Is Candace Bushnell Finally Sick of Being Carrie Bradshaw?

Candace Bushnell at her Connecticut Home, Courtesy Grand Central Publishing.

Legendary Manhattan It-girl, best-selling author, and the woman responsible for Manolo Blahniks being strapped to the feet of women everywhere, Candace Bushnell has made a career of writing gossipy novels that rip back the curtain on Manhattan’s social elite.

Lately she may have traded in some of her Prada with a move to rural Connecticut (across from Alexander Calder’s old studio), but the allure of Manhattan still inhabits her work. Her new book Killing Monica is raising some over-plucked eyebrows because of its premise: Pandemonia “PJ” Wallis is the glamorous New York author of a wildly successful series of books-turned-films about a sultry heroine named Monica, but now PJ wants desperately to distance herself from books’ reputation—and from the actress who portrays her on the silver screen. Sound familiar? Uhh-huh. Candace insists that her life was not an inspiration for Killing Monica in the slightest. We’ll take her at her word.

Here we speak with Candace over the phone in her West Village pied-à-terre about feminism in the arts, what she thinks about Tinder, and if, once and for all, she’s sick of being Carrie Bradshaw.

Since we’re talking on the phone, I have to start off by asking: what are you wearing?

Oh my lord. I’m wearing Feel Good flip-flops, purple Lulu Lemon yoga pants, cropped just below the knees, a gray t-shirt with thin straps, and a pink shirt that says, “Turks and Caicos Sporting Crop at Ambergris Cay” that’s made for fishing. This is my usual sort of outfit.

What originally got you into writing?

I knew I wanted to be a writer from an early age, and I can’t exactly say why, but I come from a creative family. My father is a scientist, he had gotten a patent to make something they used in the first Apollo space rocket and he was considered a genius, so I grew up in the sort of environment where creativity and making a contribution to mankind was something important. As a kid I had this weird thing where I’d try to get into someone’s skin and feel what they’re feeling and know what they’re thinking, and I think that’s one of the things that makes people want to become writers.

Why do you chronicle the social stratosphere of metropolitan women in particular?

I was always fascinated by books about people in New York, like Eloise, and it just resonated with me and I just so wanted to live in New York, even before I had ever been there. Once I arrived, I immediately started writing short stories about being in New York, all the different characters there, and all the societal aspects fascinated me. And I love books about society like Anna Karenina and Edith Wharton’s books, so those books were always the kinds of books I wanted to write. It was really just about pursuing my instincts as a writer.

Your new book Killing Monica seems very roman à clef — a woman who wants to escape the reputation a fictional version of herself has taken on the big screen. There seem to be obvious parallels to your own life and work; is this an accurate analysis?

You know, I’m always very confused by that question. I’m always interested and think “Oh God, people see me that way.” I don’t see myself that way. And for me as a writer, my inspiration comes from other books. People always think that writers get their inspiration from “real life,” but I actually don’t. It comes from other books. It’s like being a musician — you get your inspiration from the great artists who come before you. And it’s the same thing with actors, too, they get their inspiration from other actors. So in this particular book, I was inspired by Philip Roth, and I think it’s sad to me that you feel that way, and I think you missed all the great wonderful things in the book and the great writing. Do you remember that tennis scene? I mean you have to read that scene and think, “this is a great scene.”

Killing Monica

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell, Courtesy Grand Central Publishing.

I just think, given the subject matter, it’s natural for people to make that connection when they’re first getting into the book.

People are going to make whatever connection they’re going to make, and I don’t have any control over that. I only have control over my work, my art, and where my creative voice is taking me. So for me, Killing Monica is a farce. My influences on this book were Philip Roth, Groucho Marx — It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

That’s where I got my inspiration and for me, this was an experimental book. It started off as being very, very surreal and I really wanted to make something that would pop — that had a ’70s, bright-colored, Pop Art feel to it. And that’s why I added that line of emojis to the book, and I even wrote a theme song for it, and I’m making a music video and hiring dancers.

Could you expand a little more on the world you’ve created, and are continuing to create with Killing Monica?

When I was writing the book — I can’t even tell you where the book took me, like there was one point when Pandy went on a psychedelic trip and she thought she was 17, and it’s just crazy stuff — I just had to go with my imagination. I started listening to a lot of pop music again, and I loved the female empowerment of the pop singer. I feel like its one of the few places where women are allowed to truly speak their voice. And in TV, movies, books, you just don’t see that level of empowerment.

So I started listening to it again, and then as soon as I handed in the manuscript for Killing Monica, this weird thing came over me where I had to learn GarageBand. I’m not kidding. It only took me about two or three hours to learn, and I started playing around with and thought that I really needed to write a theme song for Killing Monica.

Since you’re learning GarageBand and created a line of emojis, I’m sure you’re keeping up with the innovations of social media today. You know what Tinder is, right?

I have a swipe right/swipe left emoji in my line, but here’s the thing — it’s important to remember that these apps were created by men, and all the coding and etc. were also created by men, so if you really want to use those tools, they have a certain male logic to them.

It would just be wonderful if we had female inventors who — and I’m gonna get in trouble for this — would put more of a female logic to these apps. I mean you’re always getting explanation from a man, not a woman. And for some women, that’s a boundary at the point of entry. It would be like asking a man to come to a girl’s night for a few hours and say nothing.

Is there pressure to be a strong female voice in the writing world, for yourself and as an example for other women?

I always thought that the very best feminism was to be the very best person, and woman. It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, all that matters is being your best self. To me, that’s inspiring to women.

I think it’s about empowering women to be self-actualized. There are a lot of messages out there about who you’re supposed to be and who you’re supposed to look like, and I think it’s important for women to find self-esteem through outlets other than their looks. We certainly do have that, but I think it would be great if we had just a little more than that.

Do you ever get sick of getting compared to Carrie Bradshaw or having that relationship at all?

No, I really don’t. Sex and the City is something I wrote a long time ago, and it just really took off, and it felt like the world was turning on the same axis as Sex and the City at the time. But there’s such a strong entertainment factor added to it that I don’t see in my own skin, so watching the TV show I’m just like, “Oh, that’s so great!” So all these things are fine, they don’t bother me. I have such a strong sense of self and I know what’s real and what isn’t, and my work is just my guiding light. And who knows, Killing Monica could be sold to the movies and become a huge thing, too. And if that happens, then I’ll just continue writing my next book.

Killing Monica is on sale today from Grand Central Publishing.

 

It’s Time To Finally Break Up With ‘Sex and the City’

Dear Sex and the City, exactly where would this world be without you? How would we function, define ourselves and know how to act when it comes to dating in New York City? How would we know how to exist, in general, in accordance to the laws of life, if it had not been for you?

Without you, all of us would be nothing. We wouldn’t be capable of realizing our own dreams or understanding such important terms like “frenemies,” or “tookus-lingus.” We wouldn’t be able to pigeonhole ourselves into only one of four types of women—as clearly, only four types exist—nor would the world be able to reference you on a daily basis. You were great in your heyday, Sex and the City, but like every relationship with an iconic (yes, it’s often called this) TV series, we’ve seen better days. It’s time we break-up; it’s time we all, every one of us, break-up with you and move on with our lives. In fact, we shouldn’t even keep in touch. You’re ruining everything.

When HBO’s Girls first aired, the show was immediately dubbed Sex and the City for women in their 20s. Hannah is to Carrie, as Marnie is to Miranda, as Shoshanna is to Charlotte, as Jessa is to Samantha, and there’s little space to argue it. As for the “Big” role, you can’t completely equate that character to Hannah’s Adam Sackler, but considering the initial unattainable vibe and the challenge it was to get him to be her boyfriend, there are definitely more than a few parallels. And just as it was when Sex and the City first aired on HBO in 1998, women are yet again defining themselves by these characters. In 1998, I was Carrie with a dash of Samantha; in 2012, I’m Hannah with a dash of Jessa. If I don’t use HBO characters to explain myself, I lose all sense of meaning. I might, god forbid, have to be me.

No matter where you live, it’s probably hard to get through a day without a mention of or a reference to a Sex and the City situation. Every time someone has a break-up it’s compared to Carrie and Big, when your friend does something that might fall under the tier of promiscuous, she’s pulled a “Samantha,” and if I have to listen to my friend Matthew go on and on anymore about the “hot French twinks in that episode where Carrie is in France with the short Russian,” I may scream. However, I’ll be a hypocrite in doing so; I’ll probably quote the series at some point within the next 48 hours. It will awkward and embarrassing, but it’s sometimes all I know. I am the Sex and the City generation (http://thegloss.com/culture/sex-and-the-city-middle-age-women-830/), and if I wasn’t, it wouldn’t matter because it’s still everywhere. What poster does Girls’ character Shoshanna have on her wall in her apartment? How old would she have been when the show premiered? About 11 or 12—maybe even younger.

Whenever a series that’s about single people in a city launches on any network, Sex and the City is used as an explanatory analogy. It’s as though a show that centers around the lives of single men and women can’t stand on its own without this comparison. From Girlfriends (about African-American ladies, although canceled in 2008) to Lipstick Jungle (another Candace Bushnell novel) to Hunting Season (on LOGO now about gay fellas), all of these shows found themselves labeled with “the Sex and the City for [insert a demographic here.]” It’s exhausting, boring and unoriginal to boot.

The only way we can break free of this and escape the never-ending semblances is to make a pact with ourselves and the rest of world to kick our Sex and the City addiction. The world functioned just fine long before Carrie Bradshaw and company penetrated our homes through the television, so we can live that way again. We can live in a Sex and the City-free society if we really want to, and honestly, we’ll be better for it.

Although hard at first, break-ups actually lead to good eventually. We’re able to get ourselves back, appreciate time with our real life friends as opposed to douchy television characters that are unable to love us in return, and we’ll finally be forced to use maybe, oh I don’t know, literature or art as a means to quell heartbreak or justify everyday mishaps as opposed to Carrie’s drama. People will stop living out the dreams that were prescribed to them by a show that’s been over for eight years now. It will be glorious! We will live again! We will be free.

The next time you find yourself mid-conversation with someone and something that could be equated to Sex and the City comes up, stop yourself. You can have the thought, you can even allow the words to do some dallying around on the tip of your tongue, but that’s where it should come to an end. This isn’t just a one-on-one break-up; this is a group break-up. We can’t do it alone; we need everyone in on this one if we’re to get through it with our sanity intact. All break-ups have some negative residual effect at first, and Ben & Jerry’s can’t solve everything.

So who’s in? Can we finally kick the SATC ladies to the curb?

Follow Amanda Chatel on Twitter.

Let the SATC Prequel Casting Rumors Begin

Just when you thought the Sex and the City franchise had swilled its last round of cosmos, SATC author Candace Bushnell revealed an interest in having Selena Gomez play a younger version of Charlotte York in a big-screen prequel to her novels, entitled The Carrie Diaries and Summer in the City. Which seems fitting, given the starlet has barely graduated from Disney teenbop cuteness and Charlotte is delightfully naïve, even in her thirties.

Bushnell told The Daily Caller, “I’m going to get into trouble for this, but I was looking at some pictures of Selena Gomez today and thinking she’d make a really good young Charlotte. She’s so pretty. I was like…gosh, wouldn’t she be great? Am I right or wrong? I’m not good at this. If I say something like that, then the next thing I know, people are like, ‘no!”

There are also rumors that Blake Lively could play a youthful and inexperienced Carrie Bradshaw. We admit it: Selena Gomez is adorable and Blake Lively is…blonde, but didn’t the last SATC adjunct flop? It may be an uphill battle after the negative reviews SATC 2 received (save for these three starry-eyed critics), but this addition has the potential to actually being interesting, considering the ladies would be early-twenties sexpots not yet jaded by the whole struggling-in-New York thing.

After all, the four archetypes — the prep, the prude, the man eater, the narcissist writer — of the SATC crew are timeless. We’d like to see some other heat-seekers fill those roles. We’re thinking Jennifer Lawrence as Carrie, Mia Wasikowska as Miranda, Emma Stone as Samantha, and, um, Ashley Greene as Charlotte. Please share your own casting choices in the comments.

TGIF: Harlots, Hoodoo, and Hotel Griffou

Did some Nostradamus-type advertising guru from T.G.I. Friday’s invent textese, therefore predicting the SMS revolution me and my Blackberry are now celebrating? I went to the T.G.I. Friday’s website to check and was bombarded with heavy metal music and images of violently searing meat, bottle-tossing bartenders and sexy Midwestern waitresses. Too much before my morning lemonade. I’m in love with my Blackberry. It doesn’t mean I want to marry it, but I do plan on taking it on vacation. Some say I’ll have a better time if I leave her at home and go with some random gal, but I told them to gft.

My brain is indeed withering from the heat of my mid-summer night’s dreams. Last night, I attended the “Harlot Nights” party thrown by Collective Hardware’s very own Puck, Stuart Bronz. It was a stooopid hot event, with only two floor fans for a massive crowd of hipsters, dipsters, and scenesters. In midsummer you can tell how good a party is going to be by counting all the cute summer interns dressed up and doing important things. This party was no joke. There were gaggles of beautiful, sweaty women everywhere. As I sat in the big couch and chatted up all that I could, I was constantly reminded by an annoying intern of the “Win a Date With Steve Lewis” contest Blackbook was going to host for me way back when. I told the nosey intern that I was seeing someone on-line. I explained that I wake up most mornings and go to sleep most nights chatting up a sexy Facebook friend far, far away, and sometimes we text or SMS or tweet during the day. I told the squeaky intern that indeed I had “never met her in the flesh.” After this horrible intern stopped laughing in my very sweaty face, she asked me if that wasn’t “a bit two-dimensional.” I said it was sort of like dating a model. People were changing into bathing suits, hand-painted right there in front of me, and I guessed that and the sweltering heat and the obnoxious intern were the “harlot” part of this monster gala. Patrick McMullan took a thousand photos of me with the irritating intern and introduced me to his son, that hot boy about town Liam, for the thousandth time. I left, because I know when to leave.

Tonight, Noel Ashman is hosting a party for Candace Bushnell, who of course had that bestseller book-to-series-to-movie Sex and the City. This uber-hot event will be at Mr. West, which seems even farther west than when it opened. I saw on the Facebook page Noel posted that 23 people had agreed to attend. This was less than the 25 people who are members of the “Noel Ashman Screwed Me Out of Money (and I’m Suing)” group. If you add in the 1 member of the “Noel Ashman Slept With My Girlfriend and I’m Angry” group and the 3 members of the “Noel Ashman Is Not the King of New York” group, you can see that he is clearly outnumbered. However, if he rolls in with Chris Noth, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessie Bradford, Damon Dash, and other members of his loving and loyal investment group (ready to change nightlife as we know it any minute now), then it’s a push. Unless Ivy brings Scratt — but that’s a different story altogether. I contacted Noel for comment but got none. Could he have been shacked up with that guy’s girlfriend? I assure you that although most of you have no idea what just happened, there are others who are really enjoying this. It’s all on Google — or is it ggl? I love Noel Ashman. He is a frnd and not just of the FB variety. I may just go West to see him tonight.

I went to Hotel Griffou the other night. I was told the place was working out the kinks, and I should not judge it harshly. I guess when they fix the crowd, decor, lighting, and noise I will give it another look. When I mentioned this to the friend who brought me there, she made all these excuses and told me that “the food would be great when they work out the kinks … it’s new!” I used to pop into the place from time to time when it was the great secret hang Marylou’s. Jack Nicholson would enjoy a cigar there and was such a regular that when the smoking ban kicked in, Jack said he would pay the six figures to put in an air filtration system to keep things right. Alas, the city retreated from its approval of these systems because the ban is about employees as well as patrons, and cleaning up and such wouldn’t be fair to these people. I was told not to say bad things about the place, so I decided that every time someone says “Hotel Griffou,” I will just say, “god bless you.” See you l8r.