Writer Candace Bushnell's infamous 1996 bestseller inspired a generation of women to celebrate female friendship and talk frankly about S-E-X (and the City). Her latest offering, Killing Monica, is a novel about an author who comes to loath the iconic female character she created. The plot has caused many to wonder whether Bushnell might be pulling from real life, but she says she has nothing but love for Carrie Bradshaw. Here, the original cosmo girl shares some of the secrets to her success including why it's okay to stop talking about sex.
Before the Sex there was the self
I think I grew up in a very unusual household. My father was a scientist and this idea of creativity was a big part of our lives. My two sisters and I never once got a message from my dad or my mom about boys being an important part of life. We were encouraged to be ourselves and to figure out what we wanted to do in the world. I remember talking with my sister when we were 18 or 19 and we realized we didn't know anything about dating because our parents never taught us anything. My mom didn't care about boyfriends and then later she never made us feel like we should be getting married or needing to give her grandchildren. She was very progressive in that sense. It is so important for young women to develop a sense of self outside of relationships. When I was in my twenties, most women wanted to get married. Now I meet so many young women who are focused on their careers and not being too obsessed with the opposite sex. That is a huge change and it's so encouraging.
Let's (not) talk about sex, baby
When you're in your twenties, so much about sex is so new and exciting and it's important to share stories with your friends. It's almost like a way that women can look out for each other and also it's so funny. Women are funny and sex is funny and it's just great not to take things so seriously. I think as one gets older, there tends to be less sharing. I've noticed that married people almost never talk about their sex lives. Maybe there's a feeling that if you're talking about the other person, there's a betrayal. But then the other thing is just that life goes on and other things just become more interesting. The day does come when it's like, "Sex – I get it, I don't need to talk about it. Sex is great, but I've talked about it enough." There are other things I'd rather talk about.
I don't need a Mr. Big
In real life, I'm not sure that Carrie and Mr. Big would have ended up together, but I think for the TV show, it was a great ending. The relationship had been built up over so many years and we just really wanted to see them get married. I was married for almost 10 years and I noticed that once you reach a certain age, people – at least other married people – are more comfortable with other married people. It's a shorthand. It lets people assume they understand something about you and your life, whether they actually do or not. At this stage in my life, being single is my preference, but still, people think that deep down I want to meet someone or you just haven't met the right person. I don't know why people are incapable of believing that single people are single by choice. Maybe it's the idea that if somebody doesn't want to be in a couple, where does that leave coupledom? One thing I can tell you is that as a single person I don't get invited to couples' parties any more. At first I couldn't believe it and then one just moves on with one's life.
If you want to be a writer, you write
Ever since the invention of the printing press people have romanticized this idea of being a writer. The reality is that writing is hard. Fifty per cent of the time you'll hate yourself. I say that in a joking way, but you really do go through a lot of agony. To aspiring writers, I would say it is going to take longer than you expected and you have to push. Before I started working professionally, I would just walk right up to people at these little newspapers in New York and say, "I am a writer. Give me an assignment." There was plenty of rejection, but sometimes it works. The best lesson I can offer is just to keep going. If you look at the stories of a lot of successful people, often the difference is just that they see something through to completion. I remember one of the things my friends and I used to say was "writing is writing." It's putting words down on paper and then looking at it. I probably use one-tenth of what I actually write.
This interview was condensed and edited by Courtney Shea.