Think Candace Bushnell, and you think of actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her swirling pink tutu dress getting splattered with mud by a passing bus. Through Sex and the City—the book and the HBO television series—Bushnell brought up issues of women’s sexuality and, even more important, women’s friendships in a way that hadn’t been done before. Who better to be part of a panel about telling women’s stories? Today, 11:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m., in Room 1A23, Bushnell, whose latest novel is Killing Monica, will join writers Elin Hilderbrand (The Rumor), Emily Holleman (Cleopatra’s Shadow), and Lily Koppel (The Astronaut Wives Club), to discuss their motivations, writing habits, favorite writers and books, publishing in the e-book era, and much more.
While Bushnell doesn’t mind being pigeon-holed by her Carrie Bradshaw fans—“I am definitely not complaining”—she doesn’t mind having a little fun skewering her public persona. Killing Monica (she is also the author of Lipstick Jungle, Trading Up, and One Fifth Avenue) plays with the idea of a renowned writer whose novels about Monica, a young woman making her way in Manhattan, have spawned a series of blockbuster films. Hmmm, that sounds a little familiar...Killing Monica is not a bitter diatribe about a trapped artist. “I took elements of my life as a jumping-off point, but the rest really is an outrageous comic novel that satirizes fame and all that stuff. It’s got a lot of hijinks and plot twists. It’s really fun. I took reality and revved it up about 10 paces,” she says gleefully. “I like to not know how it’s going to end when I am writing. I like to be surprised. As one of the characters says, who wants reality? Reality is free and depressing.”
When Bushnell is deep into writing, she lives in parallel existences: reality and the world that is unfolding in her head in Technicolor. She says, “It’s about creating a whole cast of characters I’ve never met, places I’ve maybe only visited once. Real life is just not important. I might use snippets from it. If I do it right, it will feel real and believable to readers. But it’s not real.”
Asked how she feels about being held up as a trailblazer in women’s fiction, she pauses. “I don’t think that I am. However, I was one of the first to show publishers that women writers will sell. When I was growing up, women who wrote children’s books were asked to use only their initials because supposedly boys wouldn’t buy a book written by a woman. In the 1970s, when I was first trying to get my stuff published, I was told, no one is interested in a book about women in New York City. I suppose in the sense of being determined to go around all of these obstacles, I was a bit of a trailblazer. And I am proud of that.”
This article appeared in the May 31, 2015 edition of PW BookCon Daily.