Laura Dave, London is the Best City in America
Judging a book from it's cover, I expected London is the Best City in America by Laura Dave to be a chick-lit book, something entertaining and amusing that might have a few laugh-out-loud observations and a sweet happy ending metephorically tied with a fluffy pink bow. Which would have been fine because I do enjoy novels like that, I do. However from page one, I realized that I was not in for what I initially expected. Wait, no - even from the acknowledgements page, I knew.
When an author is represented by none other than Gail Hochman, a fabulous agent who represents highly esteemed authors, I knew the book wasn't going to be lightweight.
Laura's debut novel reads like she's been writing books for years and years. The book is polished, the prose is sharp, the story is multi-layered. There is a lot of praise for this novel and Reese Witherspoon is set to star in the movie version.
Laura answered my questions in capital letters so I'm not going to retype in lowercase and risk making a mistake. Best of luck to you Laura, with your exciting future!
What is your favorite city in America?
NEW YORK CITY IS MY FAVORITE CITY IN AMERICA. WE HAVE HAD THE UPS AND DOWNS OF ANY LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP. WE'VE BEEN ON THE OUTS AND HAD OUR HONEYMOON PERIOD. AND HERE WE STILL ARE, TRYING TO WORK IT OUT.
You grew up in Scarsdale, NY. Have you ever tried the Scarsdale diet?
I CAN'T SAY THAT I HAVE. UNFORTUNATELY, LIKE WITH MOST DIETS, I HAVE READ ABOUT IT, BUT HAVE FAILED TO TAKE THE CRITICAL STEP OF ACTUALLY DOING IT.
What literary character (any book, any genre) do you identify with the most?
I LOVE A CHARACTER NAMED HARRY GINSBERG IN CHARLES BAXTER'S NOVEL, THE FEAST OF LOVE. HE IS AN AGING PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR, WHO CALLS HIS WIFE, ESTHER, "A TOUGH BIRD, THE LOVE OF MY EXISTENCE," AND SAYS THINGS LIKE, "HE KNOWS AS MUCH ABOUT MUSIC AS A PIG ABOUT ORANGES."
HARRY IS THIS PERFECT BLEND OF CERTAIN AND SEARCHING. HE IS KIND, AND WISE, AND NOBODY'S FOOL. AND MAN—IF IT ISN'T OBVIOUS—I TOTALLY ADMIRE HIM, WANT TO KNOW HIM, SIT DOWN AND LEARN FROM HIM. I'M NOT HIM, YET. BUT WE CAN ASPIRE…I ASPIRE TO BE MORE LIKE HIM.
Reese Witherspoon is making your book into a movie. You are the second author I've interviewed to have Reese's production company turn her book into a film. Have you met Reese yet? Did you imagine her in the role of Emmy as you were writing the book? Who would you like to see in the role of Josh?
I HAVEN'T MET REESE YET, BUT I AM VERY EXCITED THAT SHE WANTS TO PLAY EMMY. THE MAN IN THE MOON IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES, AND I'VE BEEN A FAN OF REESE SINCE. I THINK SHE'LL MAKE A GREAT EMMY.
AS FOR WHO I CAN SEE IN THE ROLE OF JOSH, I ADORED BILLY CRUDUP IN ALMOST FAMOUS. THAT LAST SCENE WHEN HE SAYS HE LOVES EVERYTHING ABOUT MUSIC? I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM. I ALSO THINK ZACH BRAFF IS A GREAT ACTOR—AND FEARLESS WHEN IT COMES TO TAKING ON COMPLICATED CHARACTERS, AND BRINGING COMPASSION TO THEM.
THE TRUTH IS, WHEN I LET MYSELF THINK ABOUT THE MOVIE, I HAVE TOO MANY IDEAS AS TO WHO COULD BE A GOOD JOSH (A GOOD BERRINGER…A GOOD MOM), WHICH MAKES ME THINK IT IS A GOOD THING THAT I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW THOSE DECISIONS GET MADE.
Walk me through the process of having a book made into a film. The book is optioned and then what? Do you sign away the rights so the production company can do things their way while you stand back or will you have a hand in how the movie is made?
IN THE CASE OF LONDON IS THE BEST CITY IN AMERICA, TYPE A PRODUCTIONS (REESE'S PRODUCTION COMPANY) OPTIONED THE SCRIPT IN CONJUNCTION WITH MANDALAY PICTURES AND UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. A GREAT SCREENWRITER, GWYN LURIE, WAS TAPPED TO ADAPT THE NOVEL. AND WHILE NO ONE HAS ANY OFFICIAL OBLIGATION TO KEEP ME IN THE LOOP, EVERYONE HAS.
I RECENTLY GOT TO READ GWYN'S COMPLETED SCREENPLAY, WHICH I THINK IS FANTASTIC. I AM EXCITED FOR THE CAMERAS TO START ROLLING.
The book deals with relationships and broken engagements among other things, but mostly the brother-sister relationship between Emmy and Josh. I was wondering if it was really possible for two siblings to get along so well and care for each other so deeply? They are more like best friends than brother and sister.
THE AMAZING THING TO ME ABOUT SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS IS THAT THEY TAKE ON SO MANY SHAPES OVER THE COURSE OF A LIFETIME. AT THE MOMENT WHEN WE MEET EMMY AND JOSH, I DO THINK THEY ARE LIKE BEST FREINDS. FOR THE FIRST TIME, EVER, JOSH NEEDS EMMY AS OPPOSED TO THE OTHER WAY AROUND. THIS SHIFT HEIGHTENS THEIR CONNECTION, AND CHALLENGES IT.
ONE OF THE GREAT JOYS FOR ME, IN WRITING LONDON, WAS DISCOVERING WHAT RESULTED: HOW BOTH JOSH AND EMMY WOULD HELP EACH OTHER DURING THIS IMPORTANT WEEKEND, HOW EACH WOULD COME OUT ON THE OTHER SIDE.
Has the publishing experience changed your life at all? Do you walk with a spring in your step knowing you've written a book that's garnered great reviews from esteemed authors? One look at the back cover and the praise must make you downright giddy.
I FEEL VERY LUCKY AND GRATEFUL FOR THE PRAISE THAT I'VE RECEIVED. I ESPECIALLY LOVE TO GET LETTERS FROM READERS, SHARING HOW LONDON AFFECTED THEM—AND, OFTEN, REVEALING THEIR OWN STRUGGLES WITH MAKING CHOICES, MOVING FORWARD, LETTING GO OF SOMEONE THEY LOVED.
SHORTLY BEFORE MY 17TH BIRTHDAY, I WROTE A LETTER TO THE NOVELIST ELLEN GILCHRIST, WHOSE WORK REALLY TOUCHED ME. I WILL NEVER FORGET OPENING THE NOTE BACK FROM HER. I'VE KEPT IT ALL THIS TIME.
TO BE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT NOW…IT IS A TRUE BLESSING.
You've written a successful debut novel- do you feel like the second book must be as good or better than the first? Thats a lot of pressure, I would imagine.
IN THE MONTHS IMMEDIATELY AFTER I SOLD LONDON, I WAS REALLY FEELING THE PRSSURE OF BOOK TWO. I WENT TO BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA, AND WROTE EIGHTY PAGES OF A NOVEL CALLED "AFTER", WHICH "AFTER" LEAVING BIG SUR I THREW OUT!
IT WAS GOOD FOR ME TO DO THAT.
AS OF THIS SUMMER, I AM ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH A NOVEL THAT I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT. IT SURPRISES ME DAILY, IT CHALLENGES ME. I HOPE TO HAVE A COMPLETE WORKING DRAFT BY CHRISTMAS TIME. I AM HAVING A BLAST WORKING ON IT, AND THAT IS THE MOST YOU CAN ASK FOR.
Are you writing full time, do you have another job?
I DO SOME REPORTING FOR ESPN THE MAGAZINE, WHICH I ENJOY. I ALSO WRITE PERSONAL ESSAYS/RELATIONSHIP PIECES FOR VARIOUS PUBLICATIONS, LIKE THE NEW YORK OBSERVER AND SELF MAGAZINE. I GUESS THOSE ASSIGNMENTS COUNT AS WRITING, TOO, THOUGH I THINK OF THEM AS SOMETHING SEPARATE THAN MY PRIMARY WORK, WHICH IS WRITING FICTION.
I DO MOST OF MY WORK AT THIS GREAT COFFEE SHOP NEAR GRAMMERCY PARK. I GET THERE AT 8:30 AM MOST MORNINGS, AND STAY UNTIL MID-AFTERNOON. A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE, A SCREENWRITER, WRITES THERE WITH ME. IT IS NICE TO HAVE HIM THERE, BECAUSE IT CREATES A SYSTEM OF ACCOUNTABILITY. WHOEVER GETS THERE LAST BUYS THE COFFEE. AND, WHEN WE BREAK FOR LUNCH, WE DISCUSS OUR WORK WITH EACH OTHER: WHAT PROBLEMS WE ARE RUNNING UP AGAINST, WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO WORK OUT.
Where do you want to be in the next five years? I'm talking career-wise and in your personal life.
IT IS A NICE THING THAT I FIGURED OUT EARLY ON THAT I LOVE TELLING STORIES SO MUCH. IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS, I HOPE TO STILL BE DOING WHAT I'M DOING NOW. I CAN'T IMAGINE DOING ANYTHING ELSE, ACTUALLY. (I JUST KNOCKED ON WOOD THAT I DON'T HAVE TO.)
IN TERMS OF MY PERSONAL LIFE, MY BOYFRIEND AND I JUST WENT TO VISIT SOME FRIENDS OF HIS NEAR SARATOGA SPRINGS. SINCE THEN, I HAVE BEEN HAVING FANTASIES ABOUT A FARMHOUSE SOMEWHERE UPSTATE—IN WOODSTOCK, MAYBE, OR COLUMBIA COUNTY. I CAN SEE A VERY LARGE SOAKING TUB, AND A KITCHEN I CAN SPEND ALL DAY IN. I LIKE TO IMAGINE THAT THE KITCHEN WILL BE SPARKLING CLEAN—BECAUSE, IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS, I WILL DEFINITELY HAVE TRANSFORMED INTO SOMEONE WHO DOES DISHES IMMEDIATELY, AND PUTS EVERYTHING BACK, RIGHT WHERE IT BELONGS. OR, AT LEAST, NEAR WHERE IT BELONGS…