You may know her best as the author of Sex and the City, but Candace Bushnell is so much more than that. A prolific novelist, columnist, and television producer, this triple threat has a new book, Killing Monica, that takes a lighthearted look at the ups and downs of fame. During BookCon, Candace took a few minutes to sit down with Bookish and chat about her newest novel. And, because we know you were all wondering, yes–Candace is every bit as well-heeled and fabulous in person as you would expect.
Bookish: You’re a prolific writer who has written both fiction and nonfiction. How do you approach writing in the two genres?
Candace Bushnell: My column was a mixture of fiction and journalism, and I did journalism and I wrote for women’s magazines. I had to pay the rent. I actually never imagined that I would write for magazines; I always thought that I would go directly to New York and become a novelist. And, in fact, I did actually sell a children’s book when I was 19. I just thought I would write fiction. The problem was, I didn’t come from a rich family that was going to support me, and also I was in a situation where I didn’t know anybody in publishing in New York. I really came to New York without any connections. And when I wrote for women’s magazines, what I wrote were precursors to the Sex and the City columns. I would interview some women and then I would write a little short story, magazines didn’t really publish short stories, so that was my way of getting around that.
Bookish: Your books are about strong women, which is part of what makes them so resonant. What do you think is the biggest problem facing women today?
CB: I think that the challenges that women are facing today have to do with men and violence. I think that it’s something that affects all women. Even the day-to-day disrespect that women can get on the streets, and in relationships, I think it’s very hurtful. It’s not great for self-esteem. I think that women still accept too many things from men because they don’t want to be alone. So, I think the biggest challenges facing women are figuring out how to become a whole actualized person, and yet somehow do the relationship thing. Because relationships, let’s face it—it’d be great if they were equal, but they’re still not.
Bookish: Do you think your work gives women a forum to talk about these issues more openly?
CB: For me, it’s always been really important that when women read my books, they think a different way. I want to change the dial a little bit on your thinking. That’s what Sex and the City is about, that’s what Lipstick Jungle is very deliberately about: the reality of being a career woman, and the real challenges that you have to face. I know that women want to read about love and relationships, and while those are certainly a part of my books, my larger goal is really to get women to think a different way, and not to accept what society tells them about how they have to think.
Bookish: What’s next for you?
CB: I’m doing a line of emojis. Here I am, talking about serious things, and I’ve got a line of emojis! I will start writing another book when this book tour is finished, probably in the middle of July. I have the idea, I think it’s a young adult book.
What I’d really like to write would be a Killing Monica 2–maybe called Monica Comes Back or something. I love these characters; they’re comic characters. I just wanted to make a really fun, great, entertaining read. But again, when you read it, maybe you’re going to think about life a little differently.
Bookish: Killing Monica is about an artist grappling with her legacy. Early reviews question if there are parallels to your own life. Do you grapple with your own legacy as an artist?
CB: I think that everybody thinks about it. To sit down and write a book, any kind of book, no matter what label people put on it, the process is the same. It’s incredibly time consuming, and somebody is literally making a handcrafted product. So you have to really want to do it, because there’s every reason not to do it, and success is never guaranteed. And of course, people who feel driven to do something are thinking about their legacy. But the fact of the matter is that it’s all really irrelevant because the public will decide somewhere down the road. I think for me, it’s just that I sort of feel like my career is beginning again. There are so many things I want to do and explore, like this music video and the emojis–being a multimedia experience. I’m very interested in performance, even when I was writing Killing Monica, I was thinking about the scene, who’s in the scene, where is it, and all the details of crafting that scene. So it’s a little bit like being a screenwriter, sometimes. I’m excited [for the future].
Candace Bushnell is the critically acclaimed, international best-selling author of Killing Monica, Sex and the City, Summer and the City, The Carrie Diaries, One Fifth Avenue, Lipstick Jungle, Trading Up, and Four Blondes. Sex and the City, published in 1996, was the basis for the HBO hit series and two subsequent blockbuster movies. Lipstick Jungle became a popular television series on NBC, as did The Carrie Diaries on the CW.