When I first got sober, after a good 20 years of imbibing whatever I could whenever I could, I was hired by Premiere magazine to write a column called "Party Girl." Even though that column was essentially just event coverage and didn't have anything remotely to do with my personal life, it always seemed wonderfully ironic that quite literally the moment I cleaned myself up I was given the title "party girl." Also, at the time that I originally came up with the idea for the book, I was both writing a sex column and not dating anyone. Everyone thought I was living the most exciting life and that couldn't have less been the case. And so it occurred to me that a wonderful set-up for a story would be to give a girl struggling to maintain her sobriety a column that would chronicle the wild and risqué adventures she wasn't having anymore. But the main reason I wrote it was to do something about addiction and recovery that wasn't overly earnest or pedantic.
Were you ever tempted to write this as a memoir?
Well, with the exception of "Permanent Midnight," all the addiction and recovery memoirs that I read came across as almost skin-crawlingly earnest once the writer got sober and I'd find myself savoring over their tragic stories of sucking on crack pipes or sucking on other things in order to get the money to put crack in their pipes and then becoming incredibly bored by their stories of sobriety. And I read most of them when I was already sober! So I knew I wanted to avoid that. Also, one of the main things I learn in my sobriety isn't just how addicted I was but how insane my thinking always was -- how self-absorbed and utterly filled with self-pity I used to be. And I wanted to be able to mock myself -- to create a character that's funny because she's always getting in her own way and utterly incapable of ever seeing that -- in a way that I didn't think I'd be able to do in a memoir.
I don't know if I could claim a direct influence, but these are the writers who inspire me: Fitzgerald, for focusing so brilliantly on my twin obsessions (alcoholism and the allure of broken women); Marian Keyes (Rachel's Holiday), Martin Amis (Money) and Jonathan Ames (Wake Up, Sir!) for showing me that tragic stories of addiction and/or recovery can be told in ways that are relatable, accurate and funny; and Jonathan Franzen, Chuck Palahniuk and Anthony Burgess for their brilliant depictions of the insane and semi-insane. I also absolutely loved Little Children (Tom Perrotta), Going Down (Jennifer Belle), Mergers & Acquisitions (Dana Vachon) and We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver). If you weren't a writer, what would you be?
I honestly have no idea. I've never done anything else. Did you ever receive a rejection that inspired you?/>
I don't think I've ever actually been inspired by a rejection. The closest I've come to that is when I've allowed rejection not to discourage me. I remember years ago, all I wanted in the world was to write for Details magazine. I had clips in a number of other magazines and I'd send the Details editor copies and pitches and letters every few months, and somehow never take personally the fact that I didn't hear back from him. Then one day, about two years into my Details-stalking, I got an email from an editor there assigning me a story. It's such a cliché but perseverance pays off. The most successful writers I know are not necessarily the most talented but the most determined. What's next?
I'm going to a writers' workshop next month to work on my third novel (we're in the process of selling number two). Also, one of the people interested in buying the film rights to "Party Girl" wants me to write the screenplay so I've been playing around with that. And I continue to do my blog for Fox News as well as the TV work. Any advice for aspiring writers?
I guess I'd say that I certainly didn't think I had what it took to be a novelist when I started writing my book. I just sat down and started writing. I had to be very one-day-at-a-time about it all or I would have stopped, deleted the entire thing and asked myself who I thought I was by trying to write a novel. That being said, I never wanted to do anything but write. There are kinder careers, certainly. So if it's an actual choice, if people are considering becoming a writer or abandoning it altogether and finding something else, maybe they ought to consider the 'something else.' If they can't imagine doing anything else, then they should just write every day. Writing is a practice; we get better over time so if someone has the will, the act will make him or her stronger. It's that point about perseverance again. And they should know that selling -- both yourself and what you write -- seems to be a massive part of the process. More and more, this doesn't seem like the best career for the shy or quiet.