PW interviewed Liftin by phone two weeks after she moved with her husband, a former writer for David Letterman, to L.A. Both are pursuing careers as writers for television.
PW: What made you decide to try a career as a TV writer?
Hilary Liftin: After I finished the book [Candy and Me], I was thinking about going to business school. My husband was writing for Letterman and I began to think I could do that, too. I'd like to write for dramas, though. I love comedy, but sitcoms are all about set up, set up. I would like to write for a drama that involves humor. There are a lot of good writers in L.A., but unfortunately, most of them end up writing bad TV.
PW: Is candy still in your life?
HL: Yes, but right now I'm limiting it to once a week. I go through phases, and I felt I needed to limit it at this point in my life.
PW: But in the book, you don't seem to regard candy as a problem. You mention some concern about weight, but only in passing. You see a shrink in the book, who terminates your treatment and says she doesn't think you have a psychological problem with your candy addiction.
HL: (Laughs) Well, my shrink hasn't read the book yet. She may change her mind once she does. My mother read it and got all maternal. She wrote me a long letter, saying, "You just can't eat cups full of sugar!" I said, "But, Mom, that was in the beginning of the book when I was a kid. I don't do it any more!" As I get older and my metabolism has changed, I do have to be concerned about weight. Also, my mother, who I discovered shared my sugar addiction, is pre-diabetic, so she is being very careful about what she eats. It runs in the family, so it's not the best addiction for me to have.
PW: Why did you dismiss those issues in the book with "I don't want to think about them"?
HL: I didn't want the book to be a book about weight. I wanted it to be a life metaphor. As the book goes along, the relationship with sugar becomes more complicated. I wanted each chapter to feel like a nugget. The illustrations of a different candy at the beginning of each chapter are meant to say "here's another taste" — some more sour, some more sweet. For me, candy is a memory trigger and I wanted the book to be a candy necklace of memory.
PW: Was it your idea to include the illustrations?
HL: Yes. I had the idea of the full-page illustrations—the candy map, the timeline and the fireball—and even had the illustrator in mind. It was fun working with him. I'd get calls from him, saying, "I can't find Meltaways anywhere." It's difficult to describe a Meltaway in enough detail for someone to be able to draw it. In the ARC and the galley, the illustrations are in a pinkish purple. Free Press has decided to change that to black and white for the actual book. Their feeling is that the color will make the book seem less serious. They also don't want it to seem like it's exclusively a "girl's book."
PW: The cover is beautiful.
HL: I love it, too. It happens that the image of the peppermint on the cover was shot by a photographer who has recently devoted himself completely to taking pictures of candies.
PW: The ARC came out in February. What kind of reactions have you received?
HL: Every time someone talks to me about the book, they talk about their own candy memories. I've found this love of candy is not uncommon. In fact, my brother has built a beautiful part of my Web site (www.hilaryliftin.com) that allows people to submit their own candy memories. It's set up so you can go in by a particular candy and read all the memories related to that particular candy.
PW: You've currently got 51 customer reviews on Amazon for your first book, Dear Exile. Most of them are raves. How do they make you feel?
HL: I loved those reviews. If you get enough feedback on your book, you get an idea of what the book was that you wrote. In the beginning, I would check the site every day to see what people were saying. I even wrote to some of the reviewers to thank them!