Interview: April 14, 2006
April 14, 2006
Laurie Graff captured the lighter side of bad dates in her acclaimed Chick Lit novel, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS. She recently spoke with Bookreporter.com's Jennifer Krieger about her newly released sequel, LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG, and describes how she drew experiences from her rocky love life --- along with those of her friends --- to write this book. She also ponders the influence of fairy tales on young girls, as well as the status of women in today's society.
Bookreporter.com: Throughout LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG there are literary and symbolic references to fairy tales --- to princesses and frogs and fantasies of Prince Charming. How do you think fairy tales influence girls and shape their perceptions of romance?
Laurie Graff: I think they create a story we revisit in which we believe that when we grow up, we will be chosen by some strong, all-knowing, seemingly perfect man who will provide a blissfully happy life for us.
BRC: Your own dating history and experiences inform both your writing and your stage performances. Have you ever had an experience like Karrie's in which old boyfriends came out of the woodwork? If so, was it painful? Cathartic?
LG: My old boyfriends always come out of the woodwork! I think there's one making his way out behind me right now! I feel that all these years I have been leaving the door open, but I've been working now on keeping it closed. Time to move on!
BRC: Not to give anything in the plot away, but when you started writing about Karrie's sagas in LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG, did you know where her frog-kissing exploits would take her --- and who she'd end up kissing in the end?
LG: I went through four guys until I settled on the one for the last scene. In fact, a "frog" from the first book --- whom I hadn't heard from in 18 years --- wrote to me as I was getting to the ending of the first draft, and I wrote him in at the ending. And that he had turned into a prince. Then, we spoke a week later, and he was in such awful shape in his life. I realized that so much of what I write comes true, and I could not bring those guys back. Once was enough. So, I wrote more of a wish-fulfillment fictional character and ending as a good omen for me!
BRC: Some of the funniest parts of LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG were your descriptions of Karrie's experience with online dating --- "J-Spot" to be exact. As absurd as those scenes were, they rang very true. Have you yourself had similar experiences with online dating? Have you witnessed them among your friends?
LG: I have 309 unopened messages in my JDate mailbox right now. Yes, I was highly "inspired" by real life --- if you can call online dating real --- when I wrote that. Friends have horrible stories about it too, but I had enough material on my own.
BRC: Reading your biography and seeing your picture, there was much about Karrie that no doubt reflected you and your own experiences. But there were also some transcendent aspects to her character, some things I believe a lot of women could relate to. Do you think all single women looking for love --- regardless of age or location, nationality or religion --- have some very basic similarities when it comes to kissing frogs?
LG: Without a doubt! In this book, unlike the first --- YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS --- Karrie is older and that is exactly the point. It doesn't end or get wrapped up for everyone at a certain point. It continues.
BRC: The strength and compassion of Karrie's circle of friends were both strikingly familiar and thoughtfully rendered. Their personalities --- from engaged, blonde beauty Brooke to wild, gamine Jane --- were sparkling and vivid, and none of them came off clichéd. With a character like Brooke, whom readers are almost prepared to hate and envy from the get-go, did you try hard to work against the cliché of the perfect New York Times "Weddings" section bride-to-be? Do you think your own friends would see aspects of their personalities reflected in these characters?
LG: I can name the friends who would see some aspects of their personalities reflected in these characters! When I write, I just write. I don't map out a character; I don't even map out a scene. So I wasn't thinking of working against clichés or anything like that. But I feel great that you felt so much for these characters when you read them. Thanks!
BRC: With all the controversy surrounding women and child-rearing --- whether they should be asserting their independence or resigning themselves to roles of domesticity --- do you think that the freedom to be independent and able to kiss as many frogs as it takes to find a prince is something women, even single and lonely women, should be grateful for? Do you ever find yourself romanticizing or secretly longing for the days when women were expected to do little more than wait for a man to woo them, court them and sweep them onto a white horse (or place them behind a white picket fence)?
LG: There's a section in the book where Karrie is out with JSpot date Edward, and they talk about Dorothy Parker and how things have changed for women over the years. Freedom is an interesting concept --- I value it tremendously, but often wonder if perhaps, now, we have too much. But no one would ever want to be forced into a romantic liaison because it's what society says.
BRC: Where did you find all the quirky and funny "frog facts" that preface each of your chapters?
LG: I got a science book and paraphrased those facts. At Barnes & Noble, they told me the title of a type of book I was after and had to order it for me. I felt like I hit pay dirt when it arrived!
BRC: Your credits as an actress include Grease and Neil Simon's Laughter On the Twenty Third Floor, and you've done a great deal of one-women shows and performance pieces. How has your background in acting affected your writing?
LG: There would be no writing without it. Being in plays, emotionally feeling an arc, a climactic moment, a turning point as an actor, speaking dialogue, and knowing what goes on internally in your head vs. what is spoken aloud is all part of how I write. I write improvisationally, like I am the character in the scene discovering it one step at a time. I don't write outlines. I don't know how, and I have no patience.
BRC: I very easily could see KISSING MR. GOODFROG being made into a movie. If it were, would you have any interest in writing a screenplay? Could you imagine yourself playing the role of Karrie, or do you have an actress in mind that you think would slip nicely into her ballroom-dancing shoes?
LG: Gee… I'd love to play Karrie, but as you know from my book, even Karrie doesn't get to play Karrie! I'm not a star and they'd also want someone younger. But I would love for it to be made into a movie, obviously. I tried writing a screenplay only once, but would be great to do it with someone seasoned. Debra Messing would be terrific.
BRC: Do you have a preference between performing and writing? Do you see similarities between the two?
LG: They feed off each other. I'm partial to walking and talking instead of sitting and typing, but I need them both.
BRC: What are you working on now and what can readers expect to see from you in the future? Is a third novel of Karrie's exploits among the frogs in the works?
LG: I'm working on promoting LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG, and I will do two more books with Red Dress Ink. The next one will be called SHIKSA SYNDROME and will be a spinoff from a story in YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS. A new protagonist will be posing as a non-Jewish woman to catch a Jewish guy. After that, I may go back to Karrie and the frogs.