Lauren Graham On Writing, Procrastinating, and Her Favorite Authors

Jeff Lipsky/CPI Syndication

The brilliant and funny Lauren Graham wrote a novel! It’s called Someday, Someday, Maybe, and it comes out on April 30. I asked Ms. Graham about her writing habits, her characters, and her New York experience. Spoiler alert: like every other human, she wastes a lot of time on the internet (stars! They’re just like us!).

1. I’m so excited to talk to you, in part because like you, I’m a graduate of Barnard, where I majored in English! Can you talk a little bit about your experience at Barnard, and how it influenced your writing?
Go Bears! (Was that what we were? I never went to a single sporting event.)
My time at Barnard was fun but stressful. I transferred there from the acting conservatory at NYU, and my Rolling Around On the Floor Pretending to Be a Lion classes didn’t translate into many academic credits. For some reason though, I was determined to get all my requirements completed in three years, when I really needed four, so I signed up for a full load every semester and was spread thin academically. That didn’t stop me from also acting in plays and musicals, joining an a cappella group, going to see any live theater I could afford, and taking the odd acting class in the city. I was drawn to all New York City had to offer, and less so to the library to study. But as an English major, I read. I was usually reading two or three books at once. I absorbed a lot, and was constantly challenging myself to take on more. I couldn’t make sense of it all then, but every one of those jumbled experiences has served me well.

2. Which novels have made you think, “I want to write like THAT!”?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (at age 11)
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (and everything else he wrote).
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Postcards From the Edge, by Carrie Fisher
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Everything by Flannery O’Connor

3. How do you name your characters?
Salinger’s Franny and Zooey made a huge impact on me when I first read it (In college? High school maybe?), and it plays into the plot of the book, so I knew my main character’s name. The others also came sort of organically, although my editor had to point out to me at one point that that I had a Dan, Fran(ny), and Stan, so I changed Stan’s name to Herb.

4. What’s your writing schedule like? Do you sit down at the same time every day? Do you have a word quota you try to meet?
Because I have no consistent schedule as an actor, it was difficult to develop one as a writer. Ideally, I’d like to write first thing in the morning, every day. But sometimes I’m called to set before the sun comes  up, or I’ve worked late the night before, or I’m on a plane. So on this book, I tried for consistency in terms of quantity. I used an app that would ding at a thousand words, and I tried my best not to check it along the way until it chimed. Usually I’d cheat, or start looking something up on the internet that I assured myself was VITAL to the pages I was working on, or get distracted and start googling patio furniture (Restoration Hardware is having a sale! Time is of the essence!). Eventually, I realized that procrastination is directly related to fear, and I came to the staggering (yet completely obvious) realization that I couldn’t improve upon something that didn’t exist. I had to allow for an unwieldy, possibly very unattractive, first draft to exist if I had any hope of polishing it into something I liked better.

someday someday maybe5. Your novel is about a young woman trying to make it as an actor in New York, waiting tables to make ends meet. Did you wait tables when you were just starting out? What was that like? Did you have anxiety dreams in which you’d have to serve a party of 25 angry vegans?
I waited tables here and there, but my main day job was as a tutor teaching SAT test prep for The Princeton Review. I was lucky to have a (rusty, dented) car that enabled me to travel to students on Staten Island or Far Rockaway, or other locations that car-less tutors might have found challenging. The parking though! Even then, oy with the parking at the end of the day. Almost no one was a vegan then, so my anxiety dreams were limited to forgetting my lines, and waiting on people I knew—both of which are in the book!

6. What’s your advice for actors who are struggling to find work?
As in any business venture, it’s important to be educated about the marketplace. I’m baffled when young actors aren’t familiar with current film, television and theater, or aren’t interested in older films or plays and the history of the craft in general. If you don’t know what’s out there, and what came before, then how can you picture yourself working, and how can anyone else?

7. What’s your favorite neighborhood in New York?
Even though it’s unrecognizable and way more clogged than it was when I started out, I still get a thrill when I come out of the subway at 42nd Street and see the theater marquees blazing. Also, I’ve always lived downtown, but lately I could imagine moving nearer to Central Park. Having trees and a track to run on have become more important to me than living near cool restaurants.

8. What’s your favorite restaurant in New York? (An impossible question!)
Just to name a few:
Blue Ribbon Sushi
Waverly Inn

They’re all downtown—I better not move!

I love Lauren and I can’t wait to read her book! Are you planning to check it out?

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