The inspiration for Cecily von Ziegesar’s newest novel? Lice.
About eight years in the past, when her two kids have been in elementary college in Brooklyn, she couldn’t shake the concept their hair, and her personal, have been infested with the bloodsucking bugs.
“I’d go all the way down to the nurse and be like, ‘Are you able to verify my head?’ I used to be combing my children’ hair each single evening,” von Ziegesar stated in an interview. “I heard that in the event you put mayonnaise in your head and wrapped it in Saran Wrap, that will drown them, so I used to be doing that to my hair on daily basis.”
The same lice encounter kicks off her e book, “Cobble Hill,” which Atria publishes on Nov. 10, besides that as an alternative of a mom of two having a meltdown, it’s Stuart Little, a has-been rock star whose spouse, Mandy, it’s quickly revealed, has faked a number of sclerosis in order that she will keep in mattress and shirk her parental duties of college drop-offs and paying taxes.
If that habits sounds maniacally self-centered, it’s the form of character that von Ziegesar, the writer of the best-selling younger grownup collection “Gossip Lady,” focuses on — and defends when mandatory.
“I really like Mandy,” she stated, a touch of protectiveness in her voice. “I like her for having the heart to simply be, like, ‘That is what I must do proper now.’”
Name it guts or selfishness or gutsy selfishness, these traits might be present in most of her feminine characters, von Ziegesar famous, from the scheming Blair Waldorf and the backstabbers who surrounded her in “Gossip Lady” to the 4 feminine characters of “Cobble Hill.” Along with Mandy, there’s a British expatriate working at a Condé Nast-esque journal, a highschool nurse with a crush on a pupil’s mother or father and an evasive artist.
“I didn’t need them to be characters that you just like to hate,” von Ziegesar stated.
These girls and their households really feel like characters that teenage followers of “Gossip Lady” might need graduated to. In any case, since her first e book got here out in 2002 and the tv adaptation started airing in 2007, these followers at the moment are reaching prime maturity, contemplating profession shifts, shopping for houses and buying and selling their youthful insecurities for extra grown-up ones. That may embody, as is the case with these characters, giving up on passions for unfulfilling careers that pay the payments, touchdown jobs they don’t know tips on how to do however fake to or studying that perhaps they don’t love their spouses as a lot as they used to — all whereas agonizing over how different individuals understand them.
“I couldn’t write the ‘Gossip Lady’ books now, however I couldn’t have written ‘Cobble Hill’ then,” von Ziegesar, 50, stated. “Hopefully I’ve progressed as a author.”
She herself is a product of the Higher East Aspect world the place “Gossip Lady” is ready: Although she grew up on the Higher West Aspect, she went to high school there and had the “humorous little experiences of having the ability to stroll across the nook from college and go to my pal’s home,” she recalled. “And I had just a few associates whose dad and mom have been somewhat reluctant to allow them to come over to my home.”
The concept for “Gossip Lady” emerged when von Ziegesar was an editor on the book-packaging firm Alloy Leisure, now a division of Warner Bros. Tv Group. On the time, the younger grownup e book market was stuffed with collection like “Candy Valley Excessive” that featured made-up areas. “That was so bizarre to me,” she stated. “Why not write about an actual place? It simply so occurred that the actual place that I knew was the Higher East Aspect.”
Exact gross sales figures of the “Gossip Lady” books are exhausting to come back by as a result of the primary of the collection arrived earlier than monitoring was made obtainable, however some estimates recommend it has offered over 4 million copies. The TV collection ran for six seasons and helped make celebrities out of solid members comparable to Blake Vigorous, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley and Ed Westwick. An HBO Max reboot is now within the works.
In 2002, when von Ziegesar’s debut e book got here out, she had her first little one. By the point the TV collection was coming to an finish in 2012, she had two kids who have been sufficiently old to be hooked.
“We’d watch the present collectively as a household,” she stated from the just lately vacated room of her daughter, who’s beginning her first yr in school. “I bear in mind placing my son to mattress and he was like, ‘I don’t assume I can fall asleep,’ and I requested why not, and he’s like, ‘I’m so fearful about Chuck.’”
The voyeuristic lens von Ziegesar utilized to old-money Higher East Siders, exploring the strain between their nervous inside lives and ideal outward appearances, is what she sought to convey to “Cobble Hill,” which is called for the costly Brooklyn neighborhood the place she and the characters dwell. Besides this e book is extra relatable, extra regular: As an alternative of elbowing their manner into Ivy League faculties or throwing events on Park Avenue, these characters are looking for babysitters to allow them to exit for a drunken evening of karaoke.
“It was ballsy and actual,” the literary agent and writer Invoice Clegg stated in an e-mail. He labored with von Ziegesar with edits and suggestions on her manuscript however stated he didn’t must do a lot.
“I feel I simply requested for it to be longer,” he added. (Mandy, it seems, can also be his favourite character.)
Von Ziegesar has revealed a number of books because the final “Gossip Lady” installment, together with “Cum Laude,” about college students at a small school in Maine, and “It Lady,” a “Gossip Lady” spinoff whose cowl mannequin was a young Hope Hicks, now certainly one of President Trump’s advisers. Although they used the identical components of delving into the trials and tribulations of adolescence, they didn’t have the affect of “Gossip Lady.”
“Cobble Hill” is a larger departure for von Ziegesar. And, she talked about, there are already early whispers of doubtless turning it right into a TV collection as effectively.
Within the years she labored on the e book, von Ziegesar — who admitted her writing course of has by no means been neat or methodical — continued to jot down flashes of inspiration, concepts and actual life occasions on Publish-it notes that she’d stick round her home.
“In contrast to ‘Gossip Lady,’ the place I used to be writing a collection and there have been two a yr, this actually is sort of a fruits of so many issues,” she stated. “I used to be engaged on it very sporadically for a very long time.”
This yr, as von Ziegesar was cleansing out certainly one of her closets, she discovered a field of outdated Publish-its. “I regarded up and stated to my husband, ‘Oh my god, all of it went within the e book,’” she stated.