A funny thing happens to you when you write a novel: your life doesn’t change one single bit. I thought it would – when I first sold Notes From the Underbelly, I thought that there would be book signings, and multi-city book tours. I imagined seeing my book on the front table of every Borders and Barnes and Noble. I pictured myself strolling the beach and seeing the lavender cover staring back at me from dozens of beach chairs. I even thought that maybe someone might recognize my name when I made a reservation, or when I signed a credit card receipt. But those fantasies pretty much ended once I realized that my publishing house didn’t give a crap about my book. It’s not that they didn’t like it, it’s just that first time authors are not exactly high-ranking in the publishing world, unless, of course, they’re famous, or dishing dirt about someone famous. So, let’s just say that there was no book tour. There was one book signing at my local Borders in Westwood, but nobody came except for my brother and a few of my friends. There were no ads in the New York Times Book Review (or anywhere). And those books on the front tables? Turns out publishers have to pay for that kind of placement, and guess whose publisher didn’t. I did have a few good reviews buried in the back of Parenting, and Entertainment Weekly, but that was about the extent of it. It was a letdown, and kind of depressing, actually. Sure, I’d had a book published, and, as everyone reminded me, that was a huge accomplishment, something that lots of people spend their entire lives trying to do. But still. If nobody read it, I kept wondering what the hell the point was.
But then Notes got optioned for a television show, by the same producers who do Two and a Half Men. And then ABC ordered a pilot. I tried not to get too excited about it, because I knew the chances of it actually getting made were slim to none. But then, just a little over a year ago now, the call came that ABC had picked it up, had ordered 12 more episodes, and would be putting it on the air in the fall of 2006. On Thursday nights. Just before Gray’s Anatomy. And so then I got excited. I called my agent and my publisher to tell them the news, and the fantasies started all over again. I pictured the new cover, with the words “NOW A COMEDY SERIES ON ABC!” emblazoned on the front. I pictured stacks and stacks of them on the front tables of bookstores, with posters announcing the premiere of the show. In the shower, I practiced what I would say when I appeared on Oprah and the Today Show, as the real life Lara Stone (who is actually Lauren Stone on the show, because everyone thought that Lara could be too easily misprounounced). I pictured newspaper articles calling me the next Candace Bushnell.
But a funny thing happens to you when your book becomes the basis for a television show: your life doesn’t change one single bit. Apparently, Emily’s Reasons Why Not was a book that was made into a tv show for ABC, too, just the year before. The publisher and the bookstores spent a fortune on publicity, but it was cancelled after one episode. So, sorry, they told me. It wasn’t enough that I got a show on a major television network, directed by a huge movie producer, in prime time on Thursday night, just before what is arguably the most popular drama on television. In order for them to advertise it, the show would have to be a hit. Wow.
Then, in September, ABC announced that actually, Ugly Betty would now be premiering in our Thursday night time slot, and they didn’t know when we would air, or what night, but it would probably be in November, maybe on Tuesdays. I could just feel the I-told-you-so vibe emanating over the e-mail from my editor, asking me to “keep her posted” with any updates. And then in November, they said it might be December, and then it was January, then February, then almost definitely March. Again, it was kind of depressing. Sure, there was a television show based on my book, on characters that I created, and, as everyone reminded me, that was a huge accomplishment, something that lots of people spend their entire lives trying to do. But still. If nobody saw it, I kept wondering what the hell the point was.
But then, last week, there it was. A commercial, during Desperate Housewives. Notes from the Underbelly, coming this April. April 11th, to be exact, at 9:30 pm, just before Lost. Am I excited? Yes, very. Am I proud of what I’ve accomplished? Yes. But this time around, there haven’t been any fantasies. This time, I’m not expecting my life to change. I’m not expecting to be on Oprah or the Today Show, or to become the next Candace Bushnell, or for Notes to become a huge bestseller. Sure, I’ll do whatever PR for the show that I can (Watch! Please watch!), but mainly, I’ve decided to just keep my head down and concentrate on finishing my new book. Because what I’ve discovered through all of this is that there is a point, actually. Whether or not people read my books, whether or not the show is a huge success or a massive failure (although I do think it’s really, really cute and funny), I get to do something that I love, that makes me a happier, more interesting, more fulfilled person. And if that’s not a good point, then I really don’t know what is.