What would you most like to be asked?
That, to me, is the perfect opening question to any interview. I wish more people would ask me about my writing process, rather than just about the content of my books. I certainly don’t mind being an advocate for bipolar disorder, but I consider myself a writer first.
Okay, fine. Where are you at this very moment, as you write this interview?
The same place I always write at — a little café in Beverly Hills called Le Pain Quotidien. I find I write better out of the house, away from tempting distractions. They let me sit here and scribble for hours, just me and a latte and a cup of gazpacho. I’m so grateful to the café I mention it in the acknowledgements of my last book. Come to think of it, I also referred to it in the epilogue of my first book. I’m a café junkie, I guess.
It’s a pretty crowded place. Isn’t it too noisy to write?
I wear earplugs, plus they always play classical music, which doesn’t bother me. I have a certain rhythm in my head when I write, and classical doesn’t interfere with that. Rock and jazz and more contemporary types of music, especially anything with lyrics, totally wreck my pacing. Some people’s voices, if they’re too loud and nasal, also derail me. Since when did it become okay to shout in public? I think everybody should whisper — the world would be a much nicer place, full of secrets.
So the café gave birth to two books. What are they about?
The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar is a childhood memoir about what it was like to grow up with a disease that at that time had no name. I had no diagnosis, I just knew that there was something very, very wrong with me. The book starts with a suicide attempt when I was seven years old, and continues with my increasing struggles with mood swings, alcohol, cutting and other self-destructive behaviors. It ends when I’m eighteen years old, on my way to college. I had gained a certain amount of insight by then, and was sure I was leaving all my problems behind me — which of course, I didn’t.
Manic: A Memoir covers my adult life with bipolar disorder. I describe how I managed to be a successful entertainment attorney, representing the likes of Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones and major motion picture studios, while secretly battling this devastating illness. I also examine the impact of the illness — and my secrecy — on my relationships with various men. I like to say that Manic was written from the inside out: I tried to give the reader a visceral sense of what it’s really like to be bipolar.
Are you manic right now?
Nobody ever asks me that, although I think they secretly want to. I suspect they’re afraid of insulting me. The answer is no, I’m not manic at this time. You would know if I was: I’d be writing so fast there’d be no time for punctuation or grammar. When you’re manic, you have to get your thoughts out of your head THIS VERY MINUTE, or you feel like you’ll explode. Although I get an awful lot down on the page when I’m manic, I later discover that most of it is gibberish.
Do you think there’s a reason that you’re bipolar?
You mean like a higher purpose, a destiny? At the risk of sounding pretentious, absolutely. I attempted suicide on a grand scale on a number of occasions. I never should have survived, never in a million years. I think there has to be a reason why I’m still alive. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s to tell my story and allow others to learn from it, and to feel less alone. It’s possible that I’m deluding myself, but I rather like this delusion, so I’m sticking with it.