Joshua Ferris’ first book draws on ad agency experience
Although Joshua Ferris’ new novel, Then We Came To The End, tells the story of a specific group of people working at a Chicago advertising agency, the first-time author thinks there are certain things universal to any office.
“There’s office furniture, probably some bad lighting, probably some annoying people. But I think, on the flip side, there is an inherent community and an opportunity to make friends that you might not ordinarily make,” said Ferris. “I suspect that everyone would say, if they’ve worked in an office, that they’ve made one or two close friends during their tenure. That goes a long way to obliterating the miseries of bad lighting.”
In Then We Came To The End, Ferris’s colourful cast of characters is given the impossible task of creating a pro-bono ad campaign for breast cancer patients with one goal — to make them laugh.
In between endless gossip and trying to figure out if there is, in fact, anything funny about cancer, the group of copywriters and art directors constantly worry about being the next person to be laid off.
Ferris chose to write the novel from the perspective of first person plural because he said corporations and companies always speak as a “we,” and they do this especially in advertising.
“Buy our product. Use our service. When I decided to write a story about a company I thought the point of view just naturally had to be told this way,” said Ferris. “Of course, there’s a big difference between the “we” that shows up in annual reports and the “we” that shows up to work every day.”
Ferris, who worked at an advertising agency himself for three years, left the corporate world to write full-time — a decision he doesn’t regret. “One, I was never very good at advertising. Two, I wasn’t terribly dedicated and three, I always knew I wanted to write fiction,” he said. “I would not go back if I can help it. But if I were to go back I would go kicking and screaming.”