HOW DID THIS NOVEL COME ABOUT?
Having been a television executive for many years, and also a television producer, I’d read my share of scripts and gave plenty of notes. But I’d never written my own character. My mom died around the same time my sitcom “Listen Up” was cancelled, along with my TV deal, and I wasn’t sure what to do next.
I enrolled in a UCLA Extension course, “Women’s Commercial Fiction,” for a new challenge. I had never written anything. Not a book. Not a screenplay. Not a play. Nothing.
A chapter was due and I didn’t have a clue what I was going to write but because I’m used to working under pressure and meeting rigid deadlines, I sat down and started writing. By week two I had my first chapter. By the end of the class I had written five chapters with great feedback.
I finished the book, sent it to a few agents and it was sold to a publisher. And here we are.
IS “PRIMETIME PRINCESS” AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL?
Everyone asks me that question. I will say that I decided to write about what I know – the behind the scenes of the television industry. And I will admit that creating some of the characters was quite cathartic. I did start out as a secretary and I did work with a lot of men in senior management, many of whom are absolutely petrified that they might be depicted in this novel. But, it’s not autobiographical…my husband is not a sixth grade teacher for example.
HOW IS THE TRANSITION FROM HOLLYWOOD EXECUTIVE TO AUTHOR?
The entire industry is different. I’m still getting used to the idea that life is spent in the writing cave rather than an office or a restaurant. I tend to peruse the web more often that I should for the comings and goings of television because it’s been my world for so long but I love being able to now create characters, rather than give notes on scripts already developed by others.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD?
Well let me begin by saying I didn’t graduate from a fancy Ivy league school. I had no relatives in show business. And no, I didn’t sleep my way up the ladder! I had one great skill – I could type. I applied for temp jobs at the networks and studios and several turned into real jobs. But I had a difficult time transitioning from secretary (that’s what we were called then) to an entry-level executive. I was miserable. Couldn’t get a break. So I decided I’d be a producer. Yup. Just like that. I quit my job and took two part time positions outside the TV industry. It was very risky but it allowed me the freedom to come up with ideas for TV shows. Eventually I sold those shows, got an agent, and landed a deal as a movie of the week producer.
DO YOU THINK WOMEN HELP OTHER WOMEN IN BUSINESS?
I think women believe there’s still tokenism. And because of that they often think that only one, or possibly two females, can advance into senior management. It certainly depends on the culture of each business, but by and large, I think women truly want to help each other. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any female mentors, but I mentored many young women and did so purposely. I really believe its incumbent upon women who’ve made it, to help others who haven’t. Several men mentored me. And because of that I learned how to survive in their world. I think it’s important to find individuals who are willing to offer support and counsel to those who want to advance their careers.
WHAT OR WHOM INSPIRES YOU?
My husband inspires me. He’s extremely positive, optimistic, and creative. He taught me long ago that life is full of opportunities and that there are many other areas to explore. He helped me understand that I could expand my horizons and venture into areas I hadn’t considered. He’s had a very eclectic career and truly lives in the moment.
WHAT AUTHORS DO YOU ENJOY?
There are too many to list. I love being immersed in someone else’s world. I eagerly await anything new by Joan Didion, Jonathan Tropper, Emily Giffin, Khaled Hosseini, J.M. Coetzee, Lauren Weisberger, Kent Haruf, Ha Jin, Jennie Fields, Jonathan Franzen, Martin Dressler, Chitra Divakaruni, Scott Berg, Kathryn Stockett, John Grisham, Amy Tan, Anne Tyler, Amy Ephron, Jhumpa Lahiri, and many more. Having read almost all their books, essays and short stories, I will greatly miss Maeve Binchy and Nora Ephron.
IS IT TRUE YOU HAVE A SECOND BOOK COMING OUT NEXT YEAR?
I do. It’s also about Hollywood but from a different perspective. I want it to be fun and engaging but I also want to let readers learn about a world that isn’t necessarily revealed through ET, Access Hollywood or People Magazine. At the end of the day, amidst its glamour and sexiness, Hollywood is a business and one in which women struggle to find their role so I love the idea of creating strong women that defy the odds and personify strength, confidence (most of the time) and success.
BUT THE BURNING QUESTION…THE ONE WE ALL REALLY WANT TO KNOW….WHO IS JERRY KELLNER???
Oh….You know I’ll never tell….