Monday, September 19, 2005

Pounding the Pavement, Jennifer van der Kwast

Jennifer Van der Kwast's novel, Pounding the Pavement is for those of us who have ever lost a job, is looking for a job or basically for anyone that enjoys a good book. I had not heard of this novel so it was a very pleasant surprise to find it and really like it.

As Anne Hathaway is playing the title role in the movie "Devil Wears Prada" I think I would make an excellent Sarah Pelletier in Pounding the Pavement. Well, like maybe me or Charlize Theron. We are so much alike.

Jennifer just got married so I'm sending her big Congratulations!!! as well as a years supply of Cristal champagne, Beluga caviar and my manuscript. Cheers!

In the book Sarah is quite the film buff. In real life, what are your favorite films and who would direct Pounding the Pavement in the movie version of your novel?

Not too surprisingly, my personal taste in film doesn’t differ all that drastically from Sarah Pelletier’s. I know many cinephiles hate to point to one film as their all-time favorite, but for me the answer is obvious: The Graduate. I will add a disclaimer, though: I’ve made the mistake of coercing friends who’ve never seen the film before to give it a chance and their reactions have been (shockingly!) mixed. There’s definitely only a small window of opportunity. Once you’ve already graduated from college and fallen victim to the world-weariness of adulthood, the love story in “The Graduate” may seem a little far-fetched.

Ask me what my top three or five favorite films are, and the question gets a little trickier because the list is in a constant state of revision. My most recent additions have been “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Punch Drunk Love” and “About Schmidt.” That said, there will always been a special place in my heart for “Raising Arizona” and, believe it or not, “Basic Instinct.”

I’ve never really given much thought to which director I’d most want attached to the movie version of the book. I think it’s because my favorite filmmakers are all writer/director auteurs and a little part of me has always secretly hoped that I’d get to take first stab at the screenplay. But now that you mention it, it would be a dream come true to have Alexander Payne at the helm. In general, I think adapted screenplays that stay too faithful to books do a disservice to the material. Payne always does an incredible job and has such a unique approach to his adaptations.

Tell me something about yourself that no one knows. I'll go first: I brush my teeth with a Spongebob Squarepants toothbrush. Your turn.

My fiancé’s father is a dentist, so unfortunately, I don’t get to experiment with fun toothbrushes or toothpaste. I get all my doctor-recommended tools of dental hygiene sent to me in a monthly care package.

I’m pretty much an open book (almost to a fault), so there is very little that people don’t know about me. But I will tell you this: I have an imaginary dog. After years of living in small, cramped New York apartments with No Pet Policies, I’ve had to invent a puggle – that’s half pug, half beagel – named “Dutch” to keep me company. A couple of years ago, I even bought the book “The Art of Raising a Puppy” by the Monks of New Skete to teach me how to train him. Sometimes when my fiancé comes home from work and asks how my day was, I complain that Dutch peed on the rug. Again.

I also have an unhealthy obsession with real estate. I don’t own any, but I can send you links to some of my favorite waterfront properties currently on the market.

I’m an Aquarius so I’m creative, have a quick intellect and a keen mind. I’m also independent and a rebel. What is your sign and do you read your horoscope?

Here’s another unknown fact about me: I LIE about my sign. I always tell people I’m on the cusp of Cancer and Leo, but the truth is I’m two days away, fairly secured in Cancer territory (My birthday is July 21st. The cusp is July 23rd). Although Cancers, supposedly, make good writers, I’d much prefer to think of myself as a fiery, gregarious, fun-loving Leo. Cancers are also shy, introverted and make for happy homemakers. Ick!

I don’t read my horoscope, but I do know an awful lot about astrology. In the fourth grade, I was invited to participate in my first Science Fair, and I picked “Astrology” as the topic of my science project. Needless to say, I was disqualified.

Do you like to shop? Do you love clothes? I wish there was an H&M out here on the west coast. Can you believe there isn’t? I mean, cheap, trendy clothes should be available to everyone!

I have recently learned to love clothes and shopping. When I turned in a rough draft of “Pounding the Pavement,” my agent was the one who suggested I throw in a few fashion references, maybe spruce it up with some high-end label name-dropping. I mean, of course, who wouldn’t want to jump on “The Devil Wears Prada” bandwagon? At first I was appalled for one very specific reason - I knew next to nothing about fashion. (I believe, at that time, I was still wearing platform sneakers.) But, like any writer would, I agreed to do my “research”. Three pairs of designer jeans (Citizens of Humanity, mostly), two Diane von Furstenberg dresses and one Coach handbag later, I was officially a Fashion Convert – and maybe just a little bit of a Label Whore.

That said, I own PLENTY of H&M items. My very first purchase was in 1997, when I spent the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college working in Amsterdam. It’s a fleece, zip-up hoodie I still wear to this day. I also used to work at an office in Soho, one block away from the downtown H&M (one of TWO locations within a three-block radius). I loved being able to pop in during lunch to buy an “emergency” beaded belt or hoop earrings for last-minute plans after work.

Can you tell me what your next book is about and will you be naming a character Cindy? I think you should. Maybe even if it’s just a ferret. At least I would know you’re thinking of me.

Unfortunately, I’m still in the hodge-podge stage of Book Two, so the plot is still a little unfocused. The only thing I’ve decided on for certain is the title. It’s called “Cindy.”
No, seriously, for my next book, I am toying with the idea of having a character (“Cindy?” Why not?) who is going through a quarter-life crisis at age 27. Even though I am 28 now, age 27 fascinates me. I may even consider calling the book, “The 27 Club”.

If you aren’t familiar with the reference, “The 27 Club” refers to the group of music legends who all died when they were 27 years old – Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, among others. So, for music or pop culture enthusiasts, 27 can feel like quite a landmark year. Age 27 is also a mythical year for Astrology buffs, because it signals the “Return of Saturn” – the first time Saturn completes its cycle and returns to the place it occupied the day you were born. It marks the end of one life cycle, but also the beginning of another.
Who says you don’t learn anything in the Fourth Grade?

What did you want to be when you were growing up? And did the experience of being published transcend your dreams? What do you think when you look at the book with your name on it?

When I look at a book with my name on it, the first thing I hear is my mother’s voice in my head:

“Honey, can’t you at least ask if they’ll make your name just a little bit bigger?”
Having a book published feels incredibly unreal. Most of my friends think it’s amusing that I am so nonchalant about it – but I think it’s partly because I still don’t really believe it. Every time I walk past a bookstore, I can never resist the urge to pop in to make sure that it’s still there, that I didn’t just imagine the whole thing.

But I also think that you have to make a conscious decision to distance yourself emotionally from your book, otherwise you’d go crazy. I was really excited and enthusiastic while writing the book – I loved the characters, I loved the material, I loved the whole damn writing process. But at some point, once the book is finished, you have to stop thinking about it as a “book” and start thinking about it as a “product.” It’s just easier that way. Because somewhere down the line, no matter how good it is, you WILL get a rejection, you will get a bad review or a customer on Amazon will have something nasty to say about you. And don’t kid yourself: it’s impossible to get excited about good reviews and not care about the bad ones.

But when all is said and done, I still haven’t given up the dream of being a dancer. Not a prima ballerina – no, my lofty childhood goal was to be a hoofer on Broadway (like Catherine Zeta Jones!) If you want specifics, I really, really wanted to be Cassie from “A Chorus Line.” You know, the one whose kicks were just a little higher than everyone else’s? A few months ago, I was in New Orleans with a couple of girlfriends. We were staying at a hotel in the French Quarter and we just got onto the elevator when a man came running after us. Apparently they were shooting a hip hop video in the hotel ballroom and they needed extra back-up dancers. Would we be interested in helping out? I have to admit, if those elevator doors had stayed open just a little bit longer, I might have taken him up on the offer.

What do you think of this Brad Pitt- Angelina Jolie kerfluffle? Are you on Jen’s side?

How much do we actually know of the kerfluffle, really? I just hope that, years from now, Angelina decides to sit down and write her memoirs, because I bet that’ll be a fascinating read. But I could also just as happily settle for the “Unauthorized Biography”.

From what I gather about the romance, it really does have the stuff of Hollywood legend – right up there with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In my version (which, let’s face it, is the only version I can discuss with any authority), Brad meets Angelina on set and there’s immediate friction. She’s young, wild and brash and he’s part of the Hollywood elite, concerned that she might be in over her head. But over time, he can’t help it – he realizes he’s falling for her. And he’s tortured, of course, because he really loves his beautiful, talented wife, too, and in no way would he ever want to hurt her.

So, he doesn’t act on any of his lustful impulses, even though it’s killing him. Jen, however, is no dummy. She knows her husband is in love with another woman and she can’t accept it. So she breaks off the marriage. Brad is miserable, but also partly relieved. He doesn’t walk, he runs into Angelina’s arms, finally free to consummate his forbidden love. It’s heartbreaking! It’s beautiful! There are victims, but no real villains. Just the pain and misery caused by falling in love. See? Wouldn’t it just make an AWESOME book?

I just finished your book early this morning. I’m onto something fabulous but I can’t say what it is. What are you reading right now?

I am so glad you asked that question, because I am reading a book right now that I just can’t put down. It’s “Valley of the Dolls,” which is just so trashy and so addictive it’s like popping uppers (the red dolls, maybe?) But even beyond that, the book really does read like a historical document. It’s fascinating to be given such an intimate glimpse into the lives of the women of the 1950s and to realize how similar they are to our own. I know cultural context shouldn’t make a reader enjoy a book any better.

But even today, it’s impossible not to be shocked by the subject matter. It’s so racy and so scandalous… and it was written FIFTY years ago. Amazing.
I’d love to tackle “Hollywood Wives” next, but I’m going to give myself a break. I like to juggle my genres – romance, mystery, sci-fi, nonfiction. Before “Valley of the Dolls,” I borrowed a friend’s copy “Disco Bloodbath,” which was the source material for the movie “Party Monster.” True Crime told through the eyes of a Club Kid/Disco Queen – what’s not to love?

What was your major in college? And how did your life experiences prepare you for writing a novel?

In college, I majored in Film and fancied myself an aspiring writer/director. It didn’t take long for me to realize, however, that I have no talent for filmmaking whatsoever.
I loved taking screenwriting courses, though. I never bothered taking a creative writing course because I was naïve enough at the time to think it wasn’t necessary. Kind of like when my mother made me take those awful ballet classes when I was younger because I needed the “foundation” before I could take tap or jazz. Man, I hated ballet. But maybe Mom had a point.

I like to think that screenwriting was a very helpful background tool. It’s definitely more structured than any other writing – except for maybe haikus. Or sonnets in iambic pentameter. There’s a page limit (120 pages, tops), so it teaches you to be concise. You also learn how to develop an ear for dialogue. But perhaps most importantly, you have to learn to rely on the “show and not tell” rule. No matter how much background information you provide in a screenplay, if you can’t show it on a screen, it’s useless. So you do end up kicking the urge to over-explain.

When I graduated from college, I immediately landed a dream job working in development at a film company. The bulk of my workload involved reading screenplays and book manuscripts and deciding which ones would be worth pursuing as film projects. Critical reading, I believe, is really the best way to learn how to write. And when you read as much as I had to – quite literally, several books a week – you start instinctively picking up on what works and what doesn’t.
The only problem I encountered while working in film development was the sheer volume of my workload. Carving out time for my own writing was practically impossible. So thank God, I was finally laid off! It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for quite a number of reasons.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Sounds like a great book. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for your continuing desire to enlighten all us illiterate gossip mongers. @ 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Another book to order, sounds like a fun read. @ 2:05 PM  
Blogger jon said...
horoscope icon info is so cheesy but we were looking at it anyway...why i dont know. I guess it is fun to play around online. Anyway, I saw your horoscope icon posts and though it was cool...Alright, well...have a great night, I am back to horoscope icon surfing LOL : )

Jon @ 1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Feel free to come and check it out if you get time :-) @ 2:12 PM  
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