Q. Hi, Nina, thanks for talking with us about your work. I'll start with that most common combination question: When did you start writing? And what inspired you?
A. Since I was little, I always kept journals and read voraciously. Being immersed in a book has always been the ultimate comfort and escape for me - and the desire to write came naturally out of this love of stories and storytelling. I always think of that Joan Didion quote from "The White Album" - "We tell ourselves stories in order to live..."
Q. Do you plan to write a sequel to Sherry and Narcotics?
A. Well, I've already written the prequel, my first (unpublished) novel, "I'm Not This Girl." It's basically the story of Mary in LA when she's fresh out of college, except her name is Lulu and she has this dog named Trouble. It explores her first real love, with a screenwriter named Dean, and her initial descent into alcoholism. It's a lot more playful and funny than "Sherry & Narcotics" - I only really showed it to this one agent and then spent a heartbreaking and frustrating three years doing rewrites for him, but in the end it just went nowhere. I love it though - I'm thinking I should dust off the original draft and send it around again.
I've also written a hefty chunk of the pre-prequel - the story of an American girl who winds up at an all boys boarding school in England , based on my experiences as an English Speaking Union Scholar at Clifton College in Bristol when I was 17. That was the beginning of my love affair with the UK - and English Literature. For my A-levels I studied Wordsworth and Hardy and DH Lawrence with this teacher Dave Lambert, who was fresh out of Oxford - I had a mad crush on him, of course. He was fairly eccentric and his classroom was filled with posters of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. One class the two of us wound up performing Adelaide 's lament from Guys & Dolls.
The sequel to Sherry & Narcotics is something I've just started fleshing out - so I can't really say too much about it, except that it's about friendship and fame.
Q. What are some of your all time favorite books? Films? Plays?
A. My all time favorite books include the poems and letters of John Keats, everything by F. Scott Fitzgerald including his letters, and especially the short story collection edited by Malcolm Cowley - I love some of those lesser known stories like "Magnetism" and "Two Wrongs" and "The Bridal Party." And everything by Jean Rhys, she was a genius. I also love Anais Nin, an almost forgotten writer named Margery Latimer who wrote two stunning novels, "We are Incredible" and "This is my Body" which are next to impossible to find - I read one in the Yale Library, and bought one on eBay with a large chunk of my student loan money that supposed to go to my tuition. I love "Lay Down in Darkness" by William Styron and everything by Richard Yates. I remember once I discovered Yates wrote a screenplay for "Lay Down in Darkness" and that just blew my mind. What I would give to read that!
Contemporary writers I love include Gwendoline Riley - I think her books "Cold Water" and "Joshua Spassky" are just perfect. Also Helen Walsh's "Brass", my publisher/editor at Future Fiction London, Hillary Raphael's "I love Lord Buddha" and "Ximena." I am in awe of Ruth Fowler, who I just discovered - she writes for The Fix and published a memoir about being a stripper in New York .
I just saw the best film I've seen in a long time, Fishtank - it was absolutely beautiful, seamless, not a false moment in it. Also "Jesus' Son" is one of the best adaptations of a book, ever. And this film from awhile back, Angel Baby, about two schizophrenics who fall in love. Recently a friend recommended a good bankrobber flick because I was feeling broke - Mesrine I and II, which were awesome. Anything that fills my dreams with Vincent Cassel is the bomb.
Plays, I think Annie Baker is a genius. I've always loved Jon Robin Baitz (and thanks to my mom, I'm now hooked on his tv show Brothers & Sisters), Christopher Durang, Albert Innaurato. Also Mark Ravenhill's stuff is always exciting. And a New York playwright named Tom Donaghy - his play "Down the Shore" will always be one of my favorites. And Jonathan Marc Sherman - I'm really looking forward to seeing his new play Knickerbicker at the Public.
Q. Besides writing what are your interests?
A. Now that I'm old and boring and my wild party days are behind me, I'm really into running. I'm planning to do a marathon, and I pretty much enjoy everything outdoors - hiking, camping, all that robust and healthy stuff. I enjoy cooking, but I think I might be a little too experimental for a lot of people's tastes. I'm also very interested in working with young women at risk, especially those who might be struggling with alcoholism, addiction or eating disorder issues. I know it probably sounds massively trite and preachy and corny, but what matters most to me these days is being of service, and using my experience to hopefully help others.
Helping others does not sound corny to me. Good for you and thank you for telling us about yourself and your work.