Sunday, November 6, 2011

Joanna Philbin Interview


           1.    Did publishing a book come easily to you since you are a daughter of a celebrity?

Well, before you can get a book published, you have to know how to write.  And that took me some time!  After I got my MFA, I lived like a hermit, writing stories that I never showed anybody, and the better part of a novel that is still in a drawer.  I went through a long period of being my own harshest critic.  And then when I got the idea for The Daughters, I didn’t tell anyone about it because I was so incredibly embarrassed.  I would think to myself, Oh my god, you can’t write this!  It felt way too personal.  And I was determined to write about anything BUT my personal experience.  But the idea never went away.  It wasn’t until I’d moved out to California and written professionally for television that I got up the courage to tell my friend the idea.  He almost hit the roof.  He said “You have to write this!  Go home and start tonight!”  About a month later I finally pitched an agent the idea.  But even then I had to convince her that I could actually write the book.  I wrote the first eighty pages and that’s when we took it out to publishers.  But we took my name off the submission.  I didn’t want anyone to want it because of my last name.  Fortunately people wanted it anyway, but it was satisfying to know that my last name had nothing to do with it!

2.    Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be an actress or something else growing up?

I loved doing theater and taking drama classes when I was a child and a teenager, but I always had a stronger passion for writing.  So often I’d read a script and think to myself, “That line shouldn’t read like that.  It should read like this.”  I think that’s how I knew.

3. How did the idea of THE DAUGHTERS come to you?

          One day in my twenties I was coming out of the Times Square subway and right above me, on the Jumbotron, were my mom and dad, hosting my dad’s show.  It was such a surreal moment.  There I was, standing on the sidewalk rushing off to my job as someone’s assistant or intern, and there were my parents on this enormous screen.   And I thought to myself, Okay, this is weird.  That’s when I really got the idea for The Daughters: three girls all living “under the Jumbotron,” so to speak.  At first they were in their early twenties, just out of college, and starting their lives.  Years later, I decided to make them teenagers, and that’s when the book really clicked for me.   

4. Can you relate to any of the characters?

          I relate to all of them.  Sure, I’ve never been the daughter of a supermodel or a pop star, but the issues these girls are dealing with are ones I had consider as well: Do people expect me to be like my mom or dad?  Do I have to be what people think I’m supposed to be or is it okay to just be myself?  And I think no matter who our parents are, we all grapple with these issues of learning to accept and be ourselves.

5. Have you received special recognition in school or with friends when you were young?

          My teachers and close friends in highschool always knew me as me, not as the daughter of Regis Philbin.  Of course, there were some perks, such as getting to travel or meet people I admired (meeting Michael J. Fox in seventh grade just about blew my mind) but for the most part, I wanted to be as “normal” as everyone else.  Like most teenagers do!

6. Is it easy or hard for you to walk down the street or somewhere and have people recognize you?

          That only happens if I’m with my parents.  But most of the time, nobody recognizes me.  I think I’d be kind of shocked if that ever happened! 

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