The surprising lessons Anna Pitoniak learned from living in Whistler and New York

The author of The Futures talks about how where we live shapes who we become and why she wrote a novel about it.
Anna Pitoniak is an editor at Random House. The Futures is her first novel. (Andrew Bartholomew)

Anna Pitoniak is originally from Whistler, B.C., but now lives in New York. New York also happens to be the setting for her new novel, The Futures. It follows Julia, a rich girl from Boston, and Evan, a former hockey player from B.C., as they navigate their post-graduation work and relationships in the city.

What New York teaches her characters

It's a very overwhelming place for both of them. It takes a long time for them to figure out how to actually create a life for themselves. This city can be so intense and ambitious and brash. I certainly felt this when I moved to New York after graduating from college. There's the idea of New York, from movies and novels, that is romantic and glittering and very seductive. But then you get there and realize that it's really intense, it's really expensive, everyone works really hard and it can be very off-putting and hard to find your footing. 

As Evan and Julia go through these various trials and tribulations, they start to realize that there are benefits to living in a place as big and indifferent as New York. It allows you to make mistakes and know that no one is really paying attention to you. That can actually be very liberating. It can allow you to try new things and figure out who you want to be and maybe that's different from the person you were in your small town. 

Whistler vs. New York

I think back on living in Whistler with so much affection. Some days when I'm walking around New York and it's just sirens and honking horns everywhere, I can't believe that I once lived in this beautiful place and that I just took it for granted. Whistler allowed me to see that there's more than one way your life can unfold. It's easy to grow up in New York and think that life unfolds a certain way, there's a certain kind of educational track you go on, there's a certain kind of career you have, this is what you're going to do. When we moved to Whistler, I saw that you can do something completely different. It made me realize that there are always other options out there.

Anna Pitoniak's comments have been edited and condensed.