August 22, 2006

3? with StephanieLehmann

I need a little LOGO for 3 Questions. Like something with a ? or a 3Q kinda thing? ANYWAY. Best Beloveds, TODAY! is my last guest blogging spot over at Literary Chicks, so feel free to drop by and discuss pRon and the comparative merits of The Manty. In other words, I am over there talking about the upcoming television season...

AND HOW APPROPRIATE IS THAT? Because, here, today, for your delectation, I have ensnared the lovely and talented Stephanie Lehmann, whose blog is CALLED Anything Good On? and today she TOTALLY nailed what's wrong with S3 of Project Rnway which is, obviously, that they Auf'd Allison instead of that SNOOZEFEST OF ROBERTHOOD or that FOAMING BORE Vincent. Ah well, VIVA LA ULI and HIP HIP HU-MICHAEL, we must all carry on...

Appropriately, Stephanie's new book, You could Do Better is about a curator at The Museum of Television & Radio. I'll let Stephanie tell you about it, but BookList says, "...things don't sort themselves out the way Daphne wants them to in this very funny tale. And just when it seems that it's all about the laughs, Lehmann switches gears and introduces true poignancy."

JJ: How important is location to you as a writer, or, a better way to say that might be, could these books be set anywhere else?

SL: Location seems to be important to me, in that all four of my books are set in New York City and could not take place anywhere else. I grew up in San Francisco, but I can’t imagine setting a book there. People there are way too relaxed. I like to call them “mindless pleasure seekers.” All the angst of New York City definitely inspires me. Something about having lots of people around who I don’t need to talk to is very comforting. Even when I was growing up in SF, if I was feeling lonely or depressed – and could tear myself away from my TV set -- I used to go downtown and walk around to cheer myself up. So it's like I was happy to find a city that's "all" downtown. In my first novel, THOUGHTS WHILE HAVING SEX, the main character has moved to New York to have a play produced.

In my second novel ARE YOU IN THE MOOD? an actress who lives in the East Village gets married and moves to the Upper East Side and then looks for an apartment on the Upper West Side; the city is almost a character in itself. In my third novel THE ART OF UNDRESSING the main character grew up in midtown Manhattan just a few blocks away from where her mother worked in a strip club. Now she’s moving back into that same apartment with her mother while she goes to a culinary school to become a pastry chef. In YOU COULD DO BETTER the main character also grew up in New York City, and her job is at The Museum of Television and Radio, which is on 52nd Street. It’s kind of funny for me to think how I used to be afraid of the city. When I was a kid, I visited here with my parents and was totally intimidated. I didn't want to leave the hotel or walk down the street. I thought you had to be crazy to live here. Then I came here to go to NYU, felt right at home here, met my husband (who's from Long Island) and never wanted to leave. I think I like being a permanent tourist.

JJ: How did you research the history of television? Books and google? Did you have How did you research television? Books and google? Did you have to experience working in the museum to be able to write about it?


SL: YOU COULD DO BETTER is about a curator at The Museum of Television and Radio. I’d been there many times. The first time I went was because I was trying to get a job writing for ALL MY CHILDREN, and I wanted to watch some old episodes. They had some from the 60s and the 70s with the original ads still in. I was hooked. (Didn’t get the soap job, though.) When I was trying to come up with a new book idea, I thought how it would be fun to write a novel about a character who works there. So I interviewed a curator there, and also someone who works in the viewing library. I also went there a bunch and watched old shows – grueling research! I also read every book I could find on the history of television. The Performing Arts Library is right in my neighborhood and was a great resource. My main character is obsessed with television pop culture, and through her the book actually gives a little mini-history of television. I showed the book to someone who works at the museum, and she said it was amazing I'd never worked there because I captured it so well, so I felt pretty good about that.

JJ: Tell us about your relationship with television. How does your life intersect with the book?

SL: When I was growing up, like my main character, I was addicted to TV, and it was definitely something I turned to in order to escape reality. I was particularly attached to the screen when I was going through puberty, which was also the time period when my older sister was in and out of the hospital. (She had Hodgkins Disease.) The TV, pitiful as it may sound, was always there for me. I had my own black and white portable by my bed, and I watched it every night, often falling asleep to Johnny Carson. I’d often wake up in the middle of the night to static, or the sound of God Bless America and a flag waving. It's easy to forget that the stations went off the air at night! Anyway, I think it's inevitable that I would create a character who's turned to television because of emotional trauma. After all, my writing has also been a way of exploring my feelings and escaping. Which I guess means I'm escaping reality by writing about a character who escapes reality.


Posted by joshilyn at August 22, 2006 10:41 AM

I love that title! Sounds like a great read. I'm so glad you do this, Joshilyn.

Posted by: ZaZa at August 22, 2006 5:32 PM

Just so happens I am looking for something else to read. An excuse to go to the bookstore!

Posted by: kim at August 22, 2006 9:06 PM

Since when do we need an excuse to go to the bookstore? If we do, then I'm in big trouble. Those people know me by name. I think they may even re-name one of their big comfy chairs after me.
But yeah, this book sounds pretty cool. And since I happen to know that I get to spend at least FOUR hours, sans wee ones, in a bookstore in DC tomorrow, I now know what to grab while ingesting my java.

Posted by: dee at August 23, 2006 12:16 AM

I absolutely giggled out loud, when I read the last paragraph, where she states about "I’d often wake up in the middle of the night to static, or the sound of God Bless America and a flag waving. It's easy to forget that the stations went off the air at night!"

If you write as good as you interview....looks like I'll be poor soon, but will own lots of books!!

Good gosh, I think I woke my neighbour!!


Posted by: North at August 23, 2006 2:44 AM

Ok, so I was meeting friends in DC yesterday and had some time to myself, so I headed for a B&N and bought this book. Of course, I finished it just a few minutes ago and had to tell you that it was interesting. I think I need to read it again. But I DID buy it, and I DID read it. So. That's something. Thanks for the suggestion, and I'm going to get Stephanie's other books and read them as well.

Posted by: dee at August 24, 2006 11:27 AM