Author Q&A: Brenda Della Casa, "Cinderella Was a Liar"
This week, Write On! speaks with Brenda Della Casa, the author of Cinderella Was a Liar: The Real Reason You Cannot Find (Or Keep) a Prince. Brenda is a writer, columnist, dating coach and casting producer who has spent the past nine years interviewing thousands of men and women for a variety of articles and television shows. Brenda’s columns appear on and in Lifetime Online, Start Your Business Magazine, and Divorce360.com, and she has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Psychologies, Men’s Health, Hallmark, FHM, iVillage.com, Woman’s Day, Cosmo Bride, The Mirror, The Sun, The NY Daily News, Health and Fitness, Fabulous, For Me, Company, Seventeen, Bliss, New Woman, and others. Her blog, Walking Barefoot has been updated daily for four years. See her Cinderella Was a Liar Blog at www.cinderellawasaliar.org.
What prompted you to write Cinderella Was A Liar?
Living and working as a young writer and casting director for some of television’s most popular dating, relationship, and family shows in New York and LA allowed me a very unique opportunity to meet and speak with literally thousands of men and about love, sex, dating, and romance. The more I spoke with these men and women, the more I realized that, when it came to romance, women had men figured out all wrong. In interviews and when out with my own friends, I listened to women make excuses for bad behavior (both their own and that of the men they were seeing), overanalyze every last word and action spoken and taken by a man and beat themselves up for not having a ring by 28.
It also seemed as though the very things women convinced themselves men wanted were the exact same things men were complaining about! I decided to spend six months interviewing women and then take what I had heard and spend another six interviewing men. I asked them what they thought about one night stands, women morphing into their mate, their biggest turn-off’s, and just about every other question relating to dating, romance, and sex. I also wanted to write about the importance of dating and loving yourself and not allowing the desire for a ring and a big celebrity wedding destroy your chances at real love. Cinderella Was a Liar is the result of this process.
What was your favorite part of the process?
I am someone who thrives on the connections I make with other human beings so that, without a doubt, was the best part of the experience. To have the opportunity to sit down and listen to the experiences and wisdom that each individual took the time to share with me was a gift in more ways than just making Cinderella Was a Liar the best book it could be. I learn so much from my readers and the men and women who trust me with their thoughts and feelings on a daily basis. I am deeply grateful for every conversation and moment shared.
The greatest challenge?
Each step of the process—from signing with an agent, pitching, and writing and selling a book, to what follows—offers its own set of challenges. I would have to say the greatest challenge is to not allow yourself to attach your ego to how well your work is received. I say this even if the reviews are good. It’s easy to get caught up in the back-patting and accolades and easy to take a harsh criticism and tuck it into your soul, but writing is art and we all know that art is deeply personal. I think we live in a society that values “fame” above authenticity and I would caution other writers not to put their name on anything that does not feel authentic and right to them, even if that work will get their name on a book in Borders. At the end of the day, the essays and books you write will become a part of your legacy and that extends far beyond a mention in the Times (though, that is always nice). Also remember that touching one person is touching 1,000. In terms of the writing process, I was given a very tight deadline to turn in my work and that meant I was working 18 hour days for most of the 6 months I spent writing it.
Do you have any tricks for keeping track of research?
Allow those you are interviewing to answer questions via email. There is something very comforting in knowing that they are writing what they really feel and feel comfortable with what they have given you… It gives them the security of knowing they will be quoted correctly and gives you a paper trail if they suddenly don’t remember what they said. I met up with many men and women, but always followed up with an email and questions.
I suggest using Gmail for emails because it allows you to keep conversations organized, and this proved extremely helpful to me.
How did you use what you learned and researched in your own life?
This process, along with my work as a casting director, really de-mystified men for me and also allowed me the chance to really appreciate them for who they are, as a gender. Men are really not so complicated and I think that was a big realization for me and the women in my life. This doesn’t mean they’re “simple” in any way, but they maintain pretty uncomplicated relationships and opinions. That direct approach can be nice at times, when you stop reading into it, of course.
I also started to realize how many women get into a relationship expecting it to be like it is with their girlfriends and, when they are stuck with an annoyed shopping mate or someone who doesn’t really want to talk about every last detail of their day, they wind up hurt. They think he doesn’t care, isn’t invested in the relationship, or isn’t romantic when really, they are just not that down with walking around Soho all afternoon. These realizations helped me quite a bit.
How is writing a book different from article-writing?
I’d like to think I put a piece of myself into my articles but my book is my soul in print. It’s my words, my thoughts, and my analysis. Writing a book is a very personal and private process that only the author can fully understand and there is a very distinct vulnerability that comes with placing your work out there for the masses. You’re deeply attached to what is on those pages, so every small typo that finds its way in the final book is taken a lot harder.
How important is it for a writer to maintain a blog?
Writers need to write, and a blog can be a wonderful way to connect with readers and allow editors to see their writing style and clips in an easy way. If you are looking to make a name for yourself, a blog is a must. It helps to build your brand and get your name out there..
That said, I find that writing essays, articles, and doing exercises just for practice are also fantastic ways to nurture a writer’s soul. Keeping a journal is also something I would recommend.
How do you balance your writing with other ventures?
That’s a big issue for me. Writing is my work, my hobby, and my therapy, and that makes me a workaholic, though it doesn’t feel like “work” at all to me. There’s not much else I would rather do than write and I have a partner and friends who are deeply supportive of me in this way. I write on napkins when I am on vacation and have been known to write in the notes section of my blackberry while in-between sets at the gym. It may sound weird, but it’s who I am. That said, I definitely take time to live and, when I don’t, writers block sets in, which can be a killer.
Any advice for writers?
Read often. Also, understand that frequently the best writing comes from the feelings deep inside of [you]; do not be afraid of what comes out. There are plenty of people who can type up a newspaper story, but not many who can touch the soul of another human being. Don’t be afraid to be who you are and don’t allow your feelings about your art and your talent be defined by how much money you make or who hires or doesn’t hire you. I feel it is important to write for your own enjoyment and to nurture your talent and desire to put something out there, and do not worry about what other writers are doing or compete with the numbers on Amazon. You need to do what feels right to you and the more authentic you are, the clearer your voice and the more appreciative your audience. If you are a writer, write.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
That even Hemingway didn’t think he was Hemingway. What I mean by that is most writers have deep anxiety about placing their work out into the world. It’s so personal, regardless of the content. Most writers are their own worst critics and are rarely 100% satisfied once the book is published. I think that is part of the process. I would have also liked to know more about the publishing world and process.