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.
Why do you think Sex and The City resonates so strongly with gay men?
Well, I always used to say that gay men and straight women in New York City always had the same dating problems. [Laughs] And they are much more similar I think than straight women and straight men. People say, 'Why don't you write Sex and the City for straight men?' Well, because it would just be life, OK? Gay men and straight women have a lot of similar dating stories so I think there's a lot of similarities and we are simpatico.
I also think that gay men haven't always been able to be open about their sexuality -- and still aren't always able to, and women have had to deal with the same thing. So, in many ways Sex and the City was trailblazing in that it was the first time women were talking about their sex lives freely and openly and without apologizing. Do you consider yourself -- and the series -- to be rooted in feminism?
Oh, I absolutely consider myself a feminist. In fact, one of the reasons for me personally writing The Carrie Diaries series is that the characters in Sex and the City came out of such a specific time. And, if it weren't for seventies feminism and this movement of young women moving to urban areas in the early eighties and having careers and having a very different life than what their mothers had, the characters in Sex and the City wouldn't exist. So the characters come out of a very specific feminist time and a very specific feminist message; in fact, they embody it. So, for me, that was one of the things that was so fun about going back. And Miranda, she is a hardcore feminist the way one was in the late seventies and early eighties. When we first meet her, she's protesting against pornography in front of Saks Fifth Avenue, and that was a real thing. There was a woman who was always shouting at women, 'Women, wake up!' So that's actually Miranda's first scene, and I love it. It just forms her character.
Did you ever see the article in the New York Times hypothesizing that the women from The Golden Girls are actually the Sex and the City characters in their 50's?
I haven't seen it, but you know what? I think it could be true. I think that people love [the Sex and the City characters] and they want to see them in all different kinds of iterations. In fact, my girlfriends and I always say "When we get old, what are we going to do?" Everybody has this idea we're going to have a big house in the country or big apartment and we'll all live together. Of course, now people are saying we can have a nurse too to take care of all of us. It's really kind of sad, but it probably will be true. And, in fact, that's a book that I've always wanted to write, but it's kind of on my list. I haven't gotten around to it.
Finally, what did you think of Sex and the City 2?
I had a great time. I really had a great time. I went to the movie premiere, which is always so crazy. There are so many people and the Ziegfield Theatre is enormous. So you're watching it with five thousand people, which is disconcerting, but then I always go home and watch it on my screen. And I thought it was great fun. Let's face it, it got some bad reviews, but I've had so many women come up to me and say it was exactly what they expected and they had a great time.