Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Anna David - Author And Journalist - She Appears Regularly On FOX, MTV, VH1 & The Producer Of TBS Reality Show “Better Luck Next Town”
Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with Anna David, she's an author and a journalist. Her debut novel, PARTY GIRL, will be published this June by HarperCollins. The rights for her novel have been sold in Italy & Russia. Ms. David, has done celebrity cover stories for TV and produced the TBS reality show pilot “Better Luck Next Town.” “Better Luck” is a about moving to another town to find a date.
She writes for the NY Times, LA Times, Cosmo, TV Guide, Esquire UK, Teen Vogue, Redbook and other notable publications. Ms. David has been written about by gossip columnist Liz Smith in the New York Daily News.
Anna David has appeared regularly as a guest on the Today Show, NBC, ESPN, MSNBC, MTV News, CNN, Fox Reality Network, E! and VH1 where she talks about the lives of celebrities. Aside from her numerous television appearances, she has also done national radio talk shows for XM and Sirus. Her twice-a-week ‘Reality Check’ blog has become one of the hottest blogs in the Fox portfolio.
An essay she wrote will appear in the Dutton anthology ‘Girl Who Likes Boys Who Like Boys’ will be out this June as well her debut novel ‘Party Girl.'
EI: Do you express your inner self in your writing or do the personas you create exist only in your imagination?
Anna David: I think all of the characters I create are either based on me or on people I know. Even if the character is absolutely nothing like anyone from real life, I try as diligently as I can to find some aspect of them that I relate to. It may be the curse of learning about writing as a journalist for so many years: I’m a bit married to the truth. Obviously, I make a great deal up because real life isn’t nearly as dramatic as what I’ve created but it starts off as something very much based in reality.
EI: What is your response to the public perception that writers’ creative insight and energy is frequently the product of personal conflict?
Anna David: Well, that’s certainly true in my case. When I was telling a writer I met recently about the dysfunctional family I come from, and he already knew that I was a sober alcoholic, he shook his head, looked quite disturbed and said, “God, I’ll never be a great writer because I just haven’t suffered enough.” So, yes, I come from a family that has had more than its share of issues and I dealt with that for many years by dulling my senses with drugs and alcohol, which eventually stopped working. In sobriety, we learn that alcoholism doesn’t have as much to do with how much you drank or used as it does with how your mind works. And I have a mind that likes to make me suffer. I honestly don’t know if I’ve been saddled with more difficult circumstances than other people or if I’m just more open about what I’ve endured. Then, either as a result of those experiences, or because I was simply born this way, my mind is always looking for loopholes, always out to compare what I have going on inside to what I think other people have going on outside and decide that I come up short. Comparing and despairing, some people call it. I’d love to have a brain that could just be satisfied more easily but I’m coming to accept the fact that I don’t, and that things that seem to come so easily to others take monumental effort and a lot longer for me. It does provide great grist for writing, though.
EI: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Anna David: 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 continuing to write 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 shouldn’t worry about being good enough. Writing is a practice; we get better over time so if they have the will, the act will make them stronger.
EI: Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which are you? And what do you find to be the hardest part of writing?
Anna David: I’d say I’m a character writer, in that I get completely obsessed with my characters and build the story around them. For Party Girl, I didn’t start with an outline; I just began writing a character that was a lot like me. Later, after about page 50, I started writing down plot points. For me, it’s the characters in a book that stay with me long after I’ve finished reading, not the plots. The hardest part of writing is getting through those days when you’re so incredibly sick of your material, your voice and your thoughts that you swear you’d rather collect garbage than spend another minute at the computer.
EI: Would you describe yourself as a confident writer, always ready to face the next new challenge? Either in front of a TV camera, famous celebrity or an editor? Do you have to psyche yourself up to try different venues?
Anna David: Any kind of public work – whether it’s doing live TV, interviewing someone or meeting with an editor – so pales in comparison to the difficulty of squaring off against a computer that I find most of those activities to be an intense relief. That being said, all of those activities terrified me at one point and the more accustomed I got to them, the less I needed any psyching up. Of course, doing live TV can be incredibly stressful – sitting in a room by yourself, wearing an ear piece, competing to get a word in when you can’t even see who you’re talking to – but that’s something that gets easier over time, which, sadly, I can’t always say is true for writing.
EI: You are well known in the writing community as the beautiful, smart celebrity journalist and also one of the TV producers for ‘Better Luck Next Town’ and now a novelist. Can you tell us all about it? How do you manage being the center of public attention and the limelight?
Anna David: While that’s sweet of you to say, I’m actually not at the center of very much public attention at all. I started to get better known in the past year because I give sex and relationship advice on a TV show (Attack of the Show, G4) and that’s when I discovered the joys and angst of reading what people you don’t know have to say about you. I remember I started getting all this lovely fan mail, and one of these lovely fans said something along the lines of, “You certainly don’t deserve the beating you’re taking on the G4 message boards.” I went, I’m on message boards?! And you’d better believe the next few hours were spent reading every last word, absorbing every negative one (I told you, my mind likes to torture me), ignoring everything nice and eventually making myself massively depressed. My agent and the show producer made me promise not to ever go to message boards again. Sometimes I stumble upon negative comments but I’ve gotten so much better about not buying into the negativity and remembering that people who anonymously post on message boards are probably the last people in the world I should be gauging myself by.
EI: Now let’s shift gears here for a second... Can you share with us some of the challenges you faced to publish your ‘ Party Girl ?’, which is due in June from Harper Collins? Is there anything about you that you would do differently, knowing what you do now?
Anna David: The major challenge I faced was losing my editor about halfway through the publication process. She was so passionate and enthusiastic about me and the book and when the division she worked for closed, I was in no-man’s-land for a few incredibly nerve-wracking weeks. There was talk of the book not coming out or being released in paperback only and it was the one time since I’ve known my ever-patient agent that I started fighting with her, insisting that she get answers to questions that were at that point unanswerable. Of course, it all worked out in the end – the editor I inherited is just as devoted and intelligent and the book is coming out according to plan – but if I could do it again, I would have tried to have more faith and not freak out over the aspects I couldn’t control.
EI: What was the inspiration for your novel? And what is your response to the public perception about your creative insight with your book?
Anna David: The first job I got once I was sober was writing a column for Premiere magazine called “Party Girl.” And I loved the irony of the fact that I’d just taken on the label of something I’d spent my entire life embodying right at the moment that I closed the door on that behavior. While the column I wrote wasn’t about my personal adventures – it was more event coverage, sprinkled with celebrity quotes – it occurred to me a few years later that a girl who just became sober writing a column called "Party Girl" about her wild-and-crazy shenanigans would make a good story. I’m not sure I know much yet about the public perception about my creative insight with the book.
EI: How much of celebrity journalist, Amelia Stone is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with her character? What was your biggest challenge?
Anna David: Like I said, I didn’t do a lot of outlining for Party Girl. I knew the scene I was going to start with and then certain ideas for future scenes would come to me and I’d jot them down, knowing that I’d be inserting them later. An absolutely amazing thing I discovered at one point was that I did my absolute best brainstorming while getting a massage. Because I found a place in LA that doesn’t break the bank ($50 a shiatsu) and because I had a marvelous justification for needing to spend that money in order to “fuel my creative process,” whenever I got stuck, that’s where I’d go. Something about not being entirely conscious but not being unconscious either freed my mind and allowed the more imaginative part of my brain to take over and helped me to be open to ideas I might have rejected outright had they occurred to me when I was sitting upright at my computer. Hiking in Runyon Canyon in LA also opens my mind to new ideas, but let’s face it – a massage is a lot more fun than a hike.
EI: How did you develop these characters? Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story?
Anna David: The characters definitely evolved as I wrote the story. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with, say, the best friend character because she was an amalgamation of so many different people I knew and I needed her to do quite a lot (be Amelia’s support system but not be so much of a pushover that she forgave Amelia entirely for her betrayal and also be an example of someone who drank with Amelia but wasn’t alcoholic) so she was probably the character that I re-worked the most while writing.
EI: Has your book been optioned for film yet?
Anna David: It hasn’t been optioned but I have an excellent agent at CAA representing it and a filmmaker and production company attached. I’m hesitant to say anything else about it, besides the fact that I believe it would make a most excellent movie.
EI: If you were allowed total control of the Hollywood version of ‘Party Girl’ who would be in it? And in your opinion who do you think should direct?
Anna David: Again, I’m reticent to say too much here – instead, I’ll just offer up the fact that I think Postcards from the Edge is the best movie about addiction and recovery that I’ve seen. Funny and poignant with an excellent cast and pitch perfect directing – it gives me hope that mine could work as well.
EI: You also have a story published in different publications such as Redbook, Teen Vogue, Playboy, Razor to name a few... For those just discovering your work, could you briefly summarize your backlist, highlighting as you see fit? Would you please tell your fans more about it?
Anna David: For years, I just did celebrity profiles and for those, I’ve interviewed everyone from Kate Hudson and Jada Pinkett to Renee Zellweger and Hugh Hefner. I then graduated to investigative pieces and first-person essays. Besides an essay I wrote that recently ran in the “Modern Love” section of the New York Times, I’m probably proudest of the investigative pieces because they required so much work – I had two that ran in Details, one on high-class prostitution in Hollywood, another on drug addiction in Hollywood. I wrote some sex and dating pieces for Playboy, which eventually led to doing a sex column for Razor. These days, the book writing and blogging for foxnews (www.foxnews.com/realitycheck) keeps so me quite busy, so I don’t actively pursue magazine work, though I still dot the occasional essay.
EI: What's up next? Is there another reality TV shows or book in the works? What can you share with us?
Anna David: As soon as we sold Party Girl, I started working on another novel, Kept, about kept women in Los Angeles (based very much on all the research I did for the Details piece on prostitution). While it’s finished, we haven’t finalized a deal to sell it. As soon as we do, I plan to start on another novel. I have a basic idea of the character and what I think I want her to do and I know that I want the action to take place somewhere besides Los Angeles (where both Party Girl and Kept take place) but that’s about all.
EI: Your list of magazine publications for your short stories is impressive. Would you recommend for new writers to submit short stories to magazines to gain an understanding and acquire experience in the world of publishing?
Anna David: I haven’t actually published any short stories but I have had quite a few first-person essays run. My recommendation for new writers is to start out at the smaller, regional publications – or at websites – first. It’s so tough to get in at a mainstream magazine – I only have when I’ve known an editor and he or she has commissioned the piece from me directly. I think a lot of people imagine dashing off an essay, sending it to a magazine and having it run when the fact is, magazines have entire staffs dedicated to deciding exactly what material they want. So the chances of a writer envisioning a piece, composing it and having it perfectly match what the editors would like are minimal. Of course, if you prove yourself as a reporter – someone who can conduct interviews and incorporate those into a cohesive piece – editors are probably more likely to trust you as an essayist down the road.
EI: Ms. David, thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know you, and your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers?
Anna David: The best advice I can give your readers is that they try to banish any bit of perfectionism they may have. The thing that seems to block so many writers is this ludicrous desire to produce perfect sentences the second they sit down in front of a computer. I don’t know about them, but I can guarantee I won’t find the ideal words and the best way to express myself on my first attempt. I say, get the first draft on paper and know that you’ll be rewriting the hell out of it. Tell yourself that you need to crank out a certain number of pages a day, even if those pages are going to be complete crap, and stick to it.
To learn more about Anna David, please visit her at:
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 1:30 PM