Rian: I understand you guys have a partnership. Explain how that works.
Clare & Mimi: We’ve been writing together as screenwriters for about seven years now so we’re very connected as friends, that’s very important. We’re also completely honest with one another which helps when it comes to saying which bits of each others writing isn’t working. In practical terms we plot out a novel together the go away and write alternate chapters. I go over the chapters afterwards to lend an authorial voice, just so it doesn’t sound too schizophrenic.
Rian: Do you notice any similarities or differences between American and British Chick Lit? If so, what are they?
Clare & Mimi: The only difference I’ve really noticed is the spelling and a few words here and there that don’t correspond – pants in the America is trousers in the UK. Fag is a cigarette in England – in America it’s something else! Otherwise I think the sensibility for chick lit is the same wherever you roam. That’s the secret of the genre’s success, I think, it taps into the universal emotions and dreams of women.
Rian: Why did you set “Second Assistant” and part of “Catching Alice” in theLos Angeles/Hollywood area?
Clare & Mimi: For me so much of what I have experienced in Hollywood is exotic and hilarious. I first went there when a producer threatened to turn my first novel into a movie and I’ve been smitten ever since. I love the optimism, the high-octane machinations of the movie industry and the fantasy of the whole place. It’s so far from where I come from, a very practical, old-fashioned English background that I was always bound to find it irreststible.
Rian: You have a book coming out in March (April?) 2005. What is it about?
Clare & Mimi: It’s called “The Goddess Rules” and it’s the story of a Kate Disney, young woman who really isn’t enjoying her life – she has a lame boyfriend, lives in a garden shed and paints portraits of pets for a living. Her life changes dramatically when Mirabelle Moncur, a wild-living, ageing movie goddess who slept her way through the sixties and seventies turns up and demands that Kate paint her pet lion cub. Initially they loathe one another, but the friendship that eventually blossoms changes both their lives for ever.
Rian: What is the easiest/best thing about co-writing books? The hardest?
Clare & Mimi: Co-writing’s the perfect excuse to lounge around of the sofa and drink tea with your best friend. It’s also nice to have someone to motivate (or nag) you. It’s nowhere near as lonely as writing alone which can become quite depressing and make you into an anti-social bore. The toughest thing about it is trying to make the two voices merge – which when you have one English voice and one American can sometimes be quite a challenge.
Rian: All of your books have exciting, fun story lines set in glamourous places. Where do you find your ideas for stories?
Clare & Mimi: Ideas for stories tend to come at the most mundane moments – I think I’ve had a couple while chopping onions. They’re usually born out of some thought like: “I wonder what it would be like to be this person/do that thing/ live that way” It’s just a long daydream really. The glamorous settings for my books are often places I’ve been to once and have a longing for. In “Doghandling” it was snowing in England and I wanted to revisit Sydney, Australia but it was 22 hours away so I just went there in the book. Perfect for a cheap vacation!
Rian: What is your opinion on the chick lit genre in general? Where do you think it’s headed?
Clare & Mimi: I can’t bear people who are snooty about chick lit. It quite simply is what it is – usually fun, often moving, relevant to our lives and enjoyable. What can be wrong with that? Just because women read books with perky pink covers doesn’t mean they can’t converse eloquently on Proust too. I think chick lit’s headed where women are headed. It’ll follow us wherever we go. It’s not a fluke that it’s such a successful genre – people enjoy it and buy it. It just re-read “Valley of the Dolls” – pure chick lit, but 30 years ago! I think it’ll be around as long as women are.
Rian: Which are your favorite books and authors or all time?
Clare & Mimi: I’m mad about so many authors: Jane Austen of course; I love Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary”, which is wonderfully evocative of women’s dreams and emotions, and shows that with the passage of time all that’s changed are women’s circumstances – not the way we are. I like a Russian novel “Crime and Punishment” and “Anna Karennina” and I’m also a great fan of Rose Tremain and an English author called Jilly Cooper who writes very saucy romps which are so much fun. Mimi was a Danielle Steele addict at a young age but has graduated to the Fingersmith.
Rian: Which of your 5 books were easiest to write? The hardest?
Clare & Mimi: The easiest was probably “Love: A User’s Guide” which was my first. It’s pretty ironic because I wrote it before I started work in the mornings on my boyfriend’s laptop and during my lunch hour when I had a full-time job. The story just came so easily and I was so excited by writing, even though I had no clue it would be published, that it was a breeze. The hardest is always the one I’m writing at the moment – the search for inspiration, banging you head on the desk, the endless trips to the refrigerator hoping it’ll provide your heroine with some witty lines. And it never does – it only makes your bottom spread and your friends forget who you are!
Rian: Do you guys have advice for people out there who want to co-write a chick lit novel?
Clare & Mimi: Make sure your friendship is rock-solid, don’t jeopardise a great friendship for anything. Then, plan a very clear division of labour – make sure you both know exactly what you’re expected to do – prepare to work very hard, buy a bottle of wine and enjoy yourselves. When co-writing works there’s no job in the world that’s more fun.