I started taking writing seriously when I was about nineteen. I wasn’t a great student, and, floating through college, I took a fiction writing workshop simply because it met once a week, and at night. I didn’t think much of it until our first assignment, which was to write a story from the opposite sex's point of view. I thought, then, of a time when I was young, and I was left alone with my grandmother – my nana – one of my earliest memories. She died soon thereafter, and it’s the only time I remember her at all, but it must have stuck with me, because after that my professor came to me and told me I had something. He told me not to stop. So I didn’t – I’ve been trying to breathe life into her, and thus myself, ever since – and it was because of him that I finally understood what school is for.
2) Your novel shares a title with Thorton Wilder's famous play, Our Town - although Hollywood is obviously very different than Grover's Corners. Was this a conscious decision of yours?
It was, indeed. It was for a long time called Serenity Side Down – a turn of phrase I liked, and which meant something to me. So, when my editor approached me about calling the book Our Town, I was nervous at first, both legally – not sure whether or not one was even allowed to co-opt a classic name, as such – and in that I didn’t want to disrespect such a legendary work. But, when I thought more about it, it began to feel as though Our Town was always the name, in some ways. From moment one I felt as though a narrator – or “stage manager” – was necessary to guide the action. And I felt that the hope of fame that Hollywood of old could provide a certain type of person was similar to the way people, when reading of Grover’s Corners, could hope for an easier, simpler life. The value systems that the two places offered up were no less than entirely opposite, but I found the hope that life could be better was in some ways the same, and so it began to feel right. Both right, and necessary.
3) Your novel is fiction, but you also come from a long line of Hollywood actresses who have struggled with addiction. How much or how little did your own family history shape this story?
I’ve always known that Dorothy is based on my nana, Joanna Moore, who is my mother’s mother. However, outside of some attempt to honor her spirit, or, at least, attempt to realize what connected her and I, I view the rest of the novel’s landscape as entirely fictionalized. In many ways, I see the rest of the characters, and in some ways Dorothy, too, as just an extension of me. In the end, I do think I found out what connected her and I, and thus why I was so interested. Her ability to get in her own way – to do the wrong thing because you don’t believe in yourself, because you don’t believe someone like you deserves to be happy – is something that lives in me, too. And I hope, in honoring her, that it will be as though she’s finally able to gain some of the recognition that she should’ve believed she deserved from the beginning.
4) Who (or what) have your writing influences been? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I have a tack board where I pin up ideas, when I have them. My influences are not all literary, as well. With this book, reading Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust and Joan Didion’s The White Album provided the feeling that I needed to write. But music also helped me – I would find songs that suited the tone and rhythm that I needed for a particular scene, and play them over, and over, and over, until it was right. And movies – The King of Comedy comes to mind. Oh, and lastly things like Bravo, for I found the vapidity of that sort of programming has existed in Hollywood since it’s inception, and it helped for me to attempt to incorporate that tone.
5) Do you have any more novels on the horizon?
Yes. I am working on a New York book now. I think of Our Town as my LA book, and I want to treat the city that I now live in with the same reverence, and also disrespect. Both idealizing the romance of the New York streets at night, and fearing what happens if you continue walking on them until the morning. I’m working now, so I’m not sure, still, if I'll be able to get this balance right. But I’m going to try, and I can’t wait to do so.
Kevin McEnroe will sign and discuss Our Town on Thursday, May 14 at 7pm.