Sheila Curran: Diana Lively Is Falling Down
It seems like if you mention a book about a woman written by a woman, the book will get placed in the "chick-lit" category.
What happens then is certain people will refuse to read it no matter how wonderful it is and your high-brow friends will scoff, "Oh...you're reading chick-lit?" imagining that every book published after the year 2000 about a woman under the age of fifty is really about a big city career girl looking for love in dark bars while drinking martinis and wearing Prada and sleeping around.
I highly suggest you banish the thought of reading "chick-lit" and read this very well written novel called Diana Lively Is Falling Down by Sheila Curran. And as you are reading it, imagine Jude Law in the role of horrible Ted and Diane Lane as Diana. How delicious!
Diana is British- Why did you make her from England as opposed to creating a character right out of Flushing Meadows or Hackensack?
Ah, you make it sound like I actually had a plan! Some writers may decide where their characters come from, mine come knocking. Of course, we were living in England at the time, so she didn’t have far to travel, but she was born of my experience there.
You have moved many, many times. You could write a one woman guide to packing up and heading in a new direction. What was your favorite / least favorite place? I want details. Tell me about the food, the people, the weather.
For me, travel is an opportunity to be reacquainted with my dearest anxieties: flying, packing, shipwreck, public toilets, nameless indigenous insects and being stranded without lunch by the thief in the American Express commercial. My least favorite trip was an unfortunate experiment in camping. Nebraska, no tree cover, those horrible chemical latrines and a twenty-four hour stomach flu in which I got into very close touch with my inner claustraphobe.
Best trip was a last minute weekend in Benidorm, Spain, after five months in England, starved of sunlight.
We were very poor, coping with the pound/dollar divide, and blew our wad on a holiday on the Costa Blanca. Spanish beaches are the best in Europe, the paella was divine, wine was $2 a bottle. Twenty minutes from the sea are spectacular mountain towns, all white stucco with blue and yellow tile around the doors. They overlook aquamarine river gorges and are surrounded by higher peaks that grow purple and pink at dusk.
And where is a place you would like to visit?
The countryside of Wales, where Ted Lively will be imprisoned on his new family estate in the middle of nowhere. The house will be very cold, the servants colder still, and the library stocked with nothing but religious tracts on the virtues of abstinence from liquor and sex, and the vanities of intellectual pride.
When you aren't writing, do you like to shop online or hit the hot clubs in town?
In Tallahassee, the hot clubs are literally the ones where the air-conditioners are on their last legs. My vices are well-lubricated dinner parties, furtive trips to the housewares section at T.J. Maxx, and an inability to keep my mouth shut when a guest compliments me on something. “Five dollars!” I’ll crow. “T.J. Maxx!” Though I cannot remember dentist appointments or meetings with my children’s teachers, I will never forget the price of those adorable martini glasses from Target I found in 1997.
Do you get weekly manicures?
I have just recently begun to appreciate the weekly manicure, but unless I figure out a day job, I’m afraid I’ll have to go back to biting my nails.
Are you a high-maintenence woman?
Yes and no. I don’t need expensive clothes, but do not even think of asking me to skip a meal, drink generic beer, and please, do not ever even mention the word “camping” in my presence.
What is the last film you saw in a theater and did you order a large popcorn drizzled with butter?
The last film I saw, which I loved, was OFF THE MAP, with Joan Allen and Sam Elliott. (It just came out on video.) I don’t get popcorn unless I’ve got PMS, am getting over PMS, expecting PMS, or having my period, in which case, butter is the least of my problems. But on the day or two each month where one of these previous conditions doesn’t apply, I am quite your virtuous ascetic type.
What is your taste in movies?
I’m pretty much a movie slut. I like everything, but don’t allow myself to watch anything with intruders, zombies, vampires or any other thing that will give me nightmares, like camping in Nebraska.
Who would be cast as Diana? (Diane Lane)
sweet metrosexual Humphrey? (Johnny Depp as an eighteen-year-old)
horrible, cheating Ted? (Jude Law) and huggable, lovable Wally? (James Gandolfini or Clive Owen, which would be a great twist, to cast an upper crust Shakepearean Brit in the role of a brash American entrepreneur)
Would Dakota Fanning play Elly? What a good idea! Or Kara/Shelby Hoffman, who played the biting infant, Sunny Baudelaire in A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS.
Do you ever imagine the movie version of the book?
Not ever, except when breathing, awake or sleeping. But only then.
How long did it take you to find a literary agent?
I've heard about people who find an agent from the first query they send out, and it takes others (like me) years and years to find an agent who falls in love with their novel. What is your story?
I had my first agent in 1987, and after he tried and failed to sell my book, I assumed there was something wrong with me, and with the book, and finally we parted ways. I had several agents turn me down over the years, but say, “Please, send me your next book, because I really like the way you write.” This kept me going but it also kept me from looking for the one person who would LOVE what I wrote. (I kept thinking that if they turned me down, I’d better improve as a writer before sending out the next set of queries.)
When I did find my perfect agent -- through my husband -- I was terrified to have her read the manuscript, because I knew she’d been born and raised in England, and I wasn’t sure my dialect would pass muster. When it took her a month to read the book, I decided there was no way she’d take me as a client. Just after I’d given up completely, I got an email saying she’d loved the book and wanted to talk on the phone the next day.
I like the idea of the Vile Husband contest. What's the worst thing your husband has ever done?
Take me camping in Nebraska. My husband (thank you, Jesus) is a combination of Johnny, Diana’s late husband, and Wally, who is generous and open-minded to a fault.
Have you received many entries?
Not as many vile husband stories as imaginative ways to kill Ted slowly and with exquisite timing.
What is next for you?
I’m writing a novel set in a small southern town, but am also plotting a sequel to DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN.