February 24, 2012
You have gone on record saying you’re a big fan of television. That’s odd for a writer, no? Shouldn’t you be reading?
My childhood was not idyllic and while I very much found solace and escape in books, I also found it in television. I try to read before bed every night. But television, yes, I do watch it.
In particular, you’re a fan of the “Real Housewives of <insert city name>” series. Why?
I did not make the kindergarten cut-off when I was turning five and so I got to spend that extra year home with my mother. I remember that in the afternoons we would watch Coronation Street (this was in Montreal and so we had mostly Canadian stations that also played shows from the UK). It was probably wildly inappropriate for a five-year-old to watch such a show, but it was my first soap opera I was hooked. In particular, I was fond of the tragic barmaid, Bet Lynch, who fits the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold archetype (she wasn’t actually a hooker, but you get what I mean). And when I think about her now, she would fit in nicely with my other characters in Echolocation.
Coronation Street was my gateway drug to other soap operas which became available to me once we got a better antenna and could watch some American channels. Then there was The Doctors, which was a 30 minute soap. And, my god, Another World, which was utterly smashing with the always dramatic love between Rachel and Mac, who were continuously in danger of being manipulated by Mac’s adult daughter, Iris. I watched this soap from childhood through my college years.
In high school, I got into Days of Our Lives. This was when the Bo and Hope and Patch and Kayla story lines were hatched. You could not have written better story-lines for a teenage girl desperate for love. What they had was exactly what I thought I wanted. Tempestuous, dangerous, passionate love. What I got instead was a few minutes in the backseat of someone’s car and phone calls that never came.
Okay, so then there were the night time soaps. Dallas (not a favorite of mine, but it would do in a pinch), Dynasty, and one short-lived one which I adored, Flamingo Road. Mark Harmon was the star and boy was he ever dreamy. And, of course, let’s not forget the mini-series to end all mini-serieses, The Thorn Birds. I loved the book, too, but the series was phenomenal. It had everything. My one quibble with it is that Richard Chamberlain wouldn’t have been my top choice casting choice for Father Ralph.
These shows were not just television to me, they were stories. As such, watching them did not detract from my desire to become a writer, they added to it. For a while, my secret dream was to become a writer for a soap opera.
So what does this have to do with the Real Housewives? Well, I’ve watched every single episode of every single one of the series (even the crappy ones that only lasted one season) and loved every minute of it. I know these are real people and not actors but I’m fascinated by the weirdness of their lives and what is important to them, like shoes and clothes and botox and gaudy houses. Don’t you see that they are soap operas?
What about movies?
I love movies but it’s been years since I’ve been to a theater. Partly, this is because I have a young son and when my husband and I do have a night out together we like to have time to talk, but also because I am filled with a murderous white-hot rage by how rude other people are in movie theaters.
In what other ways do people bother you?
I’ve mellowed a lot with age, but I still do not suffer a fool. The character trait that most bothers me, though, is passive-aggressiveness and I see it more and more, particularly on social media. People are reluctant to stand up and say how they feel in a face-to-face way–the way a Real Housewife would in her second season after she’d been pushed by producers to be more volatile–and instead save it for their status updates.
What do you love about people?
Right now, I spend most of my time with preschool-age kids and I have to say that they represent our best selves. If only we could remain so confident, emotionally available, and enchanted by life as they are then the world would be such a happier place.