What does my new book have to do with Candace Bushnell’s shoes?
I met Candace Bushnell a couple of years ago when I was asked to interview her on stage at The Lark Theater. I was extremely intimidated and it took me something like five days of outfit planning and a whole box of Rembrandt teeth whitening strips just to get to begin to get mentally ready.
Candace arrived at The Lark Theater rockstar-late, chain-smoking, possibly tipsy, impossibly thin, unfairly charming, and of course, wearing spectacular shoes. I arrived nervously early, stone sober, teeth hypersensitive from all that whitening, wiping my sweaty armpits with a piece of Kleenex I found in my car and, luckily, also wearing über-chic footware. Even more über-chic, I thought, than Candace Bushnell’s. Imagine that.
The killer shoe thing gave me the boost of confidence I needed and, thusly, I was able to conduct the interview while projecting a façade of utter poise and élan.
Candace and I sat in the spotlight chatting about this and that (honestly I don’t remember much because of the nervousness-induced amnesia), but I do remember that I had come to the stage armed with not only my gorgeous pair of Pradas, but the knowledge that my interviewee had just signed a book deal to write The Carrie Diaries, the pre-prequel to SATC – the younger days of our favorite foursome of friends.
When I asked her about it, she answered in a way you’d expect an impossibly thin, possibly tipsy, chain-smoking, mega-wealthy author/producer/other important stuff person to answer – she seemed to have absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Well, so there went about twenty minutes of what I’d hoped Candace and I would be talking about on the stage at The Lark, but for weeks I kept thinking about the fab four and their younger days.
I’d already begun work on my own kinda diary-book-thing (and when I say “begun work” I mean four notebooks of emo scribble-babble started and almost immediately abandoned when I was still in high school). So when Dan Ehrenhaft approached me about writing a YA series, I pulled out the old notebooks and the vague memory of a very odd interview with Candace Bushnell and her less-great shoes.
Now I love the Sex and the City friendship. I love the cocktails. I love the clothes. I love the hair. I love the closets. But most of all, I love them. There are days when I wish I could call Miranda and get some sensible advice, meet Charlotte at Neiman’s to talk female issues, go bar-hopping in an up-to-there couture frock with Samantha, then sit down at my typewriter with my mass of Garnier Nutrisse curly blonde locks to write something pithy, vulnerable and wise: “As we speed along this endless road to the destination called who we hope to be, I can’t help but whine, ‘Are we there yet?’”
Almost every female I know can see herself in one of these characters – or an amalgamation of more than one of them. Like I may have mentioned or at least heavily alluded to, I like to imagine myself a ‘Carrie’ with her quirky, mismatched, yet impeccably sophisticated sense of style, her not-to-beautiful-to-hate good looks, her charming insecurities and, I’ll just say it, her extremely perky boobies. But in truth, I’m often more a ‘Miranda’: wound up too tightly, perennially PMS-ing, and waging a war between work and life and losing at both. I’d like to say I have some ‘Charlotte’ in me: Upper East Side ready, innocent and romantic, hopelessly optimistic and unequivocally pretty. But there never was much Charlotte in me. Sorry, I’m just not a Charlotte kinda girl. I’m definitely a Samantha when I can muster her up: when the world feels like it should revolve around me, when I can’t help thinking about the naughty bits of my yoga instructor, when I can pick myself up, brush myself off and keep on walking even though my 5” heel just broke off.
So even though it’s been out for a while now, the Carrie Diaries is not on my bookshelf nor do I plan to put it there. Why spoil the fantasy? But I did spend some time as I was preparing to write The Aristobrats thinking about the qualities that shape characters like those, characters that are able to make such an indelible mark on our emotional landscape. So much so that we wish they were our own friends.
So what would they have been like in their early teens?
Like the older versions of themselves, Samantha, I thought, would be unabashedly self-centered and flirtatious, in denial of any faults she might have and undyingly loyal. I thought Charlotte probably would have channeled her romantic hopefulness into obsessing over what college she’d get into, never getting in trouble for anything, and championing the unfair and unjust. I pictured Miranda a mini-me of what she is now: at odds with her own femininity, quietly smart, and in desperate need of a well-padded bra.
They are not perfect women and they probably weren’t perfect girls. It’s easy to make a list of what they’ve done that we don’t approve of, glaring mistakes that they can’t seem to stop making, or what they’ve worn that we wouldn’t be caught dead in (I mean “you” when I say “we” because I would happily be caught dead in anything they’ve worn).
And in recent years, a.k.a. the zillion-dollar movie franchise, they’ve become glossier than we’d hoped, less fault-filled, more manicured. But in the end, the answer is simple: we love them because they love each other.
So I set out to write characters like that. With super white teeth. Who wear great shoes.
Jennifer Solow, bestselling author of THE ARISTOBRATS
Which Aristobrat Are You? Take the Quiz.
Watch the trailer here.