When I meet Dana Vachon for coffee at a café in the West Village, he's wearing a suit. Not surprising, considering he worked on Wall Street for three years. In fact, everything about him indicates that he was bred for banking-from his calm blue eyes to his soothing, if formal, Connecticut accent. But behind his upper-crust facade, the 28-year-old has something other financiers don't: a sense of irony, which was helpful when he decided to expose the absurd world of Wall Street, Devil Wears Prada-style, in his debut novel, Mergers and Acquisitions.
MC: This book is a thinly veiled account of your experience at J.P. Morgan. When did you know you were going to write it?
VACHON: The first day I was there. I felt like a kid in a candy store. People on Wall Street don't have senses of humor.
MC: Just how true to your life is it?
VACHON: Most everything in the book happened, but not necessarily to me and not in that order. For instance, one group really did once spend a million dollars taking their clients to Macchu Pichu.
MC: What other over-the-top expenditures didn't make it into the book?
VACHON: Someone once spent $25,000 buying two courtside U.S. Open tickets for a client who complained that the corporate box didn't offer the sort of view he was after. That, however, is nothing compared to the $20 million given to Chase CEO Bill Harrison simply for buying J.P. Morgan. That's like giving the Navy Cross to the skipper of the Exxon Valdez.
MC: Speaking of bonuses, how much was your first one and what did you spend it on?
VACHON: They sent me $15,000 as a sign-on while I was still a senior at Duke. If I recall correctly, I spent that money principally on wine and rides on airplanes.
MC: It seems it wasn't your dream to work on Wall Street. How did you end up there?
VACHON: I think I was always expected to work on Wall Street, but I always wanted to write a novel. I had no skill at doing finance.
MC: Yet you were able to keep your job for three years.
VACHON: It was hilarious. If you take a job you're not fit for, you can't go in and be like, "Hey, I'm not competent." You have to pretend. I would go to these dinners and spend weekends with these people, just waiting for the men to come and kick me out at any moment, but they never came.
MC: Is anyone going to stop talking to you when this book is published?
VACHON: My father was quite disturbed by it. Also, the character Roger Thorne is an amalgam of my friends, but I modeled his voice after one specific guy. He called me and said, "Dude, this isn't going to hurt my marriage, is it?"
MC: If the book gets bought by Hollywood, who would you want to play you?
VACHON: Three words: Haley Joel Osment. Once he gets this DUI thing expunged, H.Jo's gonna be unstoppable.
Click here to purchase Mergers and Acquisitions by Dana Vachon.