Freelance Blog + writing

5 Q's with Anna David

Party Girl author Anna David is a former partier herself, but now her drunken adventures are confined to the page. She's contributed to the New York Times, Cosmo, Self, and Women's Health, among many other publications. Her debut novel was released last week. Read my commentary here and see below for insight into Anna's success.
Urban Muse: You've written about very intimate topics like dating, sex, and drug use. How do family and friends react?
My family has warmed up to the intimacy of my topics slowly. They were as reticent as any mildly protective, primarily private Jewish parents would be when I first got into the habit of potentially horrifying them with my first Playboy story about my sex life a few years ago. Because the piece was accompanied by some risqué shots, I actually explained to them that they were forbidden to look at the magazine, though my mom sent my step-dad out to the newsstand and he reported back that she didn't need to lock herself in the house and never come out -- that the writing was good and she had nothing to worry about.

I was nervous when I first gave my mom Party Girl to read and then she reacted so well -- barely mentioning the graphic sex and drug scenes and just complimenting me on the writing -- that I had a serious suspicion she hadn't really read it. I was recently home for some Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys readings, and many of the pieces that the other writers read were far bawdier than mine. It was a great awakening for my mom, who I think up until that point thought that she had given birth to the most shocking writer around. And my friends are divided into two camps: those who look at what I do with a sort of amazed delight over the fact that I'm so open about things they keep private, and those who do similar things through their blogs, stand-up comedy acts or own writing.
UM: How does writing for magazines differ from writing a novel?
When you're writing for a magazine, you're really a hired gun out to help make someone else's vision come true. The magazine has a specific voice they have to stick to, the editor usually has a clear idea about what she wants the piece to be, and you're there to fill in the rest. (Of course, there are exceptions -- when you're given free reign with an article -- but those experiences have been rare for me.) I remember when my agent first read Party Girl and said, "Well, I have some pretty major suggestions for changes," I imagined I'd be starting over again from page one, because that's what that sort of statement would mean if she were a magazine editor. Instead, she had three or four comparatively tiny edits that I could take care of in a day or two. I've definitely spent more time rewriting 1000-word magazine pieces because the editor kept changing her mind about what she wanted than I did rewriting my book. In general, I'd say the book world is far more respectful of the writer and the writer's vision.
UM: Since Party Girl is based on your experiences, where's the line between Anna David and Amelia Stone?
Amelia Stone is a fictionalized version of what I was like about ten years ago. Before I got sober, like most thoroughly self-obsessed people, I had absolutely no idea how self-absorbed I was. Sobriety for me has been as much about discovering how flawed and convoluted my thinking has always been as it's been about giving up alcohol and drugs. Anyway, that awareness made writing her a lot of fun: she keeps getting in her own way and creating her own misery because she literally lacks the capability to see anything outside her own tunnel vision. And tapping into that thinking almost felt like a vacation into being able to behave the way I did before I knew better. Of course, Amelia's life is also far more exciting than mine ever was -- the column I did called "Party Girl" certainly didn't make me into a well-known writer, going on The View and weighing offers to turn it into an HBO series. Premiere magazine actually discontinued the column and let me go when they decided it was "alienating" their core group of film buff readers!
UM: Now that you've written for the glossies, published a novel and appeared on network television, what's your next project?
I've written another novel, Kept, about high-class prostitution in Hollywood that we're negotiating to sell, and I'm eager to get started on a new novel. I have the basic idea and am hoping to go to a writer's workshop later in the summer to work on it. Of course, I'll continue to do my day job - blogging about reality shows for the Fox news website, answering sex and relationship questions on the G4 show Attack of the Show, and doing the occasional magazine piece.
UM: Journalistic ethics aside, which of the celebrities you've profiled would you most want to date?
Well, back when I was living the Amelia Stone life, I essentially looked at my job as a high-profile dating service and pitched editors stories on the actors I thought would be most likely to want to date me. After a handful of experiences, I've been restored to sanity and realized that generally speaking, dating an actor is an activity best left to the delusional -- or at least other actors. And truth be told, most of the time, meeting and interviewing them tended to be instant fantasy-killer. I'll never forget how nervous and excited I was to interview Viggo Mortensen, only to enter the hotel room and be instantly bowled over by how terrible his feet smelled (ed: ew!).

Thanks, Anna. Good luck with all your upcoming projects!

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5 Q's with Anna David + writing