I actually stopped reading for a while in an effort to break the habit. But when I found myself pregnant, not working, and home alone for the majority of the day, I needed something other than my beloved cable television to fill my days. So armed with a library card I trekked out to the local library and was determined to find worthy reading material: something light and funny, realistic and relate-able, witty and intelligent, a source of escape that didn't leave me feeling dirty (or hot and heavy) in the midst of it. And thus I discovered "chick lit" and my world has never been the same.
It is in that vein of literature that Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus chose to contribute their collective prowess and both readers and movie goers (perhaps you're aware of certain a major motion picture starring Scarlett Johannson, Laura Linney, Alicia Keys, and Paul Giamatti?) are grateful. Together they have written "The Nanny Diaries," "Citizen Girl," "Dedication," and now they continue to tell Nan's story in "Nanny Returns."
Nan has returned to NYC with her husband, H.H (Harvard Hottie), after living abroad for 12 years. She's embarking on a different kind of journey now, starting her own consulting business and fixing up her new abode. Unexpectedly (and annoyingly to Nan), H.H's biological clock begins to tick and her time spent with the X family may have permanently stopped her own. In the midst of this maelstrom of life decisions, lo and behold, Grayer X (her former charge, now 16) shows up drunk and on her doorstep. Turns out Mr. and Mrs. X continued to procreate (he's got a brother named Stilton, age 7) and now they are in the midst of a very ugly, Upper East Side style divorce. Out of a guilty sense of responsibility, Nan once again steps into the world of the X family, in an effort to help the boy that she left behind (and his young brother) and finds her "mommy gene" along the way.
Emma and Nicola were kind enough to not only send me an advance copy of the book (which is now available in book stores) but also answered a few of my questions:
What compelled you to revisit Nanny's story?
For years we had been just as curious as readers about what happened to Nan and all the characters in the first book. We pictured a happy hazy sunset for Nan, but didn’t let ourselves think about Grayer too much because we weren’t optimistic about his chances. Then last Spring we had a series of A-ha moments back-to-back and before we knew it a story had unspooled before us. We were inspired by articles we read about private schools being taken over by parents who wanted to buy their children a world without consequences. Then we read about the Astor trial and something about a son turning his father in for embezzling from his mother really struck us. Of course the Madoff story was rife with gripping family dynamics, from the sons turning in their father to the father/son accounting firm that had enabled the fraud in the first place. It all got our minds churning about pulling back to look at the larger impact of this community.
What was the experience like, having "The Nanny Diaries" made into a movie and how involved were you in the process (were you ultimately pleased with the results)?
We really enjoyed the movie and it remains a completely surreal experience for which we are thoroughly grateful. While we did visit the set as guests, we had no creative involvement in the movie. It is definitely a different journey than the novel in that it was a social satire while the movie is a romantic comedy--and with a romantic comedy, you have to have a happy ending. Nanny Returns picks up where the novel left off and we ultimately bring the readers, we hope, a satisfying and realistic sense of closure.
As former nannies, what advice would you give to fashionista mommies out there?
While nanny-ing is hard work, it is by no means as hard as being a mom, so we don’t have advice on that front quite yet. Our advice to fashonista nannies is to look for the cute comfortable with an eye toward synthetic fabrics that can be easily cleaned of juice box spray. We’re fans of Pumas, yoga pants with a high lycra count, Old Navy layers on top, and the trusty black ponytail holder.
Do you think the Nanny line of stories is complete, or is this something you will continue to develop?
Nicki wrote Harvey Fierstein a fan letter as a teenager and he wrote back to her: “Keep your heart and ears open always—the rest is easy.” We live by it. Also, be disciplined, set up a regular timeslot- even if it’s just one hour a week, and hold to it as sacred writing time. You’d be amazed how bit by bit that story will get written!
We’ve learned to never say never! Our first YA novel, The Real Real, about the world of teen reality TV just hit stores in paperback today and we are hard at work on our next YA novel, Over You, in which we delve into the heart of heartbreak and what’s required to get over it. Our novel, Dedication, about a woman who’s high school boyfriend disappears before prom and then resurfaces a few years later as the biggest pop star of her generation--and every song he’s world-famous for is about her—will be out in paperback in March. You can read an excerpt of Nanny Returns right now on our website at www.emmaandnicola.com , friend us at Facebook at “Emma and Nicola Authors of the Nanny Diaries” to enter contests to win a signed first edition, and follow us daily on Twitter @NannyDiaries.
What advice do you have for aspiring novelists?
What chic/fashionable purchase(s) did you make once you "made it big" as authors?
Honestly, we both went out and got dogs, which are true luxuries in NYC because most apartment buildings won’t let you have them and you need to be around to walk them as we don’t have back yards. And while we were on tour in London for Nanny Harvey Nichols was having an insane sale. We ran into each other in a crowded aisle with Prada purses on each arm and Gucci shoe boxes piled to our chins- every item was under $100. It was our one crazy day of X-like indulgence :)
I was really excited when I found out that there was to be a sequel to "The Nanny Diaries!" I devoured it (I actually checked it out on that aforementioned visit to the library) in about a day and a half and subsequently read (and thoroughly enjoyed) "Citizen Girl." Emma and Nicola kindly sent me "Dedication" as well and I am now reading it (I'm actually kind of getting on the hubby's nerves with my late night reading stints). "Nanny Returns" is definitely a must read for any fashionista who has left a job with a heavy heart and a niggling "I wonder" on her conscious, or has been a baby sitter (or nanny) in a past life, or if you're just like me, a connoisseur of fine "chick lit." 'Til next time...