Monday, March 17, 2008

Have You Found Her by Janice Erlbaum

Get yourself to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and buy Have You Found Her by Janice Erlbaum today. It's so good that I know everyone will love it as much as I did. I started out with limited time figuring I would read just a couple pages but I ended up reading it late into the night. Sometimes I read a book and think, "WhenI know what I'm doing with screenwriting, I'm going to take these fabulous books and turn them into movies." This was one of those books. Maybe it's just that some authors paint an amazing picture of their story and it comes alive for the reader.

Janice Erlbaum's writing is incredible. Some writers are good story tellers, some have a way with words fashioning their sentences like poetry. Other writers know how to hook you and never let you go. Some writers write purely to entertain. Janice is a combination of all of these. Her memoir of her relationship with a smart, tricky street kid named Sam, is a story that will have you turning pages quickly. Sometimes you want to slap Sam, then you want to hug her. You want to do the same to Janice.

I read this book in record time wishing it was just a little big longer because I didn't want it to end. The story, the writing, the descriptions, New York city as a backdrop, its all blended together into one fascinating memoir that you simply can't miss.

I have to tell you that I've taken the liberty to cast the movie version of your book, at least mentally. All the way through the book I kept thinking that it MUST be made into a film. I cast Angelina Jolie as you, Brad Pitt as Bill (why not? they work well together), Halle Berry as Nadine, Jennifer Lopez as Maria, one of the Olsen moppets as Sam, I'm stumped on who should play Jodi. What do you think?

Cindy, I am hugely complimented by your casting! I was thinking Lauren Ambrose or Chloe Sevigny as me, and Bill claims he should be played by Jack Black, but I like Brad and Angelina much better. I mean, me and Angie have so much in common – she likes adopting needy children, and I almost did the same. So that’s perfect. Jodi’s a stumper, though – maybe Laura Linney with a Brooklyn accent?

The scene where you and Sam played Would You Rather...made me laugh so hard! I've never played the game. But here's one for you: would you rather see Sam healthy and be friends again or see Have You Found Her hit the New York Times bestseller list for a year?

I would rather see Sam healthy, and not be friends again – I think we caused each other too much pain for the relationship to be repaired. But if I heard, by some miracle, that she were alive and doing well, I’d be immensely relieved and gratified, more so than by a bestseller. I don’t need my books to be bestsellers in order to feel like they’re successful – more than two years after publication, I still get emails from people who have just read Girlbomb and are writing to say that it touched them, and that, to me, is the greatest feeling of success.

Was writing the book cathartic in any way? Could you work through any unresolved feelings while writing?

Writing the book was cathartic in every way! But it was a hard catharsis. I had to write the thing while I was still recovering from the loss of Samantha, still dealing with all my anger, grief, shame, and frustration. I bitched to my shrink constantly, and threatened to ask my editor to push the book back a year while I took the time to deal with the emotional fallout. But now I’m glad I sucked it up and just wrote it, you know? I stared my pain in the face for months, and now I know for sure that I am stronger and bigger than it is.

What do you think Sam would say if she read the book?

I think Sam would be smart enough to avoid reading this book, as it would only cause her anxiety and unhappiness. She was such a damaged kid, and I presented that damage in all its glory. Even though parts of the book are highly complimentary to her, I don’t think she’d want to read about the pain she caused, and I know she’d be ashamed to be exposed for some of the lies she told. If she were somehow able to read it, I think she’d deny all of it. And I think people would believe her.

Was it different writing this book versus Girlbomb? (which I intend to read very soon)

Absolutely. Girlbomb was written about events that had taken place almost twenty years ago, whereas the events of Have You Found Her were still fresh when I was writing the book. But in some ways, the process was the same – I went back over my old journals and notebooks and saw what I had written about the events at the time, then tried to apply a more mature understanding of what had happened as I wrote.

If music went with a book, what would be on the soundtrack to Have You Found Her?

I actually made a playlist for the book at a great site called Large Hearted Boy – you can find it right here:
It includes everything from Beethoven to Kelly Clarkson, from Drowning Pool to The Little Mermaid. An eclectic list, to be sure.

My guilty pleasures include chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, wine and the Bravo show, Millionaire Matchmaker. What are your guilty pleasures?

Oh my god, all of my pleasures are guilty! Definitely cheese, lots of cheese, and tons of reality TV – I don’t have to feel guilty about Amazing Race, because it’s a great show, but VH1’s Rock of Love? I hang my head in shame. I’ve tried to justify my love of the show by saying that it’s a metaphor for how women have to debase themselves in order to get recognition for society, but really I think I just enjoy watching what’s TV reviewer calls “whoring sea donkeys” on parade.

After two memoirs, what's next for you?

I’m working on a book about yet more horrible relationships I’ve had with women. I’m not sure whether I’m doing it as a memoir, or whether I’ll call it fiction this time, but right now I’m writing the true story – I may “fiction it up” when I’m done with this draft. I think writing too many memoirs becomes unseemly, after a while – it’s like, “Use your damn imagination, bitch!”

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