where the writers are
THE STORY OF THIS ONE IS MINE
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 I used to write for TV.  I worked on good shows, like Ellen, Mad About You and Arrested Development.  And bad shows that nobody needs to know about.  During those years, I never actually watched TV, though.  All I did was read.  Writing for TV was fun and challenging, and something I was good at, but the end product never much held my interest.  One day, when I was in the middle of negotiating yet another pilot deal, I thought, I know what's going to happen, I'll waste a year of my life in the development grind and the thing won't even get made.  So, kind of on an impulse, I decided, fuck it, I should write a novel.  It was the thing that scared me the most, so I thought I'd better get to it. 

 I asked myself a simple question.  "If someone came up to me holding a book and said, 'Oh my God, Maria, you are going to absolutely love this book,' what would that book be?"  I was in the middle of rereading Anna Karenina for the millionth time, so I took that as a cue.  I literally wrote a list of what I'd want in a novel and taped it to my desk.  Here's the exact list I wrote almost two years ago to the day:

- about marriages/relationships
- someone having an affair
- characters are real & grounded, but acting crazy, like I'd be afraid to
- emotionally and psychologically detailed
- living in nice houses
- you have no idea where it's going
- lots of characters who end up affecting each other 

 And so I began.  Unlike in television, where you're always thinking, "Is this what the network wants?  Is the actor going to object?", at every juncture I asked myself, "What would I want to have happen here, if I was reading this book in bed after a long boring day with my kid?  What would make me keep reading instead of going to sleep?"  That was my only criteria.  It was a joy to write, every step of the way.  I hope that comes across to the reader.   

-- Maria Semple

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Welcome to Red Room, Maria!

And I'm guessing your dad was Lorenzo Semple, right?