January 11, 2010
Interview with Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin
I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with Nicola Kruas and Emma McLaughlin, the fabulous authors of THE NANNY DIARIES, CITIZEN GIRL, DEDICATION, THE REAL REAL, and NANNY RETURNS. As I've read all of the above, except for CITIZEN GIRL, I was really excited to talk to them! I'm especially happy they went through with it even though they had a crisis earlier in the morning. Nicky did the talking and was extremely articulate. However, I was transcribing, which mean my copy of the interview was imperfect. I've reconstructed it (mostly I left out words like "the" and "and" as well as punctuation) and hopefully their publicist won't be sending my a nasty e-mail about how I've misrepresented them.
Liviania: So far, all of your releases are collaborations. What is the process? Who is in charge of what?
Nicky: It's completely even, 50/50 for every part – writing, outlining – except for cover design, which is not something I'm skilled with. We start with outlining and spend a tremendous time on that – six weeks. We take it and divide it so that each of us writes half the scenes. We fit that together for the first draft. We start from page one of the first draft and go over it word by word again and again until they – the publisher – rips it out of our hands. We're getting much more efficient.
L: My next question was if any of the books were easier or harder to write, but if you're getting more efficient I guess the later books were easier.
N: Each book is challenging in its own way. We're attracted to stories that star a confident heroine in situation that challenges her, with a different set of challenges for us. We're more efficient with process but the story presents new challenges.
L: Do either of you have plans to write solo?
N: No current plans to do anything separately. It would be very boring.
L: All of your novels have some element of satire, and on your internet bio it says ya'll speak to young women about gender issues in America today. What do you think are some of the big issues facing women today?
N: As a culture, we haven't figured out childcare or maternity care, or how for women to leave and return to the workforce. Or men. We were so close in the 70s for Montessori care from the government. It was vetoed and other issues were focused on. Younger women were troubled about not being able to go into an office and keep a job; that was easy to change.
Now it's the issues of older women. Women have full time jobs; they're caring for families and their parents; they're exhausted. Older women are a more disparate force, which is harder to unite to affect change. Culture has us over a barrel as to how to force change without a mass movement. It's something every woman faces as she tries to figure out how she going to have a family and how she's going to make it work.
L: Your book, new in paperback, THE REAL REAL, is your first for teens. We're you initially writing for a YA audience? Did ya'll do anything differently?
N: We always intended for a YA audience, but didn't write any differently. We were more mindful of content – adult content as they say. The only challenge for us was restricting out use of swearwords. We try to be realistic with our dialogue, especially within the entertainment industry – trying to be realistic without the use of swear words; that was the biggest difference.
L: THE REAL REAL is critical of reality TV, but still an accurate depiction. Do either of ya'll watch any reality TV?
N: Oh definitely, like the rest of America. It's really fascinating and compelling, even when it's horrifying. In NYU, in the 90s, our friends were interns at MTV while we were nannies. It also comes from when we were 27 and suddenly thrust in the public in a very sudden way and seeing how not real even news shows were.
L: Speaking of THE NANNY DIARIES, why did ya'll decide to do a sequel? Why set it much later . . . why the time skip?
N: We initially didn't see that there was going to be a sequel. We had determined Nan wasn't going to be a nanny again. As the economy began to implode, we followed economic and social, mostly social, schedules – the big decisions about money and healthcare. We saw men like Bernie Madoff, and his journey with his sons who turned him in, and his father – like Grayer X and his son. We were revisiting why it's so important as to how children of affluence are raised and what values are instilled in them. They're going to be men who make decisions for us. So we thought, what if he finds the tape Nan made on the Nanny Cam. What if he finds it when he's old enough to make some changes in his own life from his toxic family. Before sixteen, that would be almost impossible. So the story required the twelve year jump.
L: THE NANNY DIARIES clearly made use of your time as nannies, and you said something about your friends at MTV . . . did your work experiences affect your other novels?
N: Definitely. The two books most influenced by our work other than THE NANNY DIARIES were CITIZEN GIRL and THE REAL REAL. They make use of our experience with THE NANNY DIARIES – being thrust for a very brief second into media spotlight, seeing how manipulative news can be and what that feels like.
L: You've said something about that before. What was the most unreal moment during the media attention?
N: We were on a well-known talk show, and ostensibly asked to talk about our writing and experience. We were shocked the day before the show to be sent a script, not only of questions, it included questions and our answers – prescripted, that were not true. I'm proud to say we went off script on the show. It really confused them. You would be surprised; it was a very prominent show that you would not expect that from.
L: Do either of you have a favorite?
N: THE NANNY DIARIES will always be special to us. It was our first, we learned how to work together, how to write. It's like having five kids: each is special for different reasons and we challenge ourselves differently each time.
L: Can I ask about your next challenge?
N: Our next YA is OVER YOU, that's out in 2011. We're also working on a romantic comedy script and we're starting our next adult novel in the spring.
L: How do you feel about THE NANNY DIARIES movie? Would you want any of your other books to be made into movies?
N: We would be thrilled! It's completely impossible for us to be objective about THE NANNY DIARIES movie. Compare to trying to be objective with your prom picture or wedding picture! You always see something different from other people. We were always excited about the cast and it was filmed in New York were we both live. It was exciting to walk past the set!
We've both done film and screenplay adaptation. We understand that it's a very different medium. The film is a romantic comedy, and a romantic comedy needs a happy ending. As you noted, THE NANNY DIARIES was a social satire. The big difference was the happy ending. We will always be eternally grateful for the movie; it was a once in a lifetime experience.
L: I've asked a lot of questions about your books and about writing, but I know you don't sit at your computer all day. What are your hobbies? What do you do when you aren't writing?
N: We have dogs. We love to take our dogs for walks and spend time with our dogs. Then there's the subway. Every time I've gone to Emma's house, I read on the subway. After reading on the subway on the way home, all I want to do is watch The Daily Show and go to sleep. I also do yoga, that's how I relax and come up with story ideas.
L: So I'm sure you've done a lot of interviews . . . if you could get rid of one question people ask, what would it be?
N: How do you two write together? Will you ever hire a nanny? Oh no no, it's, "Have any of the people you've written about tried to contact you?" They're looking for a sexy answer. But there's no sexy answer, it just never goes anywhere.