It started as a dream in a $300-a-month apartment. A place Candace Bushnell could barely afford. Then the New York Observer hired her to write a column called "Sex and the City," all about the real-life stories of her and her friends. Little did she know she was redefining what it means to be a modern, urban woman.
Six books, a wildly popular television series and two movies later, Bushnell is an international best-selling author with this balanced perspective: "Sometimes it's important to be a person first and a gender second." Her latest book, The Carrie Diaries, tells the backstory of Carrie Bradshaw and how she made her way from a small town to the big city.
Before Bushnell hits the red carpet, she answered 20 questions exclusively for Oprah.com readers.
1. What was the oddest job you ever had?
Being a judge on a reality show, Wickedly Perfect, which aired for 13 episodes in 2004. It was fun, but also strange. I had to yell at people because they forgot to put salt in the salt shakers.
2. How did you start writing?
Ever since I can remember I was telling stories and had a huge interest in other people and what made them tick. When I was 8 months old, I learned how to walk, and whenever my mother turned her back, I would run down the sidewalk wearing diapers and a bib and holding a little spoon. I always ran to our neighbor's house where the nice lady had a giant cat and lots of porcelain figures behind a glass case.
3. What is your greatest career coup?
Well, my biggest career break was creating and writing the column and book Sex and the City. I was about 34, and I'd worked a long time to get there.
4. What is your favorite film?
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, simply for the unadulterated silliness.
5. What would your theme song be?
Probably something by Joni Mitchell. Maybe "Free Man in Paris." I still like the idea of escaping.
6. Which individual has, for better or worse, had the single greatest influence on your life?
Probably my father. He used to yell at me quite a bit when I was young, but I could always turn to him for advice. Now he's in his late 70s and I feel like I've lived a whole life cycle with him. I just adore the old fellow.
What talent would Candace Bushnell most like to possess?
7. What book had the biggest impact on you? Why?
Books have varying degrees of impact depending upon the age at which one reads them. For instance, when I was 32, my best friend and I read House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Put simply, it's about a young woman, Lily Bart, who manages to destroy every possibility of marriage and in the end, with no hope for her future, kills herself. Probably because we were around the same age as Lily, my friend and I vowed that "we must never end up like Lily Bart!" Now when I read the book, I frankly find Lily kind of annoying. She refuses to save herself; she refuses to act. There is something irritating and slightly un-American in her lassitude.
8. Have you ever read or written a perfect sentence? What was it?
The first two sentences from Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert published in 1869:
"On the 15th of September 1840, at six o'clock in the morning, the Ville-de-Montereau was lying alongside the Quai Saint-Bernard, ready to sail, with clouds of smoke pouring from its funnel. One is immediately set in the scene not just as onlooker, but participant. Also note the proper and effective use of the semicolon!
People came hurrying up, out of breath; barrels, ropes and baskets of washing lay about in everybody's way; the sailors ignored all inquiries; people bumped into one another; the pile of baggage between the two paddle-wheels grew higher and higher; and the din merged into the hissing of steam, which, escaping through some iron plates, wrapped the whole scene in a whitish mist, while the bell in the bows went on clanging incessantly."
9. What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome or challenge you have ever faced?
Depression. Stone cold depression where you cannot get out of bed and you're convinced you have a horrible disease and spend all your time writing half-baked suicide notes. And, of course, nobody can tell you what's wrong with you. But that was a long time ago, and there are now effective ways to deal with this issue.
10. What characteristic do you admire most in others?
Being a nice person. In movie stars, actors and any other kind of celebrity—the ability to act normal and not suck all the air out of the room.
11. What talent would you most like to possess?
Being able to fall asleep on planes.
Candace Bushnell opens up about her secret guilty pleasures
12. What inspires you most?
13. What is your greatest fear?
I have nightmares every night, so there's not a lot I fear during the day.
14. What gives you hope about the world today?
At this moment, we may be a little less cruel and violent than we were 1,000 years ago.
15. What is one thing you have always wanted?
Complete and utter comprehension of the world and why we exist.
16. What is your most valued possession?
Like it or not, in the end, it's one's body. It's literally what carries you through life. There's a reason for the saying, "If you have your health, you have everything," and it's true. Old age, disease—these are the great equalizers.
17. What is one book you've been meaning to read?
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust. But every time I pick it up, I read 10 pages and mysteriously hate it.
18. What is your favorite food?
I'm half Italian, so salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, onions and peppers, cheese, all that stuff.
19. What is your secret guilty pleasure?
Sometimes I want to be on The Real Housewives of New York. I want to remind them to figure out how to get along and support each other.
20. How would you like to be remembered?
I'd like the world "swell" to be included.
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Printed from Oprah.com on Saturday, December 7, 2013
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