Anna David reads from Party Girl at Book Soup in L.A. on Friday, June 8th from 7-9 pm. See below for details (hint: there will be booze).
It’s a big day for instructor and friend of the ‘bistro Anna David, who recently stirred the soup with a NYT Modern Love column. Her first novel, Party Girl, has arrived. We checked in with her about writing, partying, and writing about partying.
What was the inspiration for your book?
When I got sober a little over six years ago, my first job was working for Premiere magazine, doing a column called “Party Girl.” It was ironic, of course, that I’d been a party girl my entire life and no one had ever asked me to write a column by that name, and as soon as I realized I had an actual problem and put the substances down, I was essentially given this moniker. While that column covered premieres and award shows and was essentially just a different way to quote celebrities, it occurred to me years later that a great set-up for a story would be for a newly sober alcoholic to be given a column where she has to document her risquÃ© adventures and thus have to create a persona based on who she used to be. I’d read all the memoirs about alcoholism and drug addiction — and absolutely loved a few of them — but I felt like a novel, where I could create a character similar to how I was pre-sobriety, and then make fun of myself and how delusional my thinking used to be, was a better approach to take.
This is your first novel. What was the writing process like?
I may have rose-colored glasses on, or I may still be trying to recover from the process of writing my second novel — which took almost everything out of me — but the way I remember it, this book came very easily. I started working on it after I made a deal with a friend who lived in London that every Sunday, we’d each send each other 1000 words of the novels we planned to write. I’d talked about making arrangements like that with friends before and never done a damn thing about it, so I was thoroughly shocked when her 1000 words arrived in my inbox the following Sunday. I literally wrote the first 1000 words because I didn’t want to renege on the deal and I was too embarrassed to tell her that I never thought we were serious. When she got too busy to continue our arrangement, I kept going. Half the time, I’d wonder what I was doing — who the hell I thought I was trying to write a novel — and I think that freed me up and made me less self-conscious than I would have been. Eventually, it became intensely therapeutic to revisit the darkest time in my life and make it into comedic material. I ended up finishing the manuscript in about nine months. I think the greatest challenge was when I was getting toward the end and so incredibly sick of my brain and my thoughts that I didn’t think I could sit in front of the computer one more day and try to make use of it or them.
How did you manage to sell your book so quickly after acquiring an agent?
I got very lucky because just as I was finishing the book, two different agents read magazine pieces I’d written and contacted me to say I should call them if I was ever going to do a book and needed an agent. I cannot stress enough the sheer randomness of this happening, as it had never occurred before or since. And one of those two agents was so on-the-ball and had such smart notes that I could tell from the first minute of conversation that she was the one. Plus, she had a very glamorous-sounding name and I am occasionally silly enough to be influenced by things like that. She had a plan all set in her mind — to send the book out, tell the editors she submitted it to that I’d be in New York the following week so they’d better read it quickly if they wanted to meet with me (this was, of course, a vicious lie, as I wasn’t going to be in New York unless they wanted to meet with me) and hold an auction the following Monday. Given the fact that I’m the most impatient person I’ve ever encountered, I was incredibly grateful for how quickly she made it all happen.
Tell us about your reading.
The Los Angeles one will be at Book Soup on Friday, June 8th from 7-9 pm. I’ve been a bit of a reading-aholic lately, going to all the readings I can to try to get a taste of what people seem to like in that environment, and I’ve determined some, well, obvious things: they respond especially well to funny and/or sexual parts of books, only hearing the tiniest bit of that material (as opposed to being held hostage for chapter upon chapter) and being plied with wine while they’re listening to your very short, very funny and sexual material. So I have a wine sponsor — you’ve got to love a wine company that will sponsor a party for a book that’s about alcoholism — as well as a juice sponsor. I’m also doing an event at the Borders at Columbus Circle in New York on Thursday, June 28th, where I’ll be “in conversation with” Rachel Kramer Bussel, who’s edited about 1000 anthologies. No wine sponsors for that one yet, but give me time!
Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Director of Community Development