For Dana Trocker and Christine Pride, it was a no-brainer. When the two Simon & Schuster employees saw that a central character on the TV show Younger, which is set in the world of New York book publishing, was releasing a novel, they wanted life to imitate art. So they made a call. Now Marriage Vacation, the book-within-the-show, is a real book that will release on the same day as the fifth season’s premiere: June 5.
Marriage Vacation is not the first novel to find life in a plot line on a TV show. Publishers have released books that grew out of soap opera plot lines. A character on Lost, who didn’t survive the fateful plane crash that launched the ABC series, also claimed a byline for a bestseller titled Bad Twin (Hyperion). But Marriage Vacation, a roman à clef written in the show by the character Pauline Taylor Brooks, and in real life by Jo Piazza, is different. It’s a first in so far as it’s a product of what is arguably the first TV show set entirely in the world of book publishing.
Though Hollywood has long been fascinated by writers, it’s remained decidedly less interested in the people who make their books a reality. But Younger has won over the hearts and minds of many in the industry for its sustained focus, albeit through rose-tinted lenses, on the book business. Created by Darren Star (who also created Sex and the City) and based on a novel of the same name by Pamela Redmond Satran, the show, which airs on TV Land, follows plucky 40-something Liza (played by Sutton Foster), who reinvents herself as a plucky 20-something in order to get an editorial assistant job at a publishing house after her marriage and New Jersey suburban life suddenly crumble.
Trocker, an associate director of marketing, and Pride, a senior editor, said they struck on the idea of making Marriage Vacation—a tell-all written by the absent-but-suddenly-returned wife of Liza’s boss and sometimes love interest, Charles—a real book because, they said, they’re “huge fans of the show.” The colleagues said that after seeing the book enter into the plot line of the show’s fourth season, they placed a call to Viacom about partnering to publish the title.
“It’s a commercially appealing idea for a novel without the show,” Pride said of the book, which follows a woman who, like the character credited with writing it, has something of a midlife crisis, abandoning her seemingly perfect Upper East Side existence as a wife and mother to pursue the professional dreams and goals she previously tossed aside.
And Star, for his part, was immediately drawn to the idea of Marriage Vacation becoming a real book. “When S&S reached out, I was beyond thrilled and flattered,” he said, adding that he “loved” that actual editors thought there was a book in the fictional novel he and his writing staff had cooked up.
But it shouldn’t surprise Star too much, as his show has gone to some pains to get publishing right. Although he readily admits the show is far from “an exhaustive study of publishing,” it regularly features subplots that reference recent industry trends. The show even tapped an industry veteran to help it depict the business in a more realistic way. The publishing consultant—his identity has remained a secret—looks over scripts and offers pointers on how to make references to the business more accurate. (Alas, in two instances, scenes where copies of PW were to make an appearance ended up on the cutting-room floor.)
Star said some off-camera promotions are in the works for the real Marriage Vacation, but the novel will get its biggest push from the fact that it plays a prominent role in the forthcoming season. “The book is important for season five,” Star explained, noting that it “changes the lives” of a number of the show’s main characters.
The Appeal of ‘Younger’
What is it that book people like so much about Younger? S&S staffers explained, sharing some of their favorite publishing references and plot lines from the past four seasons of the show.
“At the Hamptons Literary Festival, there is a panel about how Simon met Schuster. I feel like that would be a pretty short conversation, but it’s a delightful shout-out.”—Dana Trocker, associate director of marketing
“The #ShowUsYourOates campaign was genius; it was completely absurd, but also a hilarious representation of the lengths we’ll go to to get people talking about a book.” —Julianna Haubner, associate editor
“Using Younger as precedent, I’ve put in an official request for an editorial clothing budget—outcome is still TK.” —Zack Knoll, associate editor
“My favorite publishing moment is when Liza and Kelsey realize the Cat Marnell character isn’t writing her book and secretly sell her contract to another house at a profit—it’s a howler, but wouldn’t it be amazing if that was really allowed?” —Jofie Ferrari-Adler, executive editor
“For me the prize goes to the Edward L.L. Moore—ahem, George R.R. Martin—story line. It’s absurd and pokes fun at the industry in so many ways. I think it peaks at his turn writing under the female nom de plume Aubrey Alexis.” —Amanda Lang, publicity manager