Chica Lit: What were the challenges you faced when writing it?
And at some point, I got jealous. I certainly didn’t envy the repression, the censorship, the privations, the hunger, the anger or the frustration that being born in Cuba entails. But for a writer, Cuba is a never-ending source of great material. I felt sheepish, and wondered if he would call me a colonialist for appropriating his stories, but I asked my husband: Would you mind if I wrote about this? And he said, “You and I could write about the same thing, and it would come out completely differently.” So the leading man became Cuban, and that seemed to make the whole enterprise take off.
Valerie: The public has always been ravenous for trashy gossip, and the Hollywood stars have always had two jobs: embodying our higher aspirations and desires on-screen, and feeding our darker needs off-screen. Or, you might say, they are idolized by the public for what they do on screen, and then must pay for the deification by having their personal lives dissected and their privacy invaded at every turn. It’s part of the package. There’s a very interesting book, Intimate Strangers, by Richard Schickel, about the ill-will ordinary Americans bear the very people they put on pedestals. It’s almost a law of nature: when people get that big, they have to be shot down, sometimes – tragically – literally, as in the case of John Lennon.
Film has never been the writer’s medium, but in the studios of yore, there used to be a script department, writers on staff. These days, there’s so little respect for writing in the average Hollywood product, you get the feeling that they want to just eliminate the writer altogether. Sometimes films seem to have been written by the wardrobe designer – did you see the Gwyneth Paltrow bomb Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow? – or by a sleeping accountant using a previous script for easy reference. When I found out that Titanic had started shooting before the script had even been started, I decided that I didn’t need to see that movie. I may have been the only person on the planet who made that decision, but I stand by it.
Valerie: You make me laugh! I reject the very premise of reality TV. And as you know, even the least popular cable channels on television – the wood grain channel, the vitamin channel, etc. – get millions of viewers, even on a Saturday at 1:30 am. There are days when I feel like I’m in a dying business. On the other hand, I can’t watch much of what is popular now – I feel unclean! I know there are others who feel the same, and this is who I write for. Books reach people on a very different level. I hope there will always be a call for that, although I know the numbers are mere, when compared to televised competition of any kind.