Book Talk: Lauren Weisberger

by Erica Moody

‘The Devil Wears Prada’ author dishes on her new novel, ‘The Singles Game.’

Lauren Weisberger (Photo Courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

Lauren Weisberger (Photo Courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

Ten years after “The Devil Wears Prada” film debuted, bestselling author Lauren Weisberger has come out with her sixth novel, “The Singles Game.” The witty beach read takes us inside the elite world of women’s competitive tennis, as plucky protagonist Charlie Silver navigates a world of red carpets, celebrity suitors and paparazzi on her rise to athletic stardom. We sat down with Weisberger to discuss her writing process, the tennis life and what she really thinks about that “chick lit” label.

Washington Life: You famously worked at Vogue, an experience that influenced your novel, “The Devil Wears Prada.” How did your writing career begin?
Lauren Weisberger: My first job out of school was at Vogue. I spent a year there and went to Departures magazine. When I was there, I took a fiction writing workshop at the New York Writers Workshop after work on my own time. I would write 15-page pieces that eventually became “The Devil Wears Prada.” A friend of my editor’s was teaching the class and he said to me, “I think you have something here.” I said “No, you’re crazy.” I never set out to write a book.

WL: Did you grow up writing fiction?
LW: No, but I grew up as a big reader. Nobody writes without reading, and that was a big feature of growing up more so than actual writing. But I was an English major, so it wasn’t entirely out of left field.

Image Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Image Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

WL: Has any writer or book been the most influential on you?
LW: Certainly as a young woman it would be Judy Blume.

WL: What inspired you to write this book?
LW: I love tennis. I’ve always been a big fan and a casual player. My parents put a racquet in my hand when I was four, much like Charlie, but with two very different results obviously. So I’ve just been a big fan. I like the crossover, the fashion and celebrity aspect of the world of women’s tennis. They are celebrities in their own right and it’s not because they’re great on the red carpet, it’s because they’re super talented at what they do. So I was interested in getting behind the scenes with that.

WL: Was there a specific moment when the idea clicked?
LW: Honestly, my husband is the one who said, “You love this already, you should explore this world.” I thought, that would be amazing. This hardly even qualifies as work to research these tournaments and learn about this life.

WL: Was there a lot of research involved?
LW: A lot. I spent the better part of a year going to different tournaments: Wimbledon, the US Open, Miami, Charleston, Connecticut, all over and I got good access. I went behind the scenes in the players’ lounge and player dining, and interviewed a trillion people. I just really tried to get the feeling, the flavor, of what it’s like to be on the tour.

WL: Did you learn anything surprising about the world of competitive tennis?
LW: Quite a few things. One of them was definitely how long their season is. They play 10.5 to 11 months a year. They’re on the road so much. A lot of players don’t even have homes because they’re not at them. The other part that was surprising was how hard it is for the players to maintain relationships – romantic relationships but also family and friends. They are never in the same place for more than a week at a time.

Lauren Weisberger at Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse (Photo by Erica Moody)

Lauren Weisberger at Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse (Photo by Erica Moody)

WL: We know Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada” was modeled after Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Did a real-life person inspire any character in this book?
WL: I used real tennis players in the book. That was a fun thing for me to do, intersperse fictional characters with actual players, but it’s not based on any one person.

WL: What’s your writing process like? Do you plot out a book before you write it?
LW: I do. I know there’s usually going to be a happy ending, so that’s not a big surprise. But I tend to do a very rough chapter outline, maybe sketch out 20 chapters and write a few sentences about each one. I don’t stick to it like the word of law. It usually takes me about a year to write a book.

WL: Do you write with a specific audience in mind?
LW: I tend to picture my audience as people that I meet on book tour. So you go out, once every two years for me, and meet the people who read your books and that’s kind of the best part for me. I guess I’m envisioning those readers when I’m writing.

WL: You’ve said that you love how “The Devil Wears Prada” film turned out. Were you involved with the filming at all?
LW: Not officially, but unofficially I was. They were really great about welcoming me on set. I was there all the time. I went to Paris with them for those scenes, and to the Venice Film Festival, and you know they were shooting in New York and I live there, so I could hop on the set whenever I wanted. It was great. It was really fun.

WL: You obviously write a lot from personal experience. Have you ever thought about writing a memoir?
LW: No, I love having the permission to make things up. That’s hard to beat. I’m also not someone who particularly loves sharing personal information.

WL: Did you ever mind the “chick lit” label?
LW: I probably should but I don’t. I don’t care what anyone calls it. I’ve had so many young women come up to me and say, “I don’t read. I’m not a reader. I don’t like books or I never read a book before and I read yours and now I’m going to try another one” and that, to me, is amazing. Call it whatever you want, if it gets people reading and they enjoy it and it’s good escapism, I‘m very happy with that.

WL: What do you find most challenging about writing?
LW: I find it very challenging to stay disciplined really far ahead of a deadline. I was the person in college who was writing a paper the night before, and you can’t do that with a book. I use the Freedom app a lot; it shuts down your internet. It’s creepy but really helpful. It invades your computer and you can’t override it, but it’s effective. Otherwise, I surf all day. It’s been challenging post-kids too. I have two little kids at home and that’s been a new thing to figure out, although that’s also been good, too. It’s very regimented. There’s no more writing at two in the morning if I feel like it. Those days are over.

WL: What’s the best book you read recently?
LW: The book I’m reading now, “Before the Fall” by Noah Hawley. It’s really good.

WL: What do you like to do when you’re in DC?
LW: I’m not here very often, but  I did an internship in college here. I worked at the PR firm Ketchum and I lived in the Foggy Bottom area in a GW dorm. I loved it. I asked to drive down Embassy Row earlier today. I know you guys take it for granted, but it’s incredible. All of that different architecture on the same street and the security and the fact that it’s all spies, I just love it.

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