Thursday, August 25, 2005

Karin Gillespie: Southern comfort and good gossip!

Jennifer Weiner says Karin Gillespie's books are "as tart and delectable as lemon merngue pie."

Johanna Edwards says: "Karin Gillespie is a genius!"

Her work has been called "hilarious" and "witty" and the books make me want to pack my Louis Vuitton bags for Cayboo Creek, that is if I actually owned Louis Vuitton luggage.

Karin Gillespie has written Bet Your Bottom Dollar and the sequel, A Dollar Short. Both are humorous and fun, full of spunky characters and laugh- out- loud dialogue. And rarely does a sequel manage to stand up to the orignal but she pulls it off. Karin and I have this in common: we both enjoy good gossip! Perhaps Karin, Caroline Leavitt and myself should start up our own gossip club and write a book about it.

Karin, your books are so good. When I started each one, I knew from the first page I was in for a treat. Your books are like a tall glass of cold ice tea on a hot summers day- refreshing and relaxing. Would you ever feel comfortable writing anything other than a good Southern novel with quirky characters? Maybe a book that is more dark and suspenseful?

Actually I grew up reading Stephen King novels and true crime stories but as I've gotten older I've just not been as enamored with the darker side of literature. I did just finish a book called EARTHLY PLEASURES, which isn't particularly Southern. It's a chick lit book with a touch of suspense and it takes place in Heaven. It will come out sometime in 2007.

Are you a southern belle in real life? Did you grow up in the south wearing ruffled hoop skirts and drinking mint juleps?

I did have a pink hoop skirt that I used to wear when I was the hostess for an annual barbeque, but I think it ended up at the Goodwill. I just never cozied up Mint Juleps but I do love sitting on the verandah sipping red wine and watching the world go by. I'm also a Southern belle in the sense that I love the cuisine. Give me some pole beans, collards, some Texas Pete and I'm a happy girl.

Have you ever eaten at a Cracker Barrel and played that little triangular brain tease puzzle that is placed at each table? I swear they have the best coffee in the world there. I love their breakfast foods too. How about you?

I've eaten at the Cracker Barrel but that game is too darn tough for me. I travel in the South a lot and rather than eating at a chain I seek out those out-of-the-way diners where they've been cooking the grits since 5 a.m. and they are the best you'll ever taste.

Along with writing novels, you also keep a blog about the craft of writing. You are essentially sharing the secrets and tools of the trade. I don't know of another career where people are so willing to assist each other. What do you think?

I've always thought giving back is important and I know when I was learning the ropes I would have loved to have someone help me out. It's a tough, competitive business and writers can use all the help they can get. I'm pleased to be considered a useful resource.

Tell me who would play those good southern girls, Chiffon and Chenille in the movie. And how about the horrible Lonnie who leaves his wife for a movie star? Who could play him? Can't you see Kevin Federline in that role? He's got the right amount of grease and charm. Ha ha ha!

I think Kevin Federline has just the right touch of sleaze to play a low-down dog like Lonnie. Also Matthew Mcconaughey might be right for the role. As for Chiffon and Chenille, I think Drew Barrymore would be a perfect Chiffon and Joan Cusak would be excellent as the up-tight Chenille.

Can you discuss who called you about optioning the movie?

Yes, James Woods is optioning the first book, BET YOUR BOTTOM DOLLAR. He actually called me at my house, which was very exciting. His mother was reading the large-print edition and laughing so hard that he asked to see the book. He thinks it will make a good movie. I have my fingers crossed that the movie will get made!

I love the sayings at the beginning of each chapter. Which is your favorite?

Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

Are you a fan of other southern writers and if so, who? I am a huge Michael Lee West fan.

Great minds think alike. I LOVE Michael Lee West. CRAZY LADIES is a must-read. Celia Rivenbark, Susan Reinhardt (gotta love a book called "Not Tonight Honey. Wait Until I'm a Size Six.) Julie Cannon and Ann B. Ross are also favorites.

Do you see a difference in personalities of people from the south compared to other places in the country? I lived in North Carolina for a while and noticed in the south they drive a lot slower than lets say, New Jersey or California. People are also pretty friendly and laid back.

It's so hot here, we have to move slower. And yes, if you smile at people on the streets of NYC they might look at you funny, but here you smile and wave to everyone you pass. Also, once in NYC some nicely dressed guy tried to steal a cab from me. It's hard to imagine that happening in the deep South. Men around here are very gentlemanly.

I like to watch reality television, I'll admit it. Would you ever go on Survivor or the Amazing Race? What show would you like to appear on for the chance to win one million dollars?

I'm not all that athletic so I think I'd be lousy at those outdoorsy shows. How about an edition of Survivor on 5th Avenue. Who can snag the most swag in ten days? Or a gossip quiz show? That's another thing you and I have in common, Cindy. We both love celeb gossip. As a matter of fact, A DOLLAR SHORT came out of a article I read several years ago about Julia Roberts. When Julia was first seeing her current husband, Danny Moder, he was married to a hairdresser named Vera. I thought to myself, what would it be like if a world-famous movie star wanted your husband? How would you compete? That's how A DOLLAR SHORT came about.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Michael Lee West, Mad Girls In Love

MLee and Mary Gay Shipley

Jackie O

Michael Lee West and Murphy

Have you read Crazy Ladies? If not, it's a must read. I read it a few years ago, then quickly consumed every other book Michael Lee West wrote. I tried without luck to track her down and let her know how much I loved her novels. As I was reading Amazon's new book list, I saw Mad Girls In Love and couldn't wait to read it, however the publication was months away. I checked back now and again only to be disappointed because the release date was being pushed further and further into the future.

Like a crazed fan, I kept trying to find the elusive Michael Lee, turning up nothing. I had to know- what was going on with Mad Girls In Love? I stumbled upon message boards and southern fiction reading groups where other readers wondered the same thing: "Where is she and when will the new book come out?" Yes, it's true. The fans were as riled up as a bunch of teenagers at a boy-band concert.

Finally- finally!- the book would be out in 2005. I breathed a sigh of relief mixed with anticipation. I got my hands on a copy and quickly read the book cover to cover, wishing for one more chapter. I give it four stars, two thumbs up and a smiley face. And then I was able to get in touch with this amazing author and do an interview. I think- if you read between the lines- she clearly wants me to come to Tennessee to visit her.

Michael, I hear you live in a renovated funeral home- are there any ghosts or weird things happening in your house? I want to come for a visit but if I have to share the bed with a ghost, I might reconsider.

Before we bought the house, my husband was opposed to the idea of living in a former funeral home--he fully expected it to be haunted. We've lived here since '96, and I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary. However, we do own the "Margaret Mitchell bed" (supposedly from Miss Mitchell's childhood home), and guests have reported vivid dreams involving a wagon, cannons, and rain. One of the more interesting stories about the house involved a woman named Miss Mattie whose dog had died, and she bought a small casket.

When I saw Mad Girls In Love on Amazon, I couldn’t wait to read it especially after I consumed She Flew The Coop in two days and then read everything else you wrote. For a couple of years, I kept checking to see when it would be available. There was a delay in the release, what happened?

A couple of events dovetailed. First,, my long-time editor retired, and I was "orphaned." Next, my youngest child had a bone tumor--thankfully it was benign. But, for a while, our lives were turned upside-down. My son's story is inspiring: when the tumor was discovered, he was in high school, and after his recovery, he went on to win a top football award; he also played college football.

I love the southern fiction genre and especially your books. Crazy Ladies has a permanent spot on my “Best Books Ever Read” list. What is your favorite?

She Flew the Coop. I had so much fun writing that novel.

Will you ever write a book that is not southern fiction, let's say about a girl in the big city looking for love while wearing Prada and working for Vogue? Or is southern fiction something that is in your blood?

Well, I've never worn Prada (although I do read Vogue), so, no, I don't see myself writing about that--at least, not convincingly. However, anything is possible.

Mad Girls In Love is a long book which is perfect since I have all kinds of time to lay on a chaise and read. How long did it take for you to write it?

The first draft took about 9 months; the revision took almost 6 years. In all the years I've been writing novels, this was most unusual. Normally it takes 4 to 6 months to revise a book, working from 8 am until midnight. . I recently finished my 5th book, Mermaids in the Basement (it took 11 months--and I haven't started revising--however, it's much shorter than Mad Girls).

Do you start with the germ of an idea and then it blossoms into a novel or is your writing based on your family history?

Usually a scene pops into my head--in this case, Bitsy hitting Claude with the frozen baby back ribs. With the exception of Consuming Passions, I haven't written about my family. But I'm always threatening to put them into a novel. Occasionally my husband brings home stories. Before he went to medical school, he worked as an untrained aid at Central State Asylum, so many of his stories went into Crazy Ladies. Several scenes in Mad Girls were based on real events, such as Fiona's unfortunate death by the Coca-Cola Machine and when Violet fell out of the car and scraped her behind.

I had no luck at all trying to track you down: no blog, email or website and not a lot of information to research on the internet. Do you purposely keep a low profile? Do the people where you live know who you are? When my book comes out I’ll wear a printed tee shirt and carry a huge sign but I get the feeling you don't toot your own horn.

Well. I'm not sure how to answer. I would have to go all the way back to childhood. See, Mama was--and is--an extrovert. I took her with me on a book tour, and without fail, she leapt out of her seat and just took over. She did a damn good job, too. If Mama was a writer, she would have a webpage. My brother and I are, of course, the total opposite. We have always flown below the radar. I'll turn 52 this October, and it might be too late for this old bird to gain altitude. I don’t know.

You see, I wrote for about 10 years before anything was published; I wasn't an overnight sensation or protegee, so I'm always surprised and thrilled when anyone reads my work. I wrote short stories while holding a baby's bottle in one hand and stirring gumbo with the other. I could never find enough time to fold t-shirts, vacuum, write, and buy toilet tissue. Every now and then I'd sit down, take a deep breath, and reread Tillie Olsen. Or Anne Tyler's brilliant essay "Still Just Writing." I'd have to say that very few people in town know that I'm a writer. This is fortunate, because I can't tell you how many good lines I've overheard at Piggly Wiggly while standing in front of the meat counter, peering down at pork chops and Boston butts.

I love to eat good home cooking and have enjoyed the recipes you include in your novels. If I came for a visit, what would you cook for me?

Well, let's see. First, I'd have to know about food allergies, along with likes/dislikes. I'd want to prepare something you loved. Would you prefer southern gourmet (pork tenderloin rolled in crushed pecans with a pear glaze; sweet potato souffle; crème brule) or southern soul (fried chicken, collards, cornbread, strawberry shortcake)? Or how about a ladies' luncheon--chicken pecan salad, layered Jell-o salad, 7-Up cake? (Micheal Lee, it all sounds wonderful especially that sweet potato souffle and creme brule!)

And can you share your favorite recipe with me and the thousands of others who read this interview?

My eldest son is a professional chef, and he shared this recipe:

Pizza for Busy Writers
1 frozen pizza
1 box fresh herbs (I like basil and Italian parsley)
1 red bell pepper

Take pizza out of box. Chop herbs and pepper, then scatter over pizza. Cook pizza according to directions. Pour a glass of Merlot. Enjoy!

Do you have a horse? Not at the moment; but several years ago I owned 2 quarter horses.

Do you dress your dog in J. Crew? Keep a pot bellied pig in your yard? And what are your passions in life?

I am owned by several toy dogs, and two copper eyed Persians, along with 2 alley cats. For the last two years I've been taking Spanish classes. And the last book I read was The Historian (loved it).

Let's cast the movie for Mad Girls In Love. Who would be your choice for the leading characters?
Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson (Bitsy and Jennifer).
Clancy Jane--Laura Dern
Violet -- Christina Ricci
And Dorothy? Why, Mama, of course.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Caroline Leavitt loves juicy celebrity gossip!

My admiration of author Caroline Leavitt runs deep. She is a brilliant writer, her novels are so well written that you find yourself laughing and crying along with the characters in the book. As soon as you crack open a novel, her writing pulls you in and its impossible to put the book down until you have finished.

How I met Caroline is so cosmic- after I finished Coming Back to Me, I turned on my computer to find Caroline on the same message board as me (fiction lovers at ivillage). I couldn’t believe it. We would become best friends forever and drink vodka tonics and shop at Barneys (so we can pop in and see Simon of course!) and trade our Manolos. Our friendship was one of those things that was meant to be.

Run to your nearest bookstore or else move your manicured fingers quickly across your keyboard and head to Amazon or Powell's or where ever you do your book buying and purchase Coming Back to Me, Girls in Trouble, Into Thin Air or any other novel by this amazing writer.

Caroline is a book columnist for The Boston Globe and for Imagine Magazine, she teaches writing at UCLA (and won an award for Outstanding creative writing teacher) and does manuscript consulting. Currently she is working on a novel called Traveling Angels and says she should know what it's about in another year! I can't wait. Her books are so good that I will actually pre-order it as soon as I can and then wait for the UPS truck to pull up and deliver it.

Caroline, I’ve been a huge fan of yours for a long time. In fact, it was you who inadvertently kick started my writing after I read Coming Back to Me. How do you feel when fans approach you and tell you how your writing has touched their lives?

I love that situation so much I'd like to marry it. I answer every piece of fan e-mail or snail mail, and I love it when fans want to ask me questions. I'm totally accessible. Recently, a book club told me that they were nervous about inviting me and were scared their questions might sound boring or dumb. I was astonished--because every writer lives for readers, and there's nothing I love more than being able to talk with my readers and see what they liked (and what they didn't like), what moved them, and what didn't. Everyone brings something different to the reading table. And because that particular group was so warm and funny and had such interesting questions, I could have stayed there for hours.

That said, I have to tell you that early on in my career, I was stalked by a fan. She had never actually read my first novel, but she had been following the publicity and decided that we would be perfect friends. She got my address from the phone book (she lived on the other side of the country) and I answered her first letter (which was charming, actually) politely, and two days later, another one arrived, this time with photos. There were captions on the photos like: This is a picture of our pool. You will love swimming in it! Or: This is my husband. You are going to get along like peanut butter and jelly! Or, more creepily: This is our extra bedroom where you will stay when you visit us!

I wrote to her that I was so busy and couldn't respond anymore. For two months the letters kept coming, and they were always filled with photos and written suggestions about what I could be doing in the context of those pictures, which grew more and more creepy. I called the police, but since she wasn't threatening me, there was really nothing they could do, and then, abruptly, the letters stopped!

In Girls In Trouble, I literally cried along with the main character who gives her baby up for adoption. How are you able to evoke powerful emotions? You effortlessly pull the reader into the book and make them feel like they are a part of the book. It's magic, darling!

Ha! I had to laugh at this because it took me about 9 drafts to even figure out what the novel really was about. I have no idea how it happens, but what I always strive for is that level of intimacy when I'm writing so I feel that I'm channeling these people, that they are breathing on the page. Usually it happens after a great deal of rewriting. The first drafts I showed to other writers got a lot of flak. One writer told me, "Every writer has a book that should be burned. This is yours." Another writer reading the manuscript told me she hated my main character and thought she should be an adult with breast cancer instead of a young, smart birth mother. I was so frazzled and upset!

I had to sit down and just keep writing. A friend of mine, the writer Rochelle Shapiro, who edits and reads my stuff, told me that when I write I'm like a starving hawk circling a huge field with a tiny bit of food in the center of it, and I have to wheel around and around that blasted field about 900 times before it dawns on me that there's the food I need there, then I swoop down, and everything falls into place. Jeff, my husband, tells me he knows that I'm getting someplace in my work when I start getting really upset and tell him I can't write, I'm a horrible writer, and this is the end of my career.

I know you live right outside of New York City. How often do you go in and what do you like to do? I used to wander aimlessly around Greenwich Village and drink coffee at Dean & DeLuca and window shop at places I couldn’t afford.

I lived in Chelsea for about 15 years and loved it with a passion. When I fell in love with another writer, and we knew we wanted kids, we tried to find a place big enough in NYC. We both wanted offices and a room for the baby, which meant a four bedroom, which meant about 1.5 million! At the time, no one was living in Hoboken, but it was a 7 minutes subway or ferry ride to the Village, and you could get these amazing four story brick townhouses for the price of a NYC studio.

We're in the city about twice a week and on weekends. I adore New York City. I hang out at cafes, but mostly I'm a movieholic. We hit the Angelica, the art cinema in Soho and go from film to film to film. Before we had Max, we used to go to dinner in the city, see two films, eat a snack, then come back and see more movies! Weekends we hit the museums, the quirky food places, then the movies, then out again. It's a big playground. I keep telling Max, my son, how lucky he is to be living here. He, of course, wants to live in Disneyworld.

Do you like to people watch? Do you base your characters on real people that you know? I can make up stories about strangers based on passing them in the street.

I constantly people watch. I've gotten in trouble for staring, but I'm just trying to figure out the people. At parties, I'm usually the one in the corner, happily watching what people are doing or saying--or not saying. We all play this game in my family where we watch people and make up stories about them, like, "Oh, that's Daisy Melton, she's thinking, "Gee, what a cute dress I have on, how come no one is noticing me and putting me in the movies?" Then we imagine what Daisy is going to do next, and we see who can get more outrageous about it.

I try not to base my characters on real people, though I may take aspects of their personality and use it, and once I asked a friend if I could use an incident that happened to her--and I did. Interestingly enough, I was sued in my first novel, Meeting Rozzy Halfway, before it even came out. There was all this advance publicity and buzz, and I was beside myself with excitement, and then these people I had never met insisted I was writing about them. My main characters were named Bea, Ben and Rozzy Nelson, and this family was called Bea, Ben and Rozzy --with a similiar last name. They wanted to stop publication and there was going to be a long court case and even though my publisher knew I was innocent, their legal team pushed me to settle with these people by changing two names in the English edition paperback that wouldn't even come out for another year! But I always felt horrible about doing that.

What are your hobbies? I was stunned to find out that one of our highly acclaimed writing friends was a secret celebrity gossip lover. Yes! It's true. Tell me what you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Well, count me in on the celebrity gossip lovefest. I read your blog every day and I've passed it onto my friends who are as addicted as I am. I'm a proud subscriber to People and I'm not above buying The Star and reading it in public, too. When I'm not writing, I love to paint or knit or ride my bike or read everything in sight. I also like to cook, which is funny, because I spent years refusing to do or be anything domestic, and when Jeff met me, I had a tin of yogurt in my refrigerator and not much else, and the thought of having a set of dishes made me break into a cold sweat. Right now, I'm learning to play the piano, which is a blast because my son is taking lessons, and he comes home and then gives me one.

I talked about this briefly with Martha O’ Connor, my theory of people who were outcasts in high school making good writers. I spent years losing myself in Paula Danziger and S.E. Hinton and Sweet Valley High while the other kids were partying and getting drunk. I came into my glamour late in life. What about you as a teenager, and do you think your life experiences made you into the writer that you have become?

Oh, My. God. I was a major outcast in school. I grew up in Waltham, Mass. and went to this this working class highschool where being smart was a disaster. I had to hide my report cards or they would beat me up. People were always making fun of me or my clothes or the way I looked in general. I hung out with the hippies, who were always being beaten up for one thing or another. My crowning high school moment was when this really tough girl came up to me and said, "I hate your beads and your headband and I'm going to beat you up after school. The Parking Lot. Two thirty sharp. You better be there." I was terrified, and within the hour everyone in school knew about the Leavitt vs. Miller (not her first name as I'm still afraid of her) fight and they were all lining up to watch and place bets. I didn't know what to do and was frozen with fear, but lucky for me, a half hour before the fight, Ms. Miller was caught calling in a bomb threat to the school and was expelled and never returned.

I lived in my writing. I carried a notebook and books and I had one ally, the art teacher who gave me a pass to the art room. I ate lunch in the art room. I went to the art room instead of home room, and that saved my life. I kept telling myself that I would go to college (only about 1/3 of my graduating class did) and be a writer and most of these people would be married at 18, divorced by twenty, and working at the local market injecting red dye into the meats to make them look fresher. I had a brief respite when I fell wildly in love with the infamous bad boy of the school and he returned the favor, but it was pretty short lived. And I was still always dodging being punched or kicked or humiliated in one way or another.

And despite all of it, I now think about those years with a kind of pride. You learn how strong you are. You learn to seek out the people who have real depth to them, too. And you build the kind of life you want on top of all that past misery.

Is there a topic an issue you haven’t written about yet but plan to in the future? Like about a glorious fashionista who loves all things gossip and books?

Hmmm, this is one question that I don't really know the answer to--usually things just occur to me or I'm struck by them. The whole process to me is sort of magical.

Something that really struck me was that here is this amazing author who writes like nobody’s business and yet you were not as well known as some lesser authors whose poorly written, empty novels were hitting bestseller lists! Would you rather have had a one hit book with tons of attention and money, or a slower and steadier path with solid novels and good reviews?

Oh, what a great question! Well, of course, I'd love to be on the cover of the NYT bookreview and feted and not have to ever do another freelance gig to help pay the bills. When I first published, I had a really naive idea of what the writing life was like. My first novel was the one that was huge. I was living in PA and was flown to NYC to be interviewed by Publisher's Weekly and taken to dinner by the press. I was reviewed everywhere on the planet, and published in a kazillion foreign markets, and I had a huge movie deal with Paramount that fell through in a writers/directors/producers strike. I had money and I thought it was always going to be like that. Ha.

My publisher went out of business. For a while, every publisher I went to went out of business! Seaview Press went out of business. Then I went to Arbor House, which was this wonderful, quirky, literate press. Just as my novel came out, the place went out of business, and the sales force fled. I've had years where I've been reviewed by the New York Times and The New Yorker--and one horrible year where one novel got exactly two reviews from Kirkus and PW, and I still remember the Kirkus was so horrible, I stayed in my apartment for two weeks crying.

I've had three or four movie deals and options, and even wrote a script along with a producer (at one point Madonna was interested, but that was a very, very short point), and nothing panned out! I've come to the conclusion that the bottom line is I love to write. I'm not really good at doing anything else. I'm really lucky that my novels have been published, that they've gotten review attention and movie interest and that I have readers. I hope I'll still be published, but I always worry that I won't be, and that's a possibility I worry and agonize about. And you know what? If that happens, I'll still write, I'll still send things out, and I'll still hope that someone will publish me at a later time.

I guess I try to be zen about it. The journey, the writing, is what I love. I'm sort of shy, and I don't love going out on the road, but put me in a room with a computer, and oh, heaven!

Is there a writers group you belong to where you all hang out with your laptops and talk about books and drink Tazo tea? I know you are good friends with Rochelle Jewel Shapiro who wrote the wonderful novel, Miriam the Medium. Does she ever give you psychic readings?

I have a large circle of writer friends (and I feel protective of them, so I'm not going to name names) and we constantly email (because we're all writing all the time) and talk about writing and read one another's works in progress. My husband's a writer, too, nonfiction (we say in our family that I lie for a living and he tells the truth.) and we're each other's hugest support. My favorite moment was when we did a joint reading and read each other's work. It was much more fun reading Jeff's work, especially since his work got the laughs.

And no, Rochelle refuses to read for me, no matter how much I beg and whine and carry on, because she insists it will change the friendship. Though there have been a few times when she's called or warned me about something--I've refused to believe it--and it's happened.

What do you want from your career?

A movie deal! A movie deal! I will even write the script! For free, too! A movie deal!!! Outside of that, I would really, really, like to meet John Cusack and Liza Minelli.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Karen McCullah Lutz, The Bachelorette Party

Karen McCullah Lutz is a cool chick who I had the pleasure of meeting when I was up in Beverly Hills not too long ago. Tall with bronzed skin and long hair, Karen is as pretty as she is talented. Meaning: very!

She wrote the screenplay to Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon, who hasn't seen and heard of that movie? - and wrote the screenplay to Ten Things I Hate About You with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. I forgot to ask if Heath hit on her...

Her novel, The Bachelorette Party was a laugh out loud novel that Entertainment Weekly put on their "Must List" for the year. If that wasn't enough, the book is being turned into a movie with Nicole Kidman attached to star and produce. Does Karen have the best career or what? And her sense of humor isn't bad either.

You’ve moved around a bit, why did you decide to settle in California? Was it the lure of the palm trees or the warm weather, the celebrities or the streets paved in sequins?

I wanted to live in CA all my life. Both my parents grew up here and I used to hear all their stories about how fabulous it was. When I was a kid, I used to doodle pictures of palm trees on my notebooks. After I sold my first movie script, I was finally able to move out here. I was living in Denver at the time and was very happy to escape the snow and the endless boredom.

Legally Blonde? You must be really proud of that movie. Was the ‘bend and snap’ in the book or did you add that? How do you even begin to create a screenplay from a book? And how did you get the job to work on the screenplay? Is it really ‘who you know’ or is it what you have to offer?

The experience of making "Legally Blonde" was so wonderful. I was on set every day and made a lot of good friends. The "bend and snap" was something that Kirsten Smith (my writing partner on Legally Blonde) and I came up with. I believe we were at the bar at the L'Hermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills at the time. Then Robert Luketic, our director, decided to make it into a big dance number. We just envisioned it as a set-up to the moment where Paulette breaks the UPS Guy's nose, but it took on a life of it's own.

We got the job because the producer, Marc Platt, called us and said, "I have this manuscript that you girls would be perfect to adapt." While I was talking to him on the phone, another producer called in and literally said the same exact thing, so I guess people just felt it was our sensibility. I'm blonde, and I was in a sorority, so I guess it wasn't too far of a stretch. Kirsten and I read the manuscript (written by Amanda Brown) and we instantly thought it would be a great movie. So we came up with "a take" and went to MGM along with Marc Platt and pitched it to them and got the job.

Where did you get the idea for Ten Things I Hate About You? I read it was based on a Shakespeare play, is that true? And did you have certain actors and actresses in mind when you were writing the screenplay?

It's based on "Taming of the Shrew". So William Shakespeare provided the idea. I didn't have any actresses or actors in mind while writing it, because there really weren't any teen stars at that time. It was at the beginning of the teen movie wave.

Let's talk about The Bachelorette Party. It’s very, very funny and bawdy and I read it in two days. Is it hard to write the funny scenes?

It is hysterically funny. I actually think it's easier to write a funny scene than some deep dark dramatic scene. I guess I'm just a sarcastic, irreverent girl. I'm also a bit raunchy, as you'll be able to tell when you read the book. A movie deal is presently in the works, which makes me very happy because then I'll get to adapt the book into a screenplay and hang out with all of my characters again. I miss them.

Have you ever been to a bachelorette party as wild as Helen's? And I've seen penis shaped pasta, but not confetti. Did you make this up or have an actual experience with it?

Of course there is actual penis confetti. In fact, I have a bag of it in my car right now just in case I find an occasion to break it out. I discovered it when I brought some to my friend Selma's bachelorette weekend. We had so much of it in the room that it got stuck on our feet and legs and when we woke up in the morning, Selma had a perfect little purple penis tattoo on her leg from where a piece of the confetti was stuck to her. As we were checking out of the posh hotel we were in, we noticed that we had tracked penis confetti all over the lobby floor. It's a genius invention.

And yes, I've been to some wild bachelorette parties. I got married at 24 and for my bachelorette party we all went out for a night of bar hopping. At the end of the night, one of the girls with us slept in a ditch in front of the house. No one noticed that she didn't make it in the door.

Karen, tell me some juicy details...what's the craziest thing you have done that's fit for print?

I was probably far too inebriated to remember the craziest thing I've ever done.

Will you be involved in the screenplay of the movie?

Of course! I'm a screenwriter! That's my main job. I will be adapting the book into a screenplay.

Tell me the truth. Is there such a movie as Pee, Midget, Pee? I laughed out loud at your porn titles. Have you been shopping at the Hustler store? For "research" of course!

All of those titles are absolutely true. I often go to the Hustler store and look at porn titles just to make myself laugh. Some of them are really creative. I wish I'd bought the Clownfuckers series when I saw it. Now it's hard to find. I can't believe there was never a porn title take-off of "Legally Blonde". That disappointed me. I mean, c'mon, "Dawson's Creek" got one.

Is trying to sell a screenplay very different than trying to get a book published? I would think both avenues include a lot of rejection which is hard on even the toughest person. Do you “do lunch” at the Polo Lounge while you talk about a screenplay and pitch your ideas?

It's actually not that different. You have an agent send out both your book manuscript and your screenplay, and you just sit and wait by the phone. Sometimes the wait can seem endless, so I like to leave town while everyone is reading it. I was actually in Oahu at a surf camp when I got the news that four publishers were bidding on "The Bachelorette Party". There is a lot of rejection in the business of writing, so it's nice to get phone calls like that. I remember it vividly. I was swinging in a hammock.

Yes, I lunch at the Polo Lounge (they have a great chopped salad) and many other restaurants around town. Being a screenwriter involves many, many meetings. Sometimes you feel like a professional "meeter" instead of a writer. I never pitch at lunch though. I only pitch in the offices of studio execs who can buy.

You live in Los Angeles. I want to know the oddest thing you have ever seen? I saw a poodle wearing Burberry cape and tiny black boots. And then I saw a man with a bouffant and red lipstick wearing saddle shoes with cuffed pants. I’m not even going to mention the Mohawks and piercings I’ve seen on Melrose but I like those.

I saw a man taking a crap in the parking lot of the Bank of America on Sunset Blvd. That was pretty damn crazy.

How do you top what you have already achieved? Two major films and a novel that is garnering great reviews. Where do you go from there? And how do you stay grounded?

Hopefully, I'll keep writing novels that people want to read and scripts that turn into movies people want to see. I feel like you're implying that I've peaked! I really hope not. I'm young! I have more stories in me, I swear! I stay grounded because I've never really been off the ground in that sense. Writers are not treated like actors. People don't ask for autographs, there are no paparazzi following me around. I can go braless to the grocery store and no one cares. (Karen, I hate to tell you but those photos are circulating around the internet as we speak!)
I read that you like to travel. I do too. Can you recommend some great vacation spots? Any reason to wear my oversized Jackie O. sunglasses and my white jewel encrusted turban!

Turtle Island in Fiji was pretty spectacular. And all of Italy -- Tuscany and Rome in particular. Just went to France and loved it. St. Tropez probably has some of the best people watching ever. I need to start setting stories in these places so I can spend more time there "researching".

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Simon Doonan, Nasty

Simon Doonan is the hip, hilarious and very talented creative director of Barney's. Simon has also appeared on VH1, writes a column for the New York Observer and has made cameo appearences on Americas Top Model, The Cut and Project Runway.

His book, Nasty is on the shelves right this second. The big white teeth with pinky gums caught my attention (how could it not?) when I was in the book store last week. The book is very funny and vivid and I recommend it to everyone who is looking for a quick, witty memoir.

I just knew we would hit it off and he would offer to send me boxes and boxes of free clothes...well, you know. He might. Until then, enjoy the interview. And you know, Simon, adoption is very chic these days. I know of a completely toilet trained thirty-three year old in desperate need of a fairy gay mother with impeccable taste.

Simon, you are the first man to be interviewed on my site, congrats. We should get my Anna Wintour (ugly bulldog) and your Liberace to play together wearing their matching crystal studded dog collars and rhinestone trimmed cell phones! What do you think?

Liberace is very butch and would never allow me to do anything nelly to him. I am not, and can be talked into wearing anything.

I imagine Nasty to be a memoir like Angela's Ashes only with more fashion and less poverty. How would you describe the book?

It's a series of jarring recollections - beginning with the day my mother sneezed and her dentures flew out.There's loads of poverty. I was born in a two roomed walk-up with no kitchen or bathroom - it was gritty as hell. But my parents were glam. My mother was kind of like Betty Grable. There's quite alot of fashion - especially when I got arrested - twice.

Was there an instance in your life where you suddenly thought, "I must write my life story!" or has this been brewing for a long time? Who would play you in the movie version of Nasty?

NASTY is more of memoir/montage - I am lucky to have grown up in an insanely wacky family and to have had a complicated sleazy trajectory so I have loads of tawdry anecdotes to share. Linda Hunt should play me in the movie version of NASTY. How about Dakota Fanning?

Growing up, did you ever imagine you would be as successful as you are today, and what did you aspire to be when you were a child?

When I was a kid I wanted to move to Paris and sell my body on the Left Bank to rich old men. I was never very ambitious. I was always a hard worker because I love cash. I always had two jobs.

What was your worst job and what did you despise about it?

I once worked on a building site demolishing public toilets. It was smelly. I was fired.

If I flew to New York to visit you (first class of course!), I would wear my faux fur wrap with my sky high stilettos and cats-eye sunglasses. Where would you take me and what would we do?

I would take you to the revolving cocktail lounge at the Marriott Marquis and try to pimp you out to some out of town business men. Just kidding! We could go to the Howard Johnson on Times Square - no expense spared. (Oh Simon, you are such a prince!)

What are you wearing? Is it designer clothes every day or do you ever kick back and slip on some Kathy Ireland separates from Kmart and chill? I know. You can't relax in man- made fibers, right?

Am wearing a Prada suit with a floral shirt and narrow tie and Berluti loafers (Andy W wore them) - it's very hot. I'm insanely overdressed.

If you could rid the world of one reoccurring fashion disaster, what would it be? For me, it's a toss up for me between pleated pants and plastic hair clips.

I like fashion disasters. I have no desire to prevent people from looking insane. It's entertaining. It's also subjective - If people like their Delta Burke muumuus then I have no desire to take that away from them.

Are you working on another book right now? What's next for you Simon?

I'm working on a book about lousy advice called "Splash your breasts with ice-cold water" - it will probably come out next year.

Do you read tawdry tabloids and gloat over the many horrendous fashion faux pas out there? And who is one celebrity you would like to give a makeover to and what would you do to her/him?

I have no desire to give anyone a make-over. I like it when people look like themselves even if they look retarded. Again, it's all subjective - there are loads of people out there who probably think I look like a total idiot.

I love the tabloids because they deconstruct celebrities. I look at all of them. The Star is my fave.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ayelet Waldman, bad mother and novelist

Ayelet Waldman is the woman you probably heard of or saw on Oprah because of her New York Times piece that caused such an uproar. She wrote a controversial article that had people upset and going off on her for making some bold statements about her marriage and motherhood. If you didn't see her on Oprah, try to watch the reruns because Ayelet did a terrific job of speaking, being real, funny and intelligent.

She is the wife of Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer of such books as Summerland, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Wonder Boys and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

Ayelet is also an accomplished writer whose Mommy Track Mysteries are must reads if you enjoy mystery novels in the same vein as Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich. The Cradle Robbers is in stores today and I'm sure Ayelet is going to be doing a signing or posing nude or something to herald the books release.

If you havent read Daughter's Keeper, Ayelet's masterpiece of a book, it is an excellent read and would make a great movie, hint hint to all my Hollywood friends. You can read more about Ayelet on her website, click here.

I think Ayelet's greatest claim to fame is that she and I grew up about two miles from each other which happens to be where Tara Reid grew up. And Catherine Zeta Jones had her baby at the local hospital. We are all so connected, it's almost scary.

Ayelet, one day you're writing an article and the next day you are sitting on Oprah's couch defending yourself on national television. Was that amazing? Did you chill in the greenroom with Oprah and eat donuts? What kind of response did you get from that appearance? And I must say you looked very pretty on the show. Were you nervous? Tell me all about it, girlfriend and don't leave out any details.

When the bruhaha started, my husband, after spending a few hours face-down on the bed, moaning about the fact that I'd revealed his sex life to five million people, said, "Well, at least you didn't go on Oprah to talk about it." Two weeks later I called him and said, "Er, honey, remember what you said about Oprah?" It was a stunner, to say the least. Here I've been saying the same kind of thing for years in total obscurity, and then all of a sudden WHAM. Oprah.

I wish I chilled with Oprah. She keeps out of the greenroom. But she was incredibly sweet, and very friendly. She was like a real person, you know? Which I totally didn't expect. She was funny and casual, and did a great job of keeping me from flinging myself off the couch and out of the city of Chicago, which is what I wanted to do when I saw the other women on that panel. I mean, there was a woman who came on the show specifically to say that she only ever had sex with her husband while watching television! And *I'm* the crazy one!

If you were to have a perfume named after you like Paris Hilton, what would it be called and what would it smell like? Mine would be Biblio-nymph and it would have the subtle notes of jasmine and honeysuckle and would be packaged with a free book.

I'm a sucker for all smells sweet and floral. And I love those green tea scents. So it would be like that amazing Buglari Green Tea, but it would be called "Eau de Bad Mother."

I have read each of the Mommy Track mysteries and can't wait to get my hands on The Cradle Robbers. For those not intimately acquainted with the character of Juliet, how would you describe her and is she like you at all?

Er, she is me. Well, she was me. She's getting less and less like me with each book. I think she's a little more naive nowadays. I've become more bitter and cynical than Juliet. She's the one in the playground with her T-shirt on inside out and with the smear of spit up on her shoulder. Her kids never wear matching clothes and don't get into the right preschools. But she's funny and smart and she's the person you want on your side when the chips are down.

What little luxuries do you allow yourself? I know you have four kids so please don't say going to the bathroom alone or being the first one to tear into a sleeve of Oreo's is your slice of heaven. Go deeper than that.

Oh no. I'm a fan of luxuries. It's the shoes and the sheets, lady. I love good sheets. Like really really good sheets. My current favorites are Sferra Brothers...I actually prefer the 560 thread count to the 1000, but I have both. And shoes. SHOES. Manolos. Jimmy Choos. Marc Jacobs. Crazy weird boots with funny heels. All shoes. All of them.

You grew up in Northern NJ, so did I. Where in New Jersey are you from? And what were you like growing up?

Ridgewood, NJ. I was a miserable funny looking Jewish kid in a preppy town. I hated every minute of it.

Will you be going back to law? Did the situation in Daughter's Keeper stem from a real life case you were involved in?

It stemmed from lots of crazy and evil cases...the norm in drug prosecutions. And no. I'm out of the field for good, I think. It's been too long. I wouldn't want me to represent me at this point, if you know what I mean.

Do you watch reality television, read tabloids or throw back vodkatinis like a diva? Your idea if a great evening would involve what?

I love TV. I love HBO especially. I mean...Entourage? Is that not the best half hour of the week, or what? I buy a People and a Entertainment Weekly for every plane ride I take. I love movies with a passion. My idea of a perfect evening is two movies and a spectacular dinner with my husband.

Tell me what your passions are in life? And three things you have yet to accomplish?

I love my work, I love my husband, I love my kids. And there's so much I haven't accomplished. I mean..I'd like to get reviewed in the New York Times...a real review, not an in brief. I'd like to take my kids to India. I'd like to be able to set up one of those college scholarships -- you know where you adopt a class of preschoolers and you promise to send every one of them to college? My goal is to one day make enough money to do that.