Then there was television. Parents of today would never let their kid watch as many hours a day as I did, so it was a big influence. In many of the series of that time, Los Angeles wasn’t just a setting, it was a featured performer, as networks, now following the example set by feature films, left the confines of the studio and took to the streets injecting realism into their series. There was something about this city, even the gritty crime show locations, which clicked with me. Or maybe it was the Dodgers. What female baseball fan didn’t drool while watching the 1977 and 1978 World Series when the team was led by their eye-candy first baseman, Steve Garvey?
But it was the short-lived drama “Bracken’s World,” that sealed the deal. While my friends were home watching “Love American Style,” every Friday night I was glued to my television following the lives of the folks who worked at a fictionalized version of Twentieth Century Fox. The Fox lot seemed like the coolest place to live and work. Decision made. Ten-year-old me knew with absolute certainty that one day I would live in Beverly Hills, marry a film director, and hang-out at Fox. Talk about the power of intention. While I never lived in Beverly Hills (I prefer the more laid-back beach towns); my husband hasn’t directed a feature (yet), but he does produce; and although I’ve been to the Fox lot, worked and shopped at the office/mall complex located on their former backlot, and I even got married at a hotel located there, it is the Sony lot where I’ve spent the most time, so close enough.
Along the way, as I finally travelled through those countless suburbs game show contestants come from, I learned that Los Angeles was not a media fantasy, but a real place. And I loved it, even rush hour on the 405. There’s so much cultural diversity and so many things to do. Where else can you ski in the morning and swim in the ocean in the afternoon? With Hollywood Princess, I introduce the reader to the parts of Los Angeles I know the best, and I think they will feel my affection for my adopted hometown.
YZM: Did you draw on your professional experience in the movie biz to write Hollywood Princess?
DL: Yes, no, sort of. Long before I ever worked in the industry, I was a junior high school kid taking Saturday acting classes in Manhattan with the daughter of the then head of Columbia Pictures. When I was in high school, my mother went to work for a New York-based film producer whose young son grew up to produce the Harry Potter movies. So you could say, Hollywood was simply a part of my life. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t work in the industry, but eventually I became a production accountant first in television, and then in features. I met my husband not through work, but at a Passover Seder in Beverly Hills, and he has worked in the industry his entire career. I drew on all these experiences, personal and professional in crafting Hollywood Princess.
YZM: Jews have a long and rich history in the movie industry; were you drawing on that as well?
DL: Definitely. Years ago I read, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, by Neal Gabler, and it filled me with pride that these mostly uneducated Jewish immigrants, or their first-generation sons, with tenacity and brilliance as their only assets, created from scratch one of the most vital industries in the United States. It was important for Elizabeth and Danny to be Jewish characters, continuing this ethnic tradition.
YZM: What made you jump the line and write a novel? Had you ever considered a screenplay?
DL: I did study screenwriting at UCLA, and I do have a drawer of screenplays that never went anywhere, but I never considered making Hollywood Princess a script, though if anyone wants to adapt it, I’m open to listening. From the beginning Hollywood Princess was always going to be a novel. I had too much material, and I didn’t want to be constrained by the three-act format a screenplay must follow. Compared to most novels, Hollywood Princess is rather dialogue-driven, and I think this is a result of my screenwriting training. But I enjoy introducing readers who may not know Los Angeles to the places my protagonists frequent, and in a screenplay, I wouldn’t be able to do this.
YZM: The novel has two narrators: Elizabeth, and her love interest, Danny; what led you to make this choice?
DL: At about the time I first began imagining the plot lines that ultimately led to Hollywood Princess, my eldest daughter was hooked on the Twilight series. I willingly read the books, wanting to understand what had her so captivated. Stephanie Meyer then posted on her website an unfinished, never published novel telling the story from Edward’s POV. I was struck by how this answered many of the questions I had had while reading the original book, and I thought it would have been a better story if the reader could have had this access to his feelings and thoughts while reading the original. Later, after proceeding with both POVs, I read several books in my genre that were written from the woman’s POV, and were followed by a sequel telling the story from the man’s POV. I prefer having two narrators from the get-go. I mean, why make readers wait for a sequel to learn his side? I’d rather use a sequel as a continuation of the story.
YZM: The conclusion is very open ended and sees to lead straight into another book. Are you envisioning Hollywood Princess as the first in a series?
DL: Yes. Hollywood Princess is the first in a planned four-book series that follows Elizabeth and Danny through their four years at Donnelly College. I’m a stickler for realism, and it irks me when I read other books featuring college students that end with the happily ever after. Don’t get me wrong; I like a happy ending, but when the protagonists are 18 or 20 years old, it is not realistic for them to move so rapidly from Day One meeting to marriage. Perhaps it’s my New York Jewish view of the world, which says, “Whoa – shouldn’t these folks graduate from college and get jobs first?” As we follow Elizabeth and Danny’s character arcs, their relationship will go through ups and downs, and face challenges. They are at a stage of life, New Adult, where they are trying to discover who they want to become, and readers who stay with the series will experience this with them. I believe they will be satisfied with how Elizabeth and Danny ultimately emerge.