Elizabeth Beckwith: The TNB Self-InterviewBy Elizabeth Beckwith
December 04, 2009
Elizabeth, in one sense your book, Raising The Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation is a satire, since it sort of skewers the genre of parenting books. Yet, the book actually has a lot of really great parenting tips. How on earth did you strike such a balance? Are you some kind of sick genius?
Oh, you are so sweet. I think this book came from such a real place, that it was actually very easy to find that balance. My number one goal with the book was to entertain people with funny stories about my family, and my youth growing up Catholic in Las Vegas, (the same stories that people have been loving for years in my personal life) and to disguise the whole thing as a twisted parenting guide. As the process went along I found that I actually had a lot of good advice for people. I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me since I have the best parents in the world, in a lot of ways this book is a love letter to them.
Do you feel weird about using real people from your life in your stories? Do you think this will come back to haunt you?
Let’s just say, If I were to do this again, I would have done more than just change the names of certain people, I would have “changed distinguishing characteristics” –which is a phrase I see a lot of in memoirs, but did not notice before I set out to write this book. I’m sure the phrase has been around forever, I just never thought about it, and always glanced over disclaimers at the start of books. But, now I see that and think, “shit, I should have done a little more of that changing distinguishing characteristics business!” I also see “some characters have been combined for the purposes of story-telling.” I really wish I had thought of that. Even if it weren’t true, I wish it said that at the beginning of my book. That way, someone could reason, “Oh, this character must be me combined with some asshole.” At times I do feel a twinge of bad conscience (to use my cousin Jim’s favorite phrase…see, there I go again, not appropriately shielding people’s identities!)
Is it just my imagination, or would this book make an amazing Christmas gift, stocking stuffer, or Hanukkah gift?
Great minds think alike, yes it totally would!
Since this is part memoir, part instructional satire, do readers sometimes confuse the first person narrative stuff with the fictional examples and think that you have a bunch of relatives even sicker than some of the real ones?
Yes! My own family has been grilling me about different parts, “Who is cousin Donny? Who is that supposed to be?” I have to explain that cousin Donny is totally made up, as are other examples in the faux instructional sections. Don’t get me wrong, there are some real things weaved into those sections as well, but I prefer to keep people guessing as to which are which.
You’ve mostly made a living writing comedy pilots for television, how is writing a book different?
Well, there’s a lot less “white on the page” when writing a book, so it was a much more intimidating process in the beginning. Screenplays and television scripts aren’t meant to be read, I mean, they are, but that’s not the final destination, so you don’t feel as obsessed over every single word of description as you do when writing a book. (Or, I should say, “I” since I am not speaking for every other human who has written a book and a script, OR AM I? Whatever, you get the idea.)
Is there talk of turning this book into a television series?
Yes, there has been talk, but right now it is just talk. Hopefully one day soon my dream of seeing a television version of my mother will be realized. She really is such an amazing, hilarious, strong character, and I believe that America is ready for her to be the center of a sitcom! They are clamoring for it! The only thing even close to my mother on television was Carmella Soprano. Growing up, my mother was kind of like Carmella Soprano, but without the guns hidden in the foyer, and with a much nicer husband. Don’t even get me started on the endless hilarity that is my father. I will not stop until there is a show that revolves around characters based on my parents. America, you can thank me later.
Wow, those are some pretty big proclamations, “America is ready…” “America, you can thank me later.” Don’t you worry that the satire impaired will not recognize the over-the-top comedic boastfulness inherent in those phrases and think you are a pompous jerk?
It’s funny you bring that up. Did you know that 12 million Americans are satirically impaired? But, together, we can do something to ease their burden. Please visit my website to find out how you can help (Jog-a-thon information to follow).
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, you have been a delight!
No, you have!
Thank God she wasn’t Livia Soprano… you could have been in big trouble.
That way, someone could reason, “Oh, this character must be me combined with some asshole.”
Damn it! I didn’t think people were smart enough to make that realisation. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go and edit some pieces…
ha! I love it!