically making TV movies about attractive white people. Personally, I’m imagining something like A Christmas Prince, or A Christmas Kiss or A Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas… Sorry, my brain broke for a second. Anyway, what is the most clichéd movie plot of all time? Please take us through that plot and explain why people like such a thing.

    Lianne Oelke

    Sadly, I have not had the pleasure of working on A Christmas Prince, but I have worked on Marry Me At ChristmasMiss Christmas and A Christmas Secret, among others. They all boil down to the same plot: a big city career woman (or man) is stuck in a small town for Christmas. Her big city career values are at odds with the small town’s wonderfully wholesome sensibilities, and she finds herself superficially annoyed at the town’s most eligible hottie while making herself at home with his adorably quirky family. Implausibly impromptu snowball fights abound, ugly Christmas sweaters are exchanged, Christmas cookies are baked, and the town holds its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which everyone insists is a really big deal. The quirky best friend sees the blossoming love before anyone else does, and the town’s black mayor gets one or two lines in because hey, this network isn’t racist!

    The lovebirds get into a single, easily avoidable misunderstanding, and the career woman goes back to the city. The small-town dad gives someone a heart-to-heart talk, and what do you know, the city woman is back and ready to throw her life away for this relationship after all! Grand gestures are made, careers abandoned for a simpler, more fulfilling life, and the movie ends with a big, public kiss and a dramatic camera crane movement. I’m guessing that the people who watch these movies unironically do so because they want to to exist in a bubble of whiteness, good ol’ fashioned family values and predictability.


    In Nice Try, Jane Sinner, Jane competes in a low-budget community college reality show. Are you a fan of the genre? If so, which shows? Do you think reality TV is kind of pointless nowadays — or trending toward more positive — since the world is a giant chasm of horrors and people find little comfort in reality aside from nice British people making macaroons?

    I used to watch more reality TV, back when I had an endless supply of roommates and angst. The Bachelor and BacheloretteAmerica’s Next Top Model and The Amazing Race were all solid choices. I do still watch Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank religiously, despite having no interest in business or entrepreneurship (or… religion). I haven’t watched much else lately, but I don’t think the genre is pointless. Reality TV covers pretty much every aspect of modern human existence, and there will always be decent shows and garbage shows in every genre. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should feel guilty for watching what makes you happy.


    I see you enjoy camping. I cannot truly understand this, as camping just feels like the beginning of a horror movie to me. And then she stuck her head out of the tent flap…. and was decapitated! I know it’s supposed to be good for silent contemplation, though. What was the last long thought tangent you went on while in the woods? What did you uncover about yourself?

    Camping is wonderful because it gives me a break from thinking so much. I love the feeling of driving out of cell reception and knowing I don’t have to check my phone for work emails or Twitter updates. I can relax and focus on the important things in life: eating, reading, and sleeping. One thing I have learned about myself is how low my standards for personal hygiene and food cleanliness really are.


    As we all know, reading one-star reviews of our own books is a very bad idea. I do, however, read one-star reviews of other people’s books to make myself feel better about my own one-star reviews. So, I’m aware some idiot readers disliked your book because they didn’t like Jane. Which is the lowest form of criticism, in my opinion. What do you think of the idea that in order to like a book, you have to like the people in it?

    I totally get that some people don’t like Jane. I don’t like some people. Or most people, come to think of it. I do think there is huge value in reading about characters that have different thought processes, values and skills than you. Personally, I love morally ambiguous characters and anti-heroes. However, if certain characters are unbearably annoying and reading becomes a chore, why keep going? Life is too short to not enjoy the books you read.


    Just curious, but who was Marc, the 30-something sleazy contestant, based on? I feel like I know him way too well.

    Marc is an unfortunate amalgamation of certain reality TV tropes and toxic masculinity. He isn’t based on one specific person, but other than Jane, his voice came most naturally to me. Make of that what you will. Marc’s one redeeming quality is that deep down, he knows he’s the worst, too.

    I don’t think my dreams are expressions of creativity; they simply expose feelings and thoughts already swimming around my brain.


    Do you think cats can love? Why or why not?

    Absolutely. I’ve heard (from some cat guru implausibly named Jackson Galaxy) that cats say ‘I love you’ by slowly closing their eyes around you. It’s a sign of trust. Alley Cat and I do this all the time, and it’s a deliberate gesture on both our parts. I’ve watched Alley blossom from a shy cat from the shelter to my best bud who enjoys spending time with me, even when food isn’t involved. Of course, cats have different brains and experience love differently than humans, but I doubt anyone can convince me that Alley doesn’t experience her own special cat form of love.


    Apparently, you like hammocks. Please give us some handy, detailed tips on how to not fall out of one.

    The key is finding a rock or piece of wood the perfect height for placing your coffee or beer on, thus preventing any excessive reaching and potential hammock flipping. Also, check your knots.


    Here’s a boring one: What are you writing now? Can you tell us a little bit about it or no?

    Not boring at all! I’m working on a dark, multi-POV, feminist YA fantasy inspired by saga-age Iceland. It’s about a girl who knows where she will die, and must save her farm from a volcano while helping a sorceress-tyrant save their island from an attack of bloodthirsty Vikings. A bit different from Jane Sinner, I know.


    I’m really interested in how different creative people dream. I dream whole, strange stories. My musician fiancé dreams in feelings. How do you dream? Do you think that how you dream is dictated by your creative mind?

    I dream in weird fragments and impressions of my daily experiences. For example, last night I dreamt that characters from Njáls saga (Skarphedin, Kari, Helgi, and Grim) came to visit a weird New Year’s event with my family and friends at some big campsite, and it was my job (or maybe I volunteered?) to show them around. I don’t think my dreams are expressions of creativity; they simply expose feelings and thoughts already swimming around my brain. Creativity happens when I take those mundane thoughts and work them into something else.


    Please show us the animal you most would like to own as a pet.

    Here’s a picture of the pet I already have, because Alley Cat is perfect in every way.

    Thank you.


    Conversation: 129
    Curated by: Brenna Ehrlich
    Conducted by: Email
    Edited by: Morgan Enos
    Published: February 14, 2018
    Total questions: 10
    Word count: 1268
    Reading time: Four minutes
    Hyperlinks: 1
    Imagery: 1


    Thought: Exposed
    Reach: Excessive
    Hammock: Flipped
    Cat: Perfection
    TV: Existence


    About the subject

    Lianne Oelke is a YA author originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, with a background in the made-for-TV film industry.

    About the guest curator

    Brenna Ehrlich aspires to write a novel that’s a classic album. She enjoys taking solitary trips to distant locations and scoring the whole experience with the perfect book, record and restaurant. She often dreams (literally, while sleeping) of getting lost in unforgiving locales sans shoes or socks.

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