Have you ever struggled to get out of bed in the morning, not wanting to suffer through another day at a job you hate? Did you ever have a boss that treated you like a machine instead of a person? Maybe you've even daydreamed about what revenge would be like, knowing that it would never really happen.
For those of you who have experienced feelings like this, Chicago author Leslie Stella's debut novel, "Fat Bald Jeff," is a must-read. Fresh, fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny, it marks Stella as an author to watch.
"Fat Bald Jeff" is the story of two disgruntled employees who decide to fight back and a detailed examination of the daily life of young slackers. It will have you laughing hysterically and brighten even the dreariest afternoon.
Stella got her start in the writing world with Lumpen, an underground magazine in Chicago, which was published from 1992-98. There were one or two issues a year that dealt mainly with politics and pop culture.
"We were very satirical and humorous," Stella says. "There was nothing else like it in Chicago at the time and it was a great job for people in there early-to-middle 20s."
Prior to her Lumpen days, Stella was a Milwaukee resident; her college years spent at Marquette University. She still has fond memories of her time here.
"I worked at QFM and spent a lot of time at thrift stores," she recalls. "And, of course, I did other typical college things, like going to bars. We went to Vitucci's, At Random and Bryant's a lot."
Originally from Cleveland, Stella moved to Chicago after graduating from Marquette because she wanted to stay in the Midwest and be in a big city.
"I thought it would only be for a few years," she muses, "but it's been 10 years now."
After the magazine, Stella's thoughts turned to writing a novel.
"There were two major influences for the book," Stella says. "It's an amalgamation of all the humiliating and awful jobs I've had in the past. I've been a waitress, bartender, secretary, you name it."
The other influence stemmed from an article she wrote for Lumpen.
"I wrote an article about sabotaging the workplace," she recalls. "It was like a choose-your-own-adventure story, but the only way to win was to do all of the illegal, amoral things."
The protagonist in "Fat Bald Jeff," a woman in her 20s named Addie, feels the same way Stella and her friends did when they had menial jobs: frustrated and disillusioned.
"A lot of people never question their working conditions and just want a paycheck. But I can't work at a place that doesn't challenge me intellectually."
After writing the first draft of the novel, Addie was more normal and likeable than intended.
"I wanted to make the reader work at liking at her," the author says. "And in the end, I think they do. I think they are pulling for things to work out for her."
From the start Stella knew that she wasn't writing a book that Oprah would like, and she didn't want to.
"I can't fake interest in family sagas," she says, "and I know that not everyone can relate to Addie."
Contrary to popular opinion, Stella bears no resemblance to Addie.
"I get asked that question a lot. But I didn't want to write a book about me and she isn't based on me."
At least now Stella has a job that she likes, which is good news for the rest of us.
"The lifestyle suits me. I have a hard time working for other people and I'm no good working for anyone. Plus, I'm kind of a hermit."
As for the future, Stella has already finished her second novel, but since it's in the hands of her publisher she isn't allowed to say much about it.
"I will say that I like it better than the first," Stella admits. "I'm improving."
"Fat Bald Jeff" is in stores now.