Leslie Schnur, The Dog Walker
I heard about this book a while ago and became interested in reading it. Reese Witherspoon's production company optioned The Dog Walker for a movie which is my dream- I mean, who wouldn't want their book turned into a major film with big talent attached? The premise of the book is that a dog walker falls in love with a guy whose dog she walks. She snoops, peeks and looks into his life, believing she is falling in love.
The book has been described as cute, humorous, and delightful. Leslie Schnur is a very kind and funny lady and we love to gossip and drink wine together. Recently we sat down over a lovely snack of vodka tonics and caviar to chat while Anna Wintour chased her dog and tried to hog all the doggie pate.
Personally, I would never snoop through someone’s things...okay maybe I would peek. Nina, the main character in The Dog Walker, is a snooper. If I invited you over for filet mignon with a red wine garlic reduction and truffles with a raspberry coulis for dessert, would you be tempted to take a look in my medicine cabinet?
Would there be wine with dinner? Because with a couple of glasses of wine in me, you never know. Seriously, I haven't snooped in anyone's apartment since I was a babysitter when I was 15 years old. And that was about, oh, a long time ago. But I sure would be tempted. And I would study whatever you have out--your books, shampoo, art and cd's -- and come to some ridiculous conclusions as to what they say about you.
How long did it take you to write the book? Are you the kind of writer to do an outline or just sit down and write whatever comes into your head?
It took me about 18 months from start to finish, but the first few months were spent trying hard to get the tone and characters and opening right. Once I got that stuff settled, I was able to write the rest of the book pretty quickly. I am working on my second novel now, and I'm doing the same thing, so I guess that's how I work. I work from a very vague outline, and then let my mind run rampant. So, often the outline changes along the way.
One day you get a call from Reese Witherspoon’s production office and they want to make The Dog Walker into a movie. What was your reaction and can you tell me about how a book gets optioned to be a movie? You must have been so excited. I wouldn’t be able to eat or sleep if that happened to me.
Oh boy, was I thrilled when I heard she was interested! But it didn't happen so simply as getting a call and that's that. My movie option was orchestrated by my New York literary agent working in conjunction with my LA movie agent. Together, they strategized and sent the manuscript to a very limited number of people. First, a successful independent producer signed on. Then the producer got the screenwriting team who wrote How To Lose A Guy In Ten Day to read the book. They liked it and immediately suggested changing it for the movie, which initially bothered me, but many writer friends told me that when it comes to Hollywood, they inevitably change the book. They formulated a "pitch" to take to actors and studios.
Then they pitched Reese and her producing partner who liked it and took it to Universal, where Reese has a production deal. Universal gave it a thumbs up and only then, after months, the deal was in place. But I haven't let myself get too excited. I know that hundreds of projects get optioned every year and only a small few make it to the big screen.
The book takes place in New York City which is the best place for just about everything. Do you take your dogs for walks in Central Park or do you employ a dog walker? If you had one day to stroll around the city with unlimited funds, what would you do?
I walk my dog in Central Park every day--several times a day. It's a great place to be--lots of dogs, a beautiful pond near our apartment and excellent trails. I used to employ a dog walker when I was an editor working in an office outside my apartment. But now I do the dog walking duty during the day and my husband does it at night. Strangers stop me all the time to talk about my dog or really, about anything. New Yorkers are like that.
They are friendly and opinionated and curious and very open. So if I could stroll the city with unlimited funds? I think I'd go to Soho and shop the sidewalk vendors who sell amazing things from artwork to jewelry to used books and clothes. Then I'd walk to Chinatown and eat at our favorite dumpling house. Then walk to Tribeca for dessert and a drink at Pastis, a hip, and fun, noisy Bistro. I live uptown so walking downtown is exotic and fascinating.
Your new book, not due out until 2006, sounds hysterical. Sterling Behavior touches on the things that annoy us. I can’t stand long toe nails, people who don’t give a “thank you wave” when driving, and men who go shirtless in public. What bothers you?
I hate those things you hate too! Can I use them in my book? I also can't stand people who talk loudly on cell phones in public enclosed places. Why should I have to listen to their "private" conversations? I hate people at the gym when they stay on machines too long and try to hide it by covering their timer with a magazine. I hate people who talk in movies! And people who cut in lines! And people who don't say "thank you" when you hold a door open for them. Stop me--I'll keep going and going and....
Do you prefer working with authors or being an author?
Though I loved working with authors, nothing is better for me than being a writer. I get to use my imagination, think about stories and characters, and spend my day doing something that is challenging and fun and horrible and hard and wonderful. And then I get paid for it! I am grateful every single day that I am able to have this new career, you have no idea.
When The Dog Walker premieres, what will you wear? A strapless Dolce & Gabbana or a seductive Versace? Perhaps a lovely Betsey Johnson with your hair in braids? I would have to pop a Xanax every five minutes. How will you keep your composure?
Listen, being the mom of nine-year-old twins, I'd be happy to go in anything other than jeans and a t-shirt. But no braids, thank you very much. And as to composure, I'd come to your house, drink a couple of glasses of wine with you, do a good long snoop of your drawers and cabinets...and then hit the red carpet.
OF COURSE I have some free books to give away as well as a charm bracelet! Email me at DistressedJeans@juno.com for your chance to win!
(If you have won before please refrain from sending an email so others can have a chance to win. Thanks, gorgeous readers!)