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Interview with Jillian Lauren

October 23, 2011

Jillian Lauren Talks About Her New Book Pretty

     No one would blame you if you thought that Jillian Lauren was just another pretty face – she is extremely pretty.  But you would be wrong to think that’s all she is. Lauren has two incredible books under her belt and writes honest, compelling and sometimes funny stuff. Her debut novel Pretty comes on the heels of her tell-all memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem which was a New York Times best seller. The memoir chronicled her life as part of the harem of the younger brother of the sultan of Brunei. Pretty is about Bebe Baker who is a young woman coming to terms with her boyfriend’s death and her journey to sobriety.  Worth mentioning, for those of you who read but also love music, is the fact that Lauren’s hubbie is Weezer bassist, Scott Shriner.

      Recently, I met with Jillian Lauren when she was in town to perform at the Booty Call Reading Series. We sat in The Heathman Hotel’s famous library which holds hundreds of signed first editions from authors who have stayed there through the years. Lauren added her signed novel, Pretty, to the stacks and was excited to search for some of her favorite authors.  We talked about her writing journey.

Is it true you wrote Pretty first and that the memoir came later, though it ended up being published first.

I did write this book first. There were a lot of major rewrites that happened after the memoir but the book was written when I was in my graduate program at Antioch and then I sold the books together. I wrote the memoir after that.

Why did they publish the memoir first?

I think they thought a memoir, in terms of press, would get more exposure, so they thought that was a better way to come out of the gate. There’s that splashy hook, of course, to the memoir that you don’t have with the novel. I’m not a marketer or a publisher – I just write – so I just try and do my job and let other people do their job. But, I really think it turned out good creatively and for where I’m at in my career.  All the personal stuff is already out there, so there isn’t any anxiety about publishing this. There was a tremendous amount of anxiety around publishing Some Girls, so I got that all out of the way.

What was it like publishing your memoir? It was a pretty no-holds-barred revelation. Have you become more private?

My experience publishing the memoir was so freeing and wonderful.  All this stuff I was afraid was going to happen, happened. So I don’t feel very guarded about my privacy anymore. You know, as my son gets older different questions will come into play in terms of his comfort level in what I share and my blogging and all that, but I love offering my life in a public way.

Your characters are so vivid and nuanced. How did you come up with such great details?

I’ve always been an observer and my eyes are constantly drawn to the odd detail. I feel that is one of the reasons I’m drawn to write. I’ve always been a documenter, so I’ve always taken notes, even before I identified myself as a writer, on what I see around me and particularly conversations – like how people speak. I’m an eavesdropper. I write down everything I see and hear around me.

How did you find your voice or writing style?

Voice to me is the most mysterious part of the writing process, because that is the part that is divorced from craft or school. To me, it’s just about listening. It’s about finding a space to get quiet and listen. In each book, the voice is different. I don’t know where it comes from. It’s the most metaphysical piece.

After the time you spent in the harem, how did you end up back in school?

I was working as a hairdresser and I was writing very early in the morning and also at night. I was exhausted. I met my husband through some friends bowling in L.A. He encouraged me to go for my dream, and return to school and try to write in a more professional and dedicated capacity. He’s been a remarkable supporter of my work. My first book was dedicated to him. Pretty is dedicated to my grandmother who was one of my earliest fans. She was a librarian and she encouraged my love of books. She had me reading Russian classics when I was twelve. She was a major influence on me. I have a picture of her over my desk.

To read my complete interview with Jillian about her novel Pretty, please go to www.portlandbookreview.com

Pretty, Plume, August, 2011

Jillian Lauren is a performer, writer and author of the NYT bestseller Some Girls:  My Life in a Harem and has an MFA from Antioch University. She lives in Los Angeles.

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