Excerpted from Dear Prince Charming by Donna Kauffman. Copyright © 2004 by Donna Kauffman. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
What’s the best moment for you in the process of writing a novel?
For me, there are two best moments. (No, not writing Once Upon a Time and The End. That’s so last season. I love that must-have moment that happens before I ever get to Once Upon a Time. That moment when the idea for a new story hits me.
I’m always asked “Where do you get your ideas?” and I give Jenny Crusie’s stock answer: “Sears. The idea store.” But the truth is, any one of a million innocuous things can inspire an entire book. An article in the newspaper, a song on the radio, an overheard conversation, a chance encounter on an airplane. Or in the dressing room at Nordstrom. (Okay, that might be too much information.) The great thing is, you never know when it’s going to hit you. I can’t go look for a story. So when one strikes, it’s always exciting. (Yes, sometimes this is accompanied by a “Thank God, it’s about time!”) Anywhere, anytime, something can sneak up and make me go “Hmmm. What if?” It can start with something as complex as an idea for a character I want to explore, or something as simple as a title idea that begs for a story to go with it.
The other best moment is when, after working through all the twists and turns in a plot that turned out to be far more complicated than seemed remotely imaginable that magical day in the dressing room…months and months and many blood-sweat-and-tears pages later…usually right about the time I’m certain that for all my hard work, my brilliant idea is really just a huge pile of…well…anyway, something clicks, I turn that final corner, and finally, blessedly, I see that dim but unmistakable light at the end of the tunnel. (So, all right, at first I’m convinced it’s just the train.) But that moment when I realize I will, in fact, be able to pull all this together in the end is almost as big a rush as when I got the idea for the story in the first place.
If you weren't a writer, what career would you want to have?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, I just never thought it would be a career. In fact, I tried a whole lot of other ones first. I’ve been a ceramics teacher, a bookkeeper, a jazz troupe dancer, a dog groomer, a people groomer, a competitive body builder, and a builder of two completely new bodies (my sons). All of them were extremely rewarding in a number of ways; all of which lend a great deal to what I do now. Once I began writing with a career in mind, and that career did indeed happen, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Fourteen years later, I still can’t.
But if I absolutely had to imagine it…I’m thinking (very) personal assistant to Clive Owen sounds like an excellent career move.
What scene in your own books are you most surprised you wrote?
The very last one. See my response to the first question, and you’ll understand why.
What’s your secret vice?
Krispy Kreme donuts get so much press, you know? Too much, to my way of thinking. I mean, a donut is a donut to me. So, after much deliberation, I decided it was worth exposing my secret vice if it meant giving this much-deserved and tireless baker her just….well, desserts.
Yes, I’m talking about Little Debbie.
Little Debbie and I go way back. In fact, I don’t think I’m being a suck up to say that she has been my muse on more than one occasion (or more to the point, her walnut brownies with the faux slice in the middle–like you’re really going to eat only half! That Debbie, such a kidder.) Unlike fickle friends and absent family members, Debbie has always been there for me. Through thick and thin. Though, come to think of it, lately it’s been a lot more thick than thin. I know I can count on Debbie, always a trouper, to take full and complete, even gleeful, blame.
(And yes, fans who wish to impress at book signings, I can indeed be bribed with a token brownie offering.)
What do you give yourself when you need a pick-me-up?
Did you all shout “Little Debbie” with me? Actually, I pull out the All-Powerful Brownie only when I need the really serious support. For the day-to-day pick-me-up, I indulge in a very long soak in the tub, favorite book in hand, behind a locked door, with water running so loudly that only a fire engine siren would rouse me from my respite. As of yet, my children haven’t resorted to that particular measure to get me out of the bathroom. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Or until they read this interview.
Well, at least I’ll get to meet a few cute firemen. Hope my husband isn’t home at the time. (Note to self: keep very fluffy floor-length bathrobe on back of bathroom door at all times.)
What was your most memorable date (good or bad)?
Ask me again in a few months and it could be the one described above. (At the very least, that will fuel a few nice fantasy vignettes.)
My memorable past date would have to be meeting my (future) husband in person for the first time. He and I had been conversing via e-mail after he agreed to help me with some research. (Not that kind. Mind outta the gutter.) That part came much later.
At the time he was commander of a Special Emergency Response Team and his crew was heading to Quantico Marine Base to take part in a SWAT/SERT team competition. You think wine and roses are the best first date? No. Watching a hundred guys dressed in black cammies, running around doing all kinds of macho things with all kinds of very macho equipment strapped to their, uh, strapping chests…and arms…and legs, and, well, you begin to get my drift. Especially when one of them is all yours afterward. Little Debbie, eat your heart out.
What is your favorite quote?
Actually, I just saw this today. I think it sums up my belief on the best way to make a relationship work for the long haul.
From Tony Snow (FOX News guy) to men in relationships: “Cave early and often.”
From the Trade Paperback edition.