You’ve enjoyed success as a journalist and as an author—do you feel more exposed as writer of fiction?
Any writing is terrifying because of the exposure it warrants. I’ve spent most of my career at ABC News and Newsweek magazine, so my smart media friends who are political and economic experts read my magazine pieces that I don’t feel come close to their level of knowledge and sophistication. I also know that my fiction, while hopefully fun and fast-paced social satire—even biting at times—isn’t “literary” in nature so it’s painful to release books out there to intense scrutiny of the serious writers.
However, I don’t let any of that stop me or hinder me too much, I love fiction. Someone very intelligent once said to me that a writer gets closer to the truth with fiction than with non-fiction: there are restrictions with the need for facts in non-fiction, and with fiction there are no boundaries or constraints.
In the past you’ve written about Women and Leadership, while your novels deal with women gaining their independence—who are the women you most admire and why?
I admire my female bosses the most, as those are the women I’ve toiled for for over two decades. No-one at ABC News will disagree with me when I say Diane Sawyer works harder than anyone at the entire network. She is just relentless: she will never give up and will change things until minutes before airtime, having pulled an all-nighter to get it all right.
Tina Brown is another legendary media woman I have had the honor to work for. She will reject every single story idea because they aren’t “fresh”. I am always learning something when in the presence of these extraordinary women.
How difficult was it to write your second novel following the success of The Manny?
The Idea of Him was very tough because I was trying to accomplish a lot. I didn’t want to write about a girl getting the guy. I wanted to write about a woman who is trying to leave a marriage, lusting after a new guy, grasping desperately after a lost soul mate/one who got away because I think it’s very hard to be on your own. We feel we need a replacement in order to leave; men do this even more than women. In writing about those insecurities, it is hard to depict characters with charm and humor, so there was a lot of layers that I had to add to make sure Ali Crawford, the protagonist, was someone you could adore while laughing and crying with her.
You’ve said that New York’s Public Library is your “safe haven.” Where are your favorite places to write?
I write anywhere but preferably at libraries and Starbucks or any café that will let me sit. I can’t write at home as I start emailing and calling Time Warner about my 18th broken DVR and cleaning up after the dogs/fish/turtles. When I do venture out to write, I like a little company around me. That’s why libraries are wonderful, you can look across the table and catch someone’s eye who is toiling away just like you and relate.
You’ve set both The Manny and The Idea of Him on your home turf in New York City. How inspiring do you find the city as a backdrop?
I love writing about New York City as there are so many worlds here still uncovered. When I wrote The Manny, there were many books written about the Upper East Side but I still felt no one had really nailed the competition and nonsense at dinner parties and nursery school drop off. I loved delving into the real insecurities and idiosyncrasies of that very specific Upper East Side tribe.
The Idea of Him is based more on the power elite set; the men and women who have created empires on their own. This is a very different set from the Upper East Side ladies. I call it the meritocracy set as they have done it all on their own, they work like dogs and also have massive insecurities about their stature and getting more.
Your characters are New York’s power players — the “meritocracy class” — and many of the city’s actual heavy hitters attended your launch party of The Idea of Him. Do your readers often identify themselves in your books and how do they take it?
I think I write very accurately about these sets but I don’t think I do it in a mean-spirited way, as that’s no fun to write or read. I’m satirizing a group, taking bits and pieces of things I’ve seen and heard to create composite characters; no-one is actually based on one person.
What fashion trends to do you follow or love?
I’m very into mixing uptown and downtown all at once, not that I always succeed! I have some fancy dresses but I feel kind of predictable in them. I like to pair a flowy Isabel Marant blouse with jeans and sneakers. A leather jacket is always a great way to dress down a super uptown/uptight dress and make it suddenly a little dangerous. I get t-shirts and sweatshirts from New York Sunshine in the Hamptons to add a little street wear to my black pants, heels, and fancier jackets.