There’s one woman responsible for your obsession with Lipstick Jungle, The Carrie Diaries, and of course, Sex and the City: Candace Bushnell. The author, who recently released her latest novel, Killing Monica—a story about a renowned writer whose novels about a young woman making her way in Manhattan have spawned into a series of blockbuster films but who is ready to attempt something different—tells us why it was time to step away from the SATC storyline, plus what she’s working on next.
Where did the idea for Killing Monica come from?
It actually came about from Phillip Roth. I was sitting at my desk and had just started this book but wasn’t really sure what it was going to be about. I picked up one of my big fat editions of Collected Novels of Phillip Roth and started reading Zuckerman Unbound. It’s a hilarious book about a writer who writes a book and everyone thinks he’s writing about himself, that he’s the main character, and everybody hates him. I thought that was a great comic conceit for a novel, so I just sort of took that idea. I knew I wanted to try some really different things in this novel—I love when Pandy [the main character] loses her identity and she’s mistaken for her sister … I knew I wanted to write something that was kind of mad-cap and kind of reminiscent of those screwball black and white comedies from the 1940s.
Why step away from the Sex and the City/The Carrie Diaries storyline?
As a writer, I’m always trying new things. If I have an opportunity to push the envelope, I’m going to take it. Sometimes it’s a risky thing to do. I actually think there are a lot of people who just don’t get my book at all, but those are the risks you have to take as a novelist. I loved writing the book though; I’m so happy I wrote it. There are so many themes that to me are just hilarious.
There are so many people who think the “Pandy” character is about Carrie Bradshaw. Does that annoy you?
It really just comes from people who haven’t read the book. I wrote Sex and the City, so everything that I write, it’s natural to sort of go there and find comparisons and similarities. That’s what people do. But I feel proud of what I think is a really great and interesting piece of work, so for me that’s all that matters. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity not to have to write the same book over, over, and over again.
Where’s your favorite place to write?
I always write in the same place: in my house in Connecticut. I live on this crazy little road where Arthur Miller lived and there’s this writing sort of shack that he built himself. He wrote The Crucible there. Frank McCourt lived across the street. There’s a lot of literary greats around here.
How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
I’m usually trying to exercise. I love any exercise that’s outdoors. I walk a lot because it’s very hilly where I am. You’ll see all of these old people, such as myself, walking up and down the hill. I also do mountain biking, swimming … I have a mini trampoline. I used to do a lot of horseback riding, but it takes so much time. I just don’t have time at the moment. And I love biking in the fall.
You created the ultimate fashion character with Carrie Bradshaw. Do you have a fashion side to you?
I do. I definitely do. When I was kid in the 1960s, my mother would show me clothes. It seems so crazy now, but my mother would get these patterns for me to look through and see which clothes she was going to make for us, so in a weird way, for about five years I sort of grew up with my mother making her clothes, so I got a bit of a fashion gene from her. I’m somebody who likes dramatic clothes. I think I tend to fall more on the costume end.
Do you have a favorite designer or brand?
I never really stick with one brand because one year Gucci had really great stuff, another year it’s another designer … but I’ll also buy things at Rugby. I have a lot of uniform staples: turtlenecks, black cashmere sweaters (which is kind of what you have to wear up here). Those kinds of things.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
S’mores! Especially now that it’s summer, and I tend to do a lot of grilling, I always have marshmallows in the house … and chocolate and graham crackers.
Is there something else you could see yourself doing in your career?
I’m going to write pop songs. I actually wrote a pop song for Killing Monica and made a video, but it’s just not there yet. It takes a lot of time. I spent a while working on the song and then working with these engineers, but I put it down. Eventually I’ll go back to it.
Are you big into pop music?
Yeah, kind of! Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift … the go-to’s. I’m a big go-to pop listener.
What have you been up to this summer?
I’ve mostly been on a book tour and doing publicity. Now that’s kind of died down, but I’m still doing book events in England and North Carolina (for a book festival) in the fall. I also launched an Emoji keyboard app called “Candace Bushnell’s Emojination” that coincides with Killing Monica. And I’m writing another book now.
You know … it’s when I’m happiest.