Therese Huston is an author with a mission. Therese states that she is aiming to change the conversation about women as decision-makers. Her work sets out to debunk the unfortunately common negative stereotypes about women as decision-makers, she achieved this with her book, How Women Decide: What’s True, What’s Not, and What Strategies Spark the Best Choices. As well as Therese’s books, she has also written for the New York Times and Harvard Business Review. Therese Huston studied at Carelton College, where she attained her BA, and would go on to attain her MS and PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. I really enjoyed speaking with Therese, and learning about the books that have inspired her to take on such a noble mission. Please enjoy my interview with the wonderful, Therese Huston…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I smile and say, “I’m a writer.”
For pure fun? I’m reading Career of Evil, the third book in Robert Galbraith’s detective series. Great dialogue and fascinating characters. Besides, Galbraith is really J.K. Rowling, and she tells a great story.
I also read a lot of non-fiction that informs my work. Right now, I’m reading Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant, What Works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet, and Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family by Anne-Marie Slaughter.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
What a delightful question! Believe it or not, the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. My dad had a collection, and I read them in my pre-teen years. At first I started reading them because it gave me something to talk about with my dad, but pretty soon, I wanted to read them all for myself.
Can you remember the first real story you wrote?
No. But I remember the first chapter I wrote. I was in grad school. It was terrible. Thank goodness we can all learn.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I went through different stages. When I really young, say kindergarten, I wanted to be a doctor. But one day, I overheard my parents talking about an accident that had been very bloody and I became dizzy and felt I would faint. I crossed that off the list pretty quickly.
Then for a while, I wanted to be a massage therapist, but when I was a kid, it was called “masseuse,” and when I said I wanted to do that when I grew up, people either laughed as though I’d suggested something dirty or they told me I was too smart to do that kind of work. I don’t think people would say that about massage therapists today, but sadly, I shelved that idea too.
Around fourth grade, I began to nurture the idea of becoming a writer. For a while I collected names for characters, writing them down on little slips of paper. I had a wooden jewellery box my grandpa had made me and since I didn’t wear jewellery, I put names in there instead.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
She’d be a little disappointed to learn that writing is a lot more than naming characters. But she’d also love that I give talks about my work. I’ve always loved public speaking.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
I’d give myself Quiet by Susan Cain. That book gave me a vocabulary for who I am (an introvert) and how I make my way in the world (needing alone time to recharge). I would have been a lot happier in college and grad school if I realized that it was okay to love Sunday night more than Saturday night.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
I don’t have a routine, but I have two favourite places to read: 1) stretched out on the couch, with a blanket, my dog, and a cup of tea, and 2) on the exercise bike at my gym. Fiction is for the couch, non-fiction for the gym.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
First, get in the habit of writing most every day, even if you don’t want to. Especially if you don’t want to. Writing takes a lot of discipline, and you need to figure out which carrots and sticks work for you.
Second, live someplace cheap. I don’t mean a rat-infested apartment – I’m not suggesting you put yourself through hardship. But if you keep your expenses down, you won’t have to spend as many hours each week earning a living and you’ll have more hours to write. When I hear about writers who got their start in Paris or London or New York, I’m often baffled.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
The James Bond novels by Ian Fleming with my dad.
Three books come to mind. On the non-fiction side, Quiet by Susan Cain and Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath. Both illuminating and so helpful. And for my friends who prefer fiction, the Robert Galbraith detective series. I think I’ve bought or lent Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith to four people this year alone.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Hard call. I read a lot more non-fiction, but I cherish a good novel and that time on the couch.
Do you think reading is important?
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
I tend to love whatever I’m reading, and Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant, has impressed me for its breadth. In one chapter, you’re reading about how no one wanted to fund a company that sells eyeglasses online and in the next you’re reading about the in-fighting among the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
Real books. I’ve read one or two digital books and it felt a little like homework.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I want to read The Myth of Mars and Venus by Deborah Cameron, the Oxford scholar.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
It would probably involve food, something like Who Moved My Ice Cream? or My Chocolate Stash. People know me as a tea drinker, and I do love tea, but sometimes I drink tea just so I can stop thinking about chocolate and ice cream.