Q&A with LA Author Heather Havrilesky
Heather Havrilesky signs 'Disaster Preparedness' at Vroman's tonight.
When we first talked with LA-based writer Heather Havrilesky in 2004, she was working as the TV critic for Salon.com. Fast forward seven years, and she's just published her memoir Disaster Preparedness and makes a stop at Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena tonight at 7 pm for a reading. (She'll also be making another appearance at the West Hollywood Library on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 2 pm if you can't make it tonight.)
We caught up with Havrilesky recently and asked a few questions about her book, LA and life after Salon.com.
1. What spurred you to write a memoir now as opposed to your Social Security years?
The book is mostly about my childhood and young adulthood. I would've written it a decade ago, but I was too unfocused to figure it out. Anyway, I plan to spend my Social Security years in some kind of a prescription-drug-addled haze that has no element of nostalgia to it.
2. Your parents' divorce obviously had a profound effect on you. Was writing the book part therapy?
Their divorce was actually a big relief, compared to their marriage. I do write about the effects of having my mom move out of our house for a summer, before my parents officially broke up. That part was awful. I didn't plan on dredging that up - like so much of the book, I just wandered into the most painful and humiliating territory possible. This is how we masochists do it!
3. Were you worried about how your Mom/family would react to a memoir that airs family dirty laundry? How did they?
My mom has been very supportive about it. She's really a very generous person, and she's admirably unconcerned with how people see her. She's read the book 3 or 4 times and offered smart edits, and she invited all of her friends to my reading in Durham last week. My brother and sister are also very tolerant of me. They think I'm oversensitive and melodramatic - and they're not wrong.
4. How hard was it for you to transition from short nonfiction to book length?
Not too difficult. The book is really made up of essays that work together to form a reasonably cohesive narrative.
5. LAist did an interview with you in 04 and at the time you were living in Eagle Rock/Highland Park. Are you still there?
I moved to the border of Montrose and La Crescenta, aka The Balcony of Southern California. It's refreshingly unsophisticated and friendly, but with great restaurants. Food over footwear! We eat at La Cabanita, The Black Cow and Sushi Manster constantly.
6. In LA, what's your favorite space to write?
I really like Swork in Eagle Rock. Also like The Coffee Bean in Montrose.
7. What's the one writing tool you can't live (write) without?
Caffeine, and the overconfidence that comes with it.
8. Favorite bookstore in LA ?
Vroman's in Pasadena, but Skylight Books in Los Feliz was my favorite when I lived there.
9. Name the last book you read. Now name the last GOOD book you read.
I'm a TV and film critic, so if a book isn't good, I just stop reading. No time for bad books! Just read Veronica by Mary Gaitskill and loved it.
10. What's next for you now that you've left your Salon.com gig?
I'm staff critic at The Daily covering film and TV. I'm also working on a novel. I tried to write a novel a few times when I was younger and failed miserably. This time, I think I'm finally old and crusty and disenchanted enough to make it work, just like all of those old, crusty, disenchanted novelists always say. You know, when you're young, you try to write a novel in order to make your life as a drunk more romantic. When you're old, you try to write a novel because getting drunk isn't nearly as fun -- or as romantic -- as it used to be.