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"Killing Monica" with Candace Bushnell

KillingMonica200Candace Bushnell, author of many books including Sex in the City, Lipstick Jungle, The Carrie Diaries and most recently, Killing Monica, recently shared her favorite books of 2015 and I had a great time talking to her at Mario Batali's restaurant, Otto, where she seems to be something of a regular.  (Incidentally, while I was there I looked down the bar and saw none other than Mr. Batali himself. Go figure.)  

Killing Monica plays with expectations, fame, reinvention and, of course, fools for love. In the novel the main character Pandy writes a book about a young woman named Monica making her way in Manhattan. The book becomes a huge sensation, as does the actress who plays Monica on TV and in the movies. This might sound a bit familiar, but what happens when Pandy decides to kill off her beloved character?

Seira Wilson: Tell me about writing Killing Monica

Candace Bushnell:  I wanted to capture a bit of the idea that we all have a persona or a self that works really well for us for a while but then it stops working and in a sense it's like, what are you going to do with the next thirty or forty years of your life?  And honestly, I'm a huge Phillip Roth fan and I started reading Zuckerman Unbound and I just thought it was such a great comic conceit for a novel, such a funny idea, of having this character that has created a character that is larger than life. In a way Pandy kind of created Monica out of despair, as an ideal version of herself. And then of course it all goes out of control.

I always say Carrie Bradshaw is every girl, but Monica is The girl, the It girl.  And with this book I just said, I'm really going to let myself go and be a little more experimental. I had a great time writing it, but that plot…I've never made an outline for a book but when I was fairly close to the end I had to make an outline and keep going back to it because that was the only way the tiny little pieces would ever make sense. But I really wanted to write a comic pop culture novel.

SW: It's such a great look at fame and how entertainers/writers are pigeon-holed and it made me wonder if any of it was autobiographical, if you've thought about killing Carrie?

CB:  I think I'm probably the one who DOESN'T want to kill Carrie Bradshaw. But it's really true for anyone in entertainment, once they have a really big hit that's all anyone ever wants from them.

SW: Do you have any books that are really special to you?

CB:  I have some of my mother's books from when she was a kid and she passed them on to me and I read them when I was a kid. They're these little hardcovers, I don't think you could get them today, it was "The Red Shoes" or "The Dancing Shoes," I just devoured them. And every now and then I'll go back and read one of them.

Q: Were those your favorite books as a kid?

CB: We read a lot when I was a kid, I grew up in a town that didn't have a movie theater and we weren't really allowed to watch TV so we would go to the library. My mother was a big reader, my grandmother, so I just grew up always reading.

Q: Did you share books with your sisters?

CB: Yes, we read things like Harriet the Spy and we went out and got our own tool belts that had these little spy flashlights and sure enough we were hiding in the bushes trying to spy on the neighbors.  I still pretty much read every night before I go to bed.

Q: What are you reading right now?

CB: I just finished reading Outline by Rachel Cusk and I read Elin Hilderbrand's The Rumor which was really good.

Q: What about the movies – is there another Sex in the City movie coming?

CB: I haven't heard about a third Sex in the City movie but there's a lot of interest in Hollywood for Killing Monica. It would be two great parts for actresses, I mean, Pandy—you'd get to be bald! I really wanted to write it like the camera is in Pandy's head, like we're literally seeing everything out of her eyes. So it's third person but has a first person kind of sensibility. It's not an omniscient narrator, we only see what Pandy sees, know what Pandy knows.

Q; Are you thinking about the next thing?

A: I sort of want to do Killing Monica II. I love those characters and I'd honestly like to write something else . Maybe it would be called Resurrecting Monica—just kidding.   Actually, I'll probably write a young adult novel next. I have an idea, I've written maybe 50 pages, and I like the voice of this character. Her mother is like one of the Real Housewives. I see these Real Housewives and they have kids! Teenage kids! And I wonder, what would that be like?

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