Saturday, October 14, 2006

Susan Shapiro, Five Men Who Broke My Heart

When I heard about this book all I could think was, I have to read it. We all wonder what our past loves are doing, have they forgotten about us? Maybe - and we can hope- they are chubby and toothless and fall asleep every night clutching our picture, wondering what ever happened to us. They cry themselves to sleep at night because we got away. Of course I'm joking, but sometimes...we all wonder.

I’m always interested in a good memoir, especially when there is humor injected into the pages.
Recently I got wind of Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (The Nanny Diaries) penning the screenplay to this very book. I'm intrigued! Always fascinated with book- to- movie deals, I can't wait to see how the casting goes on this project. I believe the movie has enormous potential and after you reading the book, you will see why. Five different past loves + one current love + one witty, smart main character = great book, huge movie hit!

Is your book, Five Men Who Broke My Heart, ever confused with the Five People You Meet in Heaven?

Nobody has ever confused my R-rated, New York edgy sex memoir FIVE MEN WHO BROKE MY HEART with the mild mannered middle brow fictional Five People You Meet in Heaven. The only thing we have in common aside from the number five is that the author and I are both from Michigan. My book came out before his. I actually stole the number from Nick Hornby's great novel High Fidelity, where the guy goes back to meet his Top Five Heartbreaks of all Time. When a guy does it, he just notices if the girl is still cute and if he'd still want to sleep with her. I thought the female version would be much more emotional and complex, with long journal entries, therapy sessions, multiple photo albums and saved gum wrappers from their first date...

The book will be made into a movie which must be so exciting. Which actresses would you to see take on the role of you? Who can pull off funny, yet vulnerable with a hint of dry wit and charm?

When Paramount Pictures, who optioned FIVE MEN, casts the FIVE MEN movie I'd love to see someone who can be funny and poignant as the heroine, like Mary Louise Parker. Or Teri Hatcher.

It's a juicy role for a 40ish actress- and for 6 men, I'd pick Vince Vaughn as the husband and Robert Downy Jr. and Clive Owen as two of the bad boys. My brother Eric wants Ron Howard to play him. He said Carol O'Conner should play my Dad but he's dead. I'd choose Gene Hackman and Helen Mirren as my parents but she'd have to dye her hair red. (Not thatI've wasted a lot of time fantasizing about this or anything.)

How did this book-to-movie experience unfold? I didn't know Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (authors of The Nanny Diaries) were screenwriters, how did they get involved in the project?

When my fantastic literary agent Elizabeth Kaplan sold the filmrights of the book to Paramount Pictures, my husband, a TV/filmwriter for 25 years, told me to stay out of it. So I did. I have no idea how Paramount producers got "the Nanny Diaries" authors to write the script to FIVE MEN, but I think it's an inspired choice and I loved their novel. It's also cool that the movie to their book is filming now in New York with Scarlett Johansson. Also that the FIVE MEN movie has recently been mentioned in Variety and other publications. I'm trying to sell another chicklit book right now so maybe this will get heat on the project, as they say in L.A.

I admire your ability to be comedic in one sentence, then be serious the next. Are you aware that you do that or is it simply the way you write?

When I moved to New York, I did my masters degree in poetry andwrote really depressing gut-wrenching confessional poetry emulating my early literary idols Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Ted Hughes andRobert Lowell...As I got older, happier, and more successful my writing became much funnier. I hope I retained a bit of that sadness and edgy vulnerability but I love making people laugh. I think it balances my overly psychoanalytic take on everything...

What kind of writers do you admire?

I have so many favorite authors I'd have to list them by genre. Post-modern Poetry: Yehuda Amichai, Joseph Brodsky, Adrienne Rich, LucilleClifton, Rita Dove, Anne Carson and my friend Harvey Shapiro. Novels: Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," Marquez's "Love in the TimeOf Cholera," A.S. Byatt's "Posession," Phillip Roth's "Portnoy'sComplaint," Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying." Essays Collections: byDavid Sedaris, Nora Ephron, Daphne Merkin. Criticism: Pauline Kaeland Stanley Kauffman. Memoirs by Frank McCourt, Mary Carr, Augusten Burroughs.
Travel writing: Jan Morris. Self-help: Deborah Tannen andMartin Seligman. And I like how Suzy Orman analyzes everyone's money issues... The list is endless and changes all the time...

Is having the talent to write something one is born with or can it be learned? Do you think a person with no formal education in creative writing can sit down and write a good novel?

I've taught writing at NYU, The New School, and I've done a special writer's group with homeless people at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for the last dozen years. (That work is gathered inan anthology I edited with the writer Ian Frazier called FOOD FOR THESOUL.)

You do not need formal education to be a good writer or to get published. In fact I teach what I call the "Instant Gratification Takes too Long" school of journalism where the goal is to get a piece published by the end of the class to pay for the class. I have a rule - if you sell an assignment for $1000, I get dinner. I've had hundreds of dinners... Most of my students get published, or get jobs and internships. Many have published books. I give blurbs to all my students who get book deals. (My editor calls me "a blurb whore.") But my new rule is that if a student's book does better than mine, they have to give me a blurb back. It's already happened a fewtimes...My website lists my upcoming classes, panels and seminars.

If you were single and writing a personals ad, what would it say? Along the lines of..."If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain. If you're not into yoga, if you have half-a-brain..."

When I was single I didn't do personal ads and fear it's too easy to lie and be deceptive with online dating services, who are out to make money and don't verify or check any of the information posted. As I argue in my upcoming book SECRETS OF A FIX-UP FANATIC, I think the best way to meet your mate is to be fixed up by someone you love and trust. I've fixed up 12 marriages and was fixed up with my husband, and his runner up.

Would you rather be the one who has the broken heart or the person who breaks someone elses?

When I was young and raw and passionate, I agreed with Auden's line"If equal affection cannot be/Let the more loving one be me." Now that I'm older, and obsessed with my career, I think I'd have an easier life and get more work done with someone who loved me more. Luckily my husband and I are madly in love with each other lately,though the balance always changes which keeps things interesting.

In your opinion, is it easier/simpler/less complicated to write non-fiction or fiction?

Poetry was my first love and I've just finished a novel. But I made aliving for 20 years as a journalist and I find it much easier towrite nonfiction. One of my mentors says that it's because I have no imagination whatsoever. I tell my students to write about their obsessions, which is what works for me, at least 6 books worth. What's that Edie Brickell line "I'm not aware of too many things butI know what I know if you know what I mean."

I particularly love writing first person essays and memoirs. My book LIGHTING UP, which was really fun to write, chronicles how I quit smoking, drinking and other addictions. I've been clean, sober, and smoke-free for five years now. In that time I've sold five books and a movie. My addiction specialist Dr. W. tells me that in order to remain so healthy, happy and successful, one should "Lead the last secretive life you can." I use that to rationalize my existence but it works!

Are you happy with your life so far? Is there anything you would change?

After decades of struggle with love, work, and addiction, I'mcurrently living the life of my dreams. I feel very blessed to have such an amazing husband I adore, a fantasy Greenwich Village apartment , supportive family, and two careers I love: writing books by day and teaching by night. My "core pillars" are my shrink, agent and book editor, brilliant advisors I hope to have forever. I have the warmest, coolest colleagues and friends in the world too. If I could change anything I'd want my books to sell more. But maybe having small success is better cause this way I'm more humble, hungry and have to keep writing better!


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