NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – In this week’s summer Beach Reads segment, we’re featuring the latest novel from former television writer Susan Fales-Hill.
It’s called “Imperfect Bliss” and we could sum it up for you, but Susan, who spoke with our Pat Farnack, really does it best.
LISTEN: Farnack with Fales-Hill
SF-H: I would describe it as “50 Shades of Gray” meets the “Smithsonian Magazine.” It’s got a little sex. It’s got some history in it, because I’m an amateur history buff and it is very much an homage to the momma of all chick-lit novels, “Pride and Prejudice,” still going strong in sales, 200 years later. God bless Jane Austen!
PF: Well, how did the story of “Imperfect Bliss” first occur to you?
SF-H: For years I had wanted to do an updated version of “Pride and Prejudice” cause it is one of my favorite book. And it’s the kind of book that through out one’s life, one returns to and one finds new elements in and now 15 years into marriage, I see it as a very intelligent meditation on marriage. Plus, it has one of the hottest male heroes in all of literature. He’s every woman’s ideal, Darcy is the combination of dark, brooding and sexy and financially and emotionally stable. It’s hard to find in life and I think that’s part of the enduring appeal of the book. So, I had wanted to do an update and as a former television writer, I wrote for the original “Cosby Show,” I ran its spin-off of “A Different World,” I was a producer on Brooke Shields’ show “Suddenly Susan,” I was a little horrified by the rise of reality TV, although, I can confess, I then become a closet watcher of “The Bachelor.”
EXTRA: More Beach Reads
PF: I was going to say, you know, we talk about guilty pleasures in life and I know so many women who secretly watch either “The Bachelorette” or “The Real Housewives” of fill-in-the-blank.
SF-H: Exactly, exactly. I mean, they’re sitting there reading “Smithsonian Magazine,” but then they’re secretly watching. It’s like, you know, we all read “The Star.” So, um, so there’s this kind of fascination and revulsion at the same time and I’m also really fascinated as the mother of a daughter, that, um, what influence is this having on the image of women, the way marriage is being depicted, because it really is a ring by spring, you know, nabs a guy, do what you have to in the hot tub to grab his attention and so these kind of backward looking messages were fascinating to me. And so, I sort of blended this all together and thought let’s do an updated “Pride and Prejudice” in which one of the younger daughters in the family, uh, gets chosen to be the star of a reality show that is a sort of, footrace to the altar. And I’m calling [the show], shockingly, “The Virgin” because as I meditate on reality TV, the only thing that hasn’t been done is a woman, who’s a virgin, selecting the guy who’s she’s going to marry on air.
PF: Now, [in] “Imperfect Bliss,” you talk about how some of the things that are done on reality TV are shocking and shameless, but there’s also an aspect of it [that] the more things change, the more they remain the same.
SF-H: Exactly, exactly. And the message is of these reality shows, you know, go back to Jane Austen’s time of a woman should aspire to marrying a wealthy man. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife, and that’s kind of the premise of a lot of these shows. So, I’m fascinated that so many years later and after all of the advances women have made, that this is still, kind of, the gold standard and the brass ring for which everyone is reaching. The other thing that Jane Austen did that I’m trying to do is ask the question, “What is real love and what does make for a good marriage?” A lot of chick-lit novels are about the race to the altar or getting that guy and it ends on the wedding and I usually begin mine after the I dos, with, kind of, “What the heck did I do?” that often hits a lot of us and my mine character is divorced. And she married the love of her life and she’s wondering how her life went so wrong. And it’s also a very hopeful novel, about a second chance at love and again, what is real, mature, and yet, passionate love.
PF: You know, this book sounds like it has everything and you have to have thought, “What next if I bring this to the small or the big screen?” Who do you think would play some of these characters?
SF-H: Well, Quincy Jones’ daughter, Rashida Jones, would make the perfect Bliss.
PF: And who would be Diana?
SF-H: Diana? You know, I think we would have to cast a young unknown, because she looks like Vanessa Williams, but Vanessa Williams is gorgeous, though she is, she’s now a mother of grown women herself. Diana, the virgin, is 21 years old. Bobby Cannavale, that very sexy, Cuban-Italian, he would make a fantastic Dario. In fact, he and Chris Noth were battling each other in my head as the muse for that character.
Next week, Debbie Macomber dishes on the first book in her new series.