Freelance Blog + writers on writing

5 Q's with Jennifer Belle

Actress-turned-writer Jennifer Belle is the author of Little Stalker , a comic novel about a thirtysomething Manhattan woman on the verge of a breakup. To celebrate the book's release (which is tomorrow, by the way), Jennifer will be at the Barnes and Noble in Chelsea to promote the book. She'll also be appearing on May 22 at Newtonville Books near Boston, on May 29 at Third Place Books (coincidentally, my fave West Coast book store) outside of Seattle, WA, and (perhaps) at a book store near you. This is her third novel, so she clearly knows a thing or two about writing. Urban Muse: Tell us where you got the inspiration for Little Stalker. I understand many of the characters and situations are drawn from your own life?
Jennifer: I think I was obsessed with being jealous of certain writers who could write and do anything and not care what anyone thought of them, in other words I think I was obsessed with men. Their ability to justwork, write, create, quickly, no matter what else was going on aroundthem. So I think I thought of this girl, my main character, Rebekah, feeling stuck and looking outside herself for help. All I know is I set out to write my most autobiographical book, about a writer, and it ended up being me least autobiographical with this strange plot about a girl writing letters to the director she's obsessed with. I've never written a fan letter in my life.
UM: What advice do you have for aspiring novelists or essayists?
My advice to anyone who wants to write a novel is to not worry about having a big plot or idea or even something important to say. All you need is the desire to express yourself. I say, pick a character whois as close to you as possible and, working in scenes, make thatcharacter have adventures. Start in the middle, not at the beginning, and think of these scenes or adventures as bricks that you aregathering, that you will gather for a long time, long before you startto put up your house. I think the big plot will come, the ideas, the themes. But just start somewhere and keep going.
UM: Your publicity materials mention that "the term chick lit has setwomen writers back hundreds of years." Care to explain?
J: The term chick-lit degrades literature written by women, causes usto be taken less seriously once again, and to make less money. If it continues we'll have to start writing under pseudonyms again. I knowI'm a little too intense on this topic, but Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath,Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys would be called chick-lit today.
UM: What was it like negogotiating film rights for your first book with Madonna?
Well, I was a huge fan. Huge, huge, as they say in Hollywood. I'dbeen to see Truth or Dare in the theater three times. There were four other producers bidding, but when I got a call from her just as I got out the shower in my tenement apartment, I just couldn't not go with her. I met her in LA when she was pregnant with Lourdes, and she gaveme the news that she wanted me to write the screenplay, and she was going to direct, and we would be working closely together in her apartment in New York. I've never met anyone more intuitive, like she had hundreds of tentacles all over her body. She wasn't analytical, or logical, yet she was always right. I'd say it was one of the happiest times of my life, coming home to my answering machine with messages from Con-ed and the phone company saying I was being turned off, and from Madonna telling me to see this movie or that movie or asking me to call her. One weird thing was I always wore my best bra and panties when I met with her. I don't know why. It wasn't that I thoughtsomething was going to happen... I guess with Madonna you just want to be prepared for anything.
UM: What writers inspire you? Why?
J: I love the women I mentioned, plus Nabokov, Salinger, Chekhov, filmmakers like Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach. And ofcourse, old television sit coms, I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore, I think I learned a lot about writing from that.Thanks and congrats on the book, Jennifer! Check back next week for more fabulous writers.

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5 Q's with Jennifer Belle + writers on writing