Catching Up With Candace Bushnell
By Noah Michelson
Most gay men would probably take a bullet for Candace Bushnell. The author of a slew of books is best known for creating Sex and The City, a look at life in New York City for a group of female friends based on Bushnell's life. What has become one of the most beloved television series ever started as a column for the New York Observer in 1994, became a book in 1997 and jumped to HBO in 1998. Last year Bushnell released The Carrie Diaries, a young adult prequel novel that imagines the life of Sex and The City's protagonist, Carrie Bradshaw, as a teenager. Now she returns with the follow-up, Summer and The City, which introduces Carrie's friends Miranda and Samantha.
We recently caught up with Bushnell to talk about diving into the world of young adult novels, writing a novel about the Sex and the City characters' golden years, and what she really thought of big screen Sex and the City sequel.
Out: Did you have any trepidation about diving into the back-stories of such beloved characters for Summer and the City?
Candace Bushnell: I actually didn't feel any trepidation at all. I think that I'm so close to them, especially to the character of Carrie who really was my alter ego when I first started writing Sex and the City, which was in 1994. I think I felt like I knew so much about her, and so in a sense for me it was really a question of just illuminating different times in her life and different parts of her life. There was no grand plan for Sex and the City, and we didn't start off saying, 'Hey, it's going to be book and then it's going to six seasons of a TV series and then a movie and a prequel book and then another movie and another prequel book.' It all just happened with time as Sex and the City became more and more popular.
What were some of the specific challenges to writing the prequels?
Well, for me the actual biggest challenge was writing in first person present tense, which is definitely something you see in young adult books and you don't see so much in novels for adults. And the things that's really tricky about it is that you have to be in the character's head in the moment, so the character can't know more than what they would know at that time. There can't be foreshadowing and any of those devices that one uses in third person as an omniscient narrator. And of course one of the reasons why I created the character of Carrie Bradshaw to begin with was that I honestly didn't want to write in first person. And Sex and the City, the first three columns were first person. And then I was like, 'No, I've got to pull back.' So I created this character, Carrie Bradshaw. That was a little bit tricky.
When The Carrie Diaries came out you said that it was totally fictional. Is the same true for Summer and the City, or are there parts of you in this book?
My father finished the book the other day and he called me at 10:00 in the morning -- I was thinking Dad, are you having a heart attack? Why are you calling me at 10:00 in the morning? -- and he said, 'I just finished the book, and I want to know. Did these things really happen?' And I said, 'Dad, it's fiction!' And it is. There's nothing in the book that actually happened to me or to anyone I know, but I think it's very authentic to the time. It's the early eighties in New York, and it's the atmosphere. It's the kinds of things that happened. For instance, Carrie gets mugged and Miranda finds her purse in the trash and calls her up, which maybe seems farfetched, but back in the eighties the city wasn't as safe, people were always getting mugged and then the muggers would throw out your wallet or your handbag and people would call you up. I mean it was actually pretty common. So that I think is really authentic to the times and the places they go and the kinds of people she meets. So I would say those kinds of things happened to me but not specifically.