Christine Elise is an actress/blogger/filmmaker now turned author, debuting with “Bathing and the Single Girl,” her bawdy, hilarious take on life in the fast lane. We caught up with her to find out more…
DIY Convention: What motivated you to write the book?
CHRISTINE ELISE: I made a ten-minute short film of the same name that had a very successful run at 100 film festivals. That was very encouraging to me as a storyteller and I was sorta passively considering how to get more stories out there. Then a person in the book world saw the short film and promised he could get me a three-book deal if I expanded the film into a novel. That was VERY motivating and I wrote the first draft, stream of consciousness-style, without an outline or an ending in mind, in eight weeks. Then, the person who’d made the book deal promise had a falling out with my manager and that promise dissolved. o – I shopped the book to literary agents in NYC and one of them took me on. She had me rewrite about 50% of the book – which took two months and resulted in a far better, darker version…the version for sale now.
DIY: How real are the experiences?
CE: Some are real – whether they are my experiences or those of friends. My experiences that are in the book are deeply fictionalized to protect the innocent (or guilty – as the case may be). But the bulk of the book is pure fiction.
DIY: Are you the main character? Or is it a composite?
CE: I am not the main character – as she is fictional – but I deliberately gave her a lot of overlapping biographical details to blur the line. I knew people would think she was me – no matter what I said – so I intentionally fed into that. I suspect people enjoy the book more when they think it is all true and the stories are my actual life experiences.
DIY: You have a popular blog and have done various other forms of writing. How was a book different from those experiences?
CE: The book is my proudest achievement in life. It came out fast and easily and I think it is genuinely hilarious. It was an incredibly gratifying experience to have 100% of the creative control and freedom and to work at my own pace. I am not someone known publicly for being funny, but being funny has always been very important to me…even as a child. It was fun to get to poke at things in life I find ridiculous – like religion and Republicans and homophobia – without anyone else having to get shit for it. I like taking complete responsibility for the result. Plus, it was fun to purge a few real stories and immortalize them – though I will never share which ones are the truest. I have control over my food blog, but the sheer magnitude of the book and storytelling challenge was for more satisfying.
DIY: What did you learn about marketing this project?
CE: I learned that books are far harder to sell that short films. 🙂 People have no problem passively watching a ten minute short – for free. But getting them to buy and READ a book is almost impossible.
DIY: Is there a sequel or another book in the works?
CE: Not yet. I’m still hoping this book can gain traction.
DIY: Did your celebrity help or hurt the marketing on this?
CE: I have no celebrity – at all. I have very modest following on all the social media platforms and that was my primary method of marketing. Whatever notoriety I do have can only help, of course, but you need a six-figure following to make a real difference. Too Faced cosmetics has over 2 million followers on Instagram and did an amazing giveaway with my book. It netted me about 500 new followers on Instagram and no noticeable bump in sales. I did Candidly Nicole last summer and that appearance sold seven books. It’s kinda shocking, actually.
DIY: Was it difficult to write about sex? Some authors struggle with manifesting an intimate experience
CE: Great question! And the first time anyone has asked that. It actually was tricky – especially as I knew everyone was going to think the stories are all autobiographical. And my mother, boyfriend & friends were gonna read it. Plus, I’m no prude but I am not a fan of erotica – or even sex scenes in movies and TV. They make me very uncomfortable. There were definitely moments where I struggled to get the point across in ways that didn’t ick me out…but I managed. And the fact that it is comedy makes stuff like that far more palatable.
DIY: You’ve done an award-winning short film that’s drawn on the book. Tell us about that project and how it fit into the overall plan here.
CE: The short came first. It was born of a piece I read at the UCB theater at an event called Four Stories & a Cover. Someone saw a video of that reading and suggested I make a prettier version as a short film. It can be seen here – https://vimeo.com/16327655. Then, as I mentioned, someone saw the short and suggested a book. Now – I just need someone to suggest it be a series on HBO.
DIY: Was there anyone you didn’t want reading this book? If so, why not?
CE: No. I am really proud of the book. I think it is the funniest book ever written! It is for both men and women, too, despite its chick-lit appearance. I have always been very independent and outspoken and have long had to answer for that, so I am not afraid of repercussions – like – people wanting to argue about my opinions or of anyone being offended. If nobody is offended – I didn’t push hard enough. The book is badass and nothing gets to be badass without offending someone, somewhere. So – rather than fearing who will read it – I fear who will not. Because I want everyone to read it. Everyone in the world! 🙂