Wednesday, November 4, 2009

INTERVIEW: Bestselling Author and Journalist: Anna David

Welcome to “Up Close and 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 Ms. Anna David. She is a TV personality, author and was a fulltime freelancer at People,. She had a contract with US Weekly Magazine and ,wrote a love and relationship column for Razor. Her first novel, Party Girl, was released May, 2007. Her second novel Bought is now available in bookstores and on line.

E.I. Your book, Bought explores the sexy, dysfunctional world of Hollywood's "kept women” and the tremendous pressures put on a hungry-for-promotion journalist. What drew you to explore these topics and was there something special that first sparked the storyline for the novel?

A.D. Years ago, I wrote an article on high-class prostitution in Hollywood for Details. I had anticipated interviewing people over a few weeks and gathering some anecdotes, but I ended up spending about six months obsessively infiltrating that universe, getting to know the girls as well as the detectives, FBI informants and other denizens of the underworld. I was always disappointed that the article ended up being this 2000-word story that essentially just relayed how rich men got their rocks off and didn’t get into the dynamics behind any of it. Sometime after finishing the Details story, I was reading an article about a beautiful, well-educated, seemingly cultivated girl who brazenly admitted that she took money from men in exchange for sexual favors. I was amazed that someone like that could do and say those things without seeming to have an ounce of shame about it and honestly, I admired it. I walk around feeling shame about all kinds of things I shouldn’t so for someone to own behavior that most of the world was going to judge just seemed so ballsy. I’m also slightly obsessed with the different versions of ourselves that we present to the world so I wanted to examine how someone like that – someone who, on the surface, had everything going for her and appeared confident – might be lying to herself and how her well-honed armor might crack.

E.I. Jessica Davis is a professional escort who gets paid in clothes, jewelry, and rent payments. What research did you do in preparation for writing about Jessica – did you know of anyone who are professional escorts to help you with your research for your book?

A.D. I got to know the women I interviewed for the Details story reasonably well but I mostly based Jessica on what I imagined the girl I read the article would be like as well as some of the women I’d run across in L.A. who seemed to accept the fact that they needed men to be their meal tickets. When I was promoting the book, I got to know a number of the women who were on a website that hooked aspiring gold diggers up with their “sugar daddies” – as well as Brooke Taylor, who works at the Cattle Ranch in Nevada (and is on the reality show Cathouse) and was amazed by how much they were like the women I’d invented.

E.I. What part of working on a book is most enjoyable to you? And how difficult was it to muster up the courage to write Bought?

A.D. The most enjoyable part, for me, is when the rewrites are complete and I’m printing up the entire book to go through it with my red pen. I have all kinds of tricks for getting myself to read something I’ve already read hundreds of times and still have a fresh reaction to it because books become like that small hole next to your coat hook in your entryway; in other words, you can cease to see the flaws because you’re simply so accustomed to them. So it’s almost like an acting exercise for me: I pretend I’m someone specific – a certain friend, my agent, my mom, whoever – and I read the book as if I’m that person, making every effort I possibly can to embody them so I can see the book the way they would. And I didn’t think that writing Bought took much courage. Party Girl required far more because I was really putting myself out there as an incredibly flawed and screwed up person.

E.I. The first time you saw your book in a bookstore, what did you think?

A.D. The first time I saw Party Girl in a bookstore, I hugged the saleswoman. It was at a reading for an anthology I had an essay in and Party Girl wasn’t due out for another month. But somehow this store had gotten my publisher to release copies early for this anthology reading so I was completely taken by surprise. I think I started screaming and demanding that the she tell me how she’d gotten this miracle to occur. I remember her smiling but looking at me like I was half insane. For years, I looked for Party Girl and Bought in every bookstore I went to but at a certain point I stopped. But I do get a bit of a serotonin rush when I see Laura Davis’ and Robertson Davies’ names because those always seemed to be the ones that came after mine on the shelf.

E.I. With four books under your belt, how have you evolved as a writer?

A.D. With Party Girl, I was really just teaching myself how to write a first person, present-tense book with one main character. Bought was far more challenging, not only because I was writing about a world I didn’t have any personal experience in but also because the protagonist, Emma, really isn’t the main character. Most people tell me they come away from the book far more intrigued by Jessica, despite the fact that she had fewer redeeming qualities, and that was always my intention. My third book is an anthology: I wrote only one essay in it and then assigned and edited the other 17 pieces. While I’d edited before (I’m a massive self-editor and pride myself on the fact that neither Party Girl or Bought received line edits; I’ve also been an editor at magazines), I’d never been responsible for articles by writers of this caliber. For me to have to go back to writers who are far more successful than I am and ask them to make changes wasn’t easy but the hardest part of that book was dealing with the writers who’d promised they’d contribute and completely flaked out! I’m about a third of the way through writing my fourth book and it’s absolutely the most enjoyable of them all because it’s something of a memoir. No disguising experiences I had, no developing characters and no inventing scenarios for them – just straight up storytelling from my own life.

Photo of Anna David by Eric Fischer

To learn more about Anna David please visit her website at http://www.annadavid.com/

To purchase her books please visit http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=anna+david

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