Allison Pearson is a well-known columnist in the UK thanks to her frequent musings on politics, celebrities, and royals, and she's found additional success in her side career as a novelist. Her first book, I Don't Know How She Does It, is being made into a movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker, and her second was just published in the US. I Think I Love You is Allison's fictional story of Petra, a die-hard Welsh fan of David Cassidy in the '60s. The book, in two parts, focuses on Petra's worship of the teen heartthrob from afar during her adolescent years, and later when her path finally crosses David's as an adult. The subject of idolization certainly is one that girls today can relate to thanks to Twilight and Bieber fever. Allison was in NYC recently on a press tour that included a stop by The Today Show, and I was able to chat with her about modern idols like Robert Pattinson, the life of a writer, meeting SJP, and being married to New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane. Here's more:
TrèsSugar: How did you know the story of a teenage David Cassidy fan was the story you needed to write about as a second novel?
Allison Pearson: I didn't want to write another book because I was completely exhausted having written the first one and I'd done a lot of publicity for it. But I was in Norway with a group of women from the publisher and some journalists, and they said, "You have to write another book." And I said, "No way!" And then they said, "Well what would you write about if you were ever to write it?" . . . All the women around the table were chat, chat, chatting about Donny Osmond, this person, that person, and there was one woman who didn't say anything. The Norway women said David Cassidy was huge in Norway, which I didn't know. We were all chatting, and the woman who stayed very silent, I was thinking she thought we were all ridiculous. Then she looked at me and said, "But he was mine." And I thought, OK! That's it! You have to write it.
TS: It's about such a specific time in girls' lives.
AP: You don't want the boy to get out of the poster on the bedroom wall and come down, really. It's about being in love with someone who will never hurt you because you'll never meet them . . . It's quite a brief period — about a year or so. My daughter, who's quite a huge Robert Pattinson fan, would still claim to be. You know in Twilight, you've got camp Jacob and camp Edward. One of her very good friends admitted that she quite liked Taylor Lautner — the treachery! It's like she's defected from East Germany or something!
TS: Sounds like she's a saboteur!
AP: There's also that funny thing where they don't know if they're in love with the actor or the character. So she was team Edward, but then there was Rob . . . My husband [Anthony Lane], who writes about film for The New Yorker, said, "But he's not a good actor!" She's like, "Daddy, how can you say that!?"
To read more from Allison on modern idols like Robert Pattinson and Justin Bieber, as well as on meeting SJP, just
TS: Has writing this book taught you anything about the nature of fandom? Like that it's a real essential part of growing up?
AP: Yeah, I think it is. It's obviously an important transition phase, but I think it also has this quite terrifying side. To be Leonardo DiCaprio or David Cassidy, to have these people moving toward you like you're lunch, that must be pretty terrifying . . . some of the forces at work in those little girls are not that great. It's demonic really.
TS: What's your take on modern teen idols like Robert Pattinson and Justin Bieber?
AP: My law of teen idols is that all other teen idols apart from your own are ridiculous. You can't see what's so good at all. I think mine was perfect, so . . . I think it's very extreme. They're very androgynous. They're very nonthreatening. If you look at Justin Bieber or Zac Efron in a certain light — Zac Efron looks quite like a young Cassidy. A very sweet face, a certain kind of not masculine not threatening. They're all like that.
TS: The hair seems to be a consistent theme!
AP: Yes, more feminine. Cause Cassidy had beautiful hair.
TS: And moving on to the women they date . . . that must be hard for them!
AP: Everyone hates the girls who they go out with . . . so poor Susan Dey of The Partridge Family, who's absolutely lovely, but everyone just hated her . . . I was out for lunch years ago with my editor, who's a very senior female editor in Britain, and I mentioned Susan Dey, and she said, "Bitch." And I thought all these years later . . . Like Kristen Stewart, exactly. For ages, people will say, "He's not going out with her. He isn't!" Yeah right! Or they pretend. A lot of people are told to pretend.
TS: Switching gears, how did the whole movie project of I Don't Know How She Does It with Sarah Jessica Parker come together?
AP: We were very lucky that they got Aline Brosh-McKenna, who wrote The Devil Wears Prada, to do the screenplay. So that was great. She believes in it passionately — I mean she loves it, she loved the book. I think she really has played a huge role in getting it going . . . And Sarah Jessica Parker agreed to do it. I mean, there is a great deal of affection for her, isn't there? People really love her. And they got this terrific cast together, with Pierce Brosnan!
TS: How was it meeting SJP?
AP: She was lovely! She is a working mom herself, with the girls and the boy. She knows all about that. She's very gracious, and she said, "I know my life's very fortunate and I can work different hours around the children . . . I have huge admiration for working mothers."
TS: And now, being married to another writer, The New Yorker's Anthony Lane, is that helpful to the writing process?
AP: Oh yes, he is just the most fabulous writer. I'm in awe of his skills really. It can be great, but when you're both on deadline it can be not so great. So there's the bit that, yes, we understand the pressure, but there's a little bit of, "Who's writing around here anyway?"