Your book just came out this week. Congratulations, you must be thrilled!
The standard response I give to this is either, “I am,” or “Yes” or possibly just a fist bump. But you’ve caught me at a vulnerable moment so I’m going to tell you the truth: this week was rough. Every time a book comes out, it’s rough and I told myself this time was going to be different. It was and it wasn’t.
I honestly think it is for most of us, unless we’re, say, named Kathryn Stockett. You work so hard on something and then you put it out there for the world to judge. And oftentimes it feels like you’re met with a deafening silence. My friend Richard always says how sorry he feels for people when their books come out.
Perhaps your expectations are just too high?
They are, certainly. They usually are. But what exacerbated circumstances with this one are that it’s a memoir and a deeply personal one at that. There are things I describe in there, about the way I was treated by my dad and the deepest insecurities I have, that I haven’t shared with close friends. And because it’s so specific and raw, people who have started writing their opinions about the book get so personal—saying things like, “Dear God, how can this girl fling herself into relationships the way she does?
But by writing what you did, you put yourself out there to be judged.
I did, and I’ve done it in a lot of essays and my first novel, which was largely autobiographical. And I really never respond to anyone who writes something negative about me but yesterday I wrote an email to this person who reviewed the book for a magazine called Bust. Her review was idiotic – she never mentioned my writing or voice but just said she didn’t believe the conclusion I came to. I wrote her that it was fine not to believe me but if she ever did another book review, she should review the material rather than just sharing her opinion on whether or not she believed the writer. She wrote me back that she was a fashion writer, that it was her first book review and that her editor had changed it to what it was. I appreciated her honesty but it’s insane to me that as writers we can devote ourselves to these book projects only to have this sort of thing count as a review.
Perhaps you’re not tough enough to be a writer?
It’s possible. The thing is, I’m really not that tough at all—which is something people tend not to believe. The other night, I went on this TV show called Red Eye that I’ve done a bunch of times and we did this interview about my book that mocked me a bit. And one of the guys on the show was worried I was going to be offended. I wasn’t at all—I thought it was hilarious—but my point is that another guy on the show said, “I knew we didn’t have to worry about Anna—she’s tough as nails.” Tough as nails! I’m the most sensitive human being alive!
If that’s true, then why put yourself through this?
I’m not entirely sure. But I do believe it’s all part of my process—of healing or making sense of things. I also really enjoy writing. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do and I’m thrilled to both read and write sentences that are made up of the perfect words. I love words. I even get them stuck in my head.
That can happen? You get them stuck in your head like their songs?
Yes. It’s weird. I’ll have one stuck there for a day or so. It’s always a word that sounds interesting or is fun to say. Like onomatopoeia, say. Or ameliorate.
Wow, that’s really weird.
What do you want people to know about your new book?
That it’s good. And that I put everything I had into it. And that’s not always the case. I thought my second book was terrible—at a certain point I contemplated giving the advance back and asking that it not be published but instead I just kept rewriting and rewriting it. But I was never happy with it. So when I say that Falling For Me is good, you can believe me. And it’s actually my first book to get pretty much universally wonderful reviews—if you don’t count that Bust thing, which I don’t.
It’s one of those “I did something for a year” books, right?
Actually it’s not. I took everything Helen Gurley Brown wrote in 1962’s Sex and the Single Girl and followed the advice today. I didn’t, once a year had passed, revert back to how I’d been. The advice involved superficial things like redecorating my apartment and revising my wardrobe but it also meant changing the way I interacted with men and, ultimately, how I felt about myself. This was not a yearlong project. And honestly, what I learned from doing it and the changes I made will, I believe, always stay with me.
It sounds kind of slight—like a fun beach read—yet you’re talking about this book like it’s very serious. Which is it?
It’s both. I think it is a bit more analytical and raw than your typical book like this. But I venture into light territory also: there are sections on bra re-fittings and speed dating events that won’t make anyone cry. A friend says that the book is much better than it needed to be—meaning it could have been all bra re-fittings and speed dating but it’s not. Now I’m worrying that I sound a little obnoxious repeating that with some other things I said.