Pamela Redmond, YOUNGER

Pamela Redmond, YOUNGER

In this special weekend re-release, Zibby interviews New York Times bestselling author Pamela Redmond about Older, the hotly anticipated sequel to the beloved Younger (which became a hit seven-season TV series starring Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff!). Pamela’s next three books will be published by Zibby Books!

“I loved every bit of this novel and finished it with a giant smile on my face!”—Jodi Picoult


Zibby Owens: Pamela Redmond is the New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty books of fiction and nonfiction including Younger, now a television show created by Darren Star. Her new novel, Older, a sequel to Younger, is just coming out. The coauthor of a groundbreaking series of books on names, she’s the creator of Nameberry, the world’s largest baby name site. A former editor and columnist for Glamour, Pamela currently lives in Los Angeles.

Welcome, Pamela. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Pamela Redmond: Great to be here, Zibby. Thank you.

Zibby: Of course. Your novel, Older, this is so funny, as a sequel of course to Younger. Can you please tell listeners what Older is about? The whole thing is so meta. It’s the book about the show which was a show of a book. It’s so crazy. Tell listeners what this book is about.

Pamela: For a long time, it was difficult to even conceive of a sequel to Younger because the show takes the original novel so much further in the lives of all these characters and in the situations between them. Liza’s lie has been revealed. Everybody knows that she’s actually older. The show is still going on. It should actually be going on this summer. There is no real end to those characters’ lives. When I had the idea to write a sequel, I thought, it has to be set enough in the future from these characters’ lives that whatever’s going to happen at the end of the show will have happened and they’ll have moved a step or two beyond. The book Younger ends with Alice, as she was called in the original book, becoming a writer, which is what she always wanted to do. It made sense that, of course, even though she’s a novelist, she would write a roman à clef about this year she spent faking her identity as a millennial. From there, it was like, so if she writes a book called Younger, then wouldn’t Kelsey who logically might have landed in Hollywood and had made the transition from book editor to TV producer option that and try to turn it into a TV show? Once I had that set up, the plot unspooled from there. Josh was my character. He’s on the scene. Charles is not my character. With a really broken heart, I had to let go of Charles. Having a television show made from Younger, I could create a character who was an actor who was playing the character who is something like Charles.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. It must get confusing. It’s crazy, the different plot lines and what you made up and what you didn’t.

Pamela: Was it confusing to you reading it?

Zibby: No, but I have to say, I have not watched every episode of Younger.

Pamela: What?

Zibby: I know. I’m sorry. I wish I had. I might go do that now. In fact, goodbye. I think I’m going to take off and do it. For me, it wasn’t as confusing, but I would imagine if you watched every episode. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not confusing.

Pamela: I don’t think so. I have watched every episode in real time. I don’t write the show. Sometimes Darren Star sends me scripts ahead of time, but I don’t know what’s going to be happening. I don’t think the actors know either. I’ve read interviews with Hillary Duff, for instance, who’s like, “I don’t know what season seven is going to be about.” I was kind of trying to guess. I think you can have read the original Younger, have watched the show, and then read Older, and it makes sense.

Zibby: Totally. I didn’t mean to imply your novel was confusing. I meant simultaneously following a TV show based on your book and then writing a new book and picking up in the middle. That’s it. This novel was not at all confusing. It was hilarious. I loved it. It was perfect even just as a stand-alone novel. Speaking of Kelsey, there was a quote that I can’t find. She said something about how TV is the new book. Tell me about that. How has your whole mentality on books and the literary world shifted now that you’re watching what’s happened to it on the other side of this journey?

Pamela: Great question. Books used to be the ultimate creative endeavor for anybody who was interested in fictional world and characters. That has really changed. Television, as everyone knows, has just exploded so much. There’s so many shows and so many amazing shows that bring all these incredible talents to bear on an idea and on characters and just take it so much further than any book author can. How can I do anything that comes close to what Darren Star and Sutton Foster and Hillary Duff and Debi Mazar bring to this idea? The thing you can do with books that you can’t do on television, obviously, are get deep into your characters’ feelings and into their thoughts. It’s a way to explore a theme in a more concentrated way that maybe is easier to grasp in itself. The word theme makes everybody think of high school English, and it’s just automatically boring.

Zibby: I love talking about themes. I do this all day long. I love it. Let’s back up a little bit to writing Younger because I feel like it provides the context of Older. When you wrote that book, what made you originally come up with that idea and write that book which then of course spawned this book eventually?

Pamela: The first time I met Sutton Foster, she asked me that question. When I told her, all I can think of is this horrified look she got on her face. I think she expected to hear a nice story like, I looked younger and people would mistake me for twenty-six, and so I thought that would be a great story. The truth is, I was reading Vogue when I should’ve been writing. I read a story about extreme plastic surgery. Apparently, you could go to Uruguay or somewhere and get such extreme plastic surgery that you would look like a totally different person. As a fiction writer, that was very provocative. I thought, who would do that? Why would you do that? Why would I do that? I guess what I thought is, well, you could look twenty-five again or twenty-eight and go back and just start over, leave your life and just go back and start over. Then I thought, what would I do if I started over? I’ve never looked substantially younger than I am. I’ve never not been a working mom. It wasn’t like I wanted to recapture a career. I thought I would go back and take my career more seriously as a younger person. To be twenty-five or twenty-eight, I think when I was really that age, I was wanting to get married, wanting to have kids, which makes a lot of sense. The clock is really ticking. You don’t have very much time to get all that together. I was a fifty-year-old novelist trying to start. I thought, wow, it would be much easier to do this as a young, beautiful, energetic person.

Zibby: But then you wouldn’t have had this great idea. You might be young and beautiful. You might look really great writing it, but maybe you wouldn’t have as much to say.

Pamela: I love that idea, look really great writing it.

Zibby: A perfect coffee shop visual, but the words are pretty blank or it’s the same word over and over again.

Pamela: I know. Probably if you look that great, you don’t want to spend your time alone in a room writing a novel either.

Zibby: You probably wouldn’t be alone for very long in that coffee shop. Anyway, I’m getting totally off track here. So you started writing it. You had this idea. By the way, if you could go back, what would you have changed yourself in your personal life, not necessarily career-wise? Is there one little thing? Is there one relationship? Is there one friendship? Is there some party you didn’t go to you’ve always regretted? Is there just a little thing from your past that you would like to get a redo on?

Pamela: A redo, I think like a lot of women I would say I’d be more confident. I’d be more ambitious. I would have fewer self-doubts, which is something that I see in a lot of younger women now. It took me all these years to get confident enough to say, this is what I want to do. I’m going to do it. It doesn’t matter if X or Y doesn’t like it or doesn’t want me to do it. I would start writing a novel and be excited and show it to a friend. They would say, “I don’t really love this.” I would be like, “You’re right. It sucks. I’m stopping. That’s the end.” Now I think about that. That is terrible. It just seems terrible that I had not enough confidence on my own inner desires or compass to follow that no matter what someone else thought.

Zibby: Interesting. I do love the whole makeover element, though. Not only can you go back in time, but in this, when Liza comes out of the cabin in Maine and horrifies her friends and it takes like five hours to whip her into shape again, she’s like, my hair is fine. They’re like, no, no, no, it’s not fine. I feel like that is complete pandemic — it’s like how everybody is now exiting their homes. You captured it here perfectly.

Pamela: It’s true.

Zibby: Although, your hair looks great. We’ve all been sort of camped out in that way.

Pamela: I risked my life for my hair to look like this for you.

Zibby: It’s worth it. It’s totally worth it. I have to find this funny part. This is when Kelsey and Liza go meet Stella Power at her house and she’s having total hair envy, speaking of hair. You write, “‘How do you get your hair to look like that?’ I blurted. She laughed exactly like Barbie might laugh, if she could. ‘Easy compared with sitting around all day being a creative genius.'” Then you say, “I think the hair is harder, I said, utterly fascinated.” Then you talk about Liza’s thinning hair and all of this. Then she says, “‘Well, some of it’s extensions,’ she said reaching up and fiddling around as if she were trying to tease out a nit and removed a huge hank of hair. I nearly screamed.” Then you go on. “‘And then I had stem cells injected into my scalp to stimulate hair growth. It’s amazing.’ I told Stella I’d never heard of such a thing. ‘It’s still experimental.'” Oh, my gosh, so funny. It’s just such a Hollywood parody, the whole thing. It’s just great. It, of course, goes on and on. Was your experience in Hollywood anything like this? Did you have an initial intro meeting with a star that was anything like this, or can you not say?

Pamela: No, every star I’ve met has been very nice. I think Stella Power kind of encapsulates a lot of things that really are true about LA or Hollywood, which is somebody who’s very nice on the outside, very beautiful, sweet, down to earth, and yet they have a will of steel. I did meet someone who had those injections in her scalp and said, “You have to do it. It’s the best.” I’m from New Jersey. New Jersey is basically the opposite of LA. It’s doesn’t look good. People are very harsh, but they’re warm and they’re real. In LA, people are super nice. When I first came here, I thought, god, everybody loves me here. It’s great. Then I found out, okay, maybe they loved me and maybe they didn’t, but the way they acted and the way they felt were not necessarily the same things.

Zibby: Yes. There’s a lot to be said for some authenticity. What was it like — I don’t mean to keep talking about this transition, but I feel like having such a big show is a really big deal. I talk to so many authors who are dying to be in your seat. This is the light at the end of the tunnel for so many people. When you found out your book was going to be a show, what was that like for you? How did your life change from what it was before to then, now?

Pamela: It was kind of unbelievable. I found out, I was actually staying a friend’s house in Upstate New York. I was working on another novel. It was the day that I finished the other novel. I guess it was 2013. It was the same day. I found out by reading it on page six. Nobody called me. It turned out my agent was away on vacation.

Zibby: What?

Pamela: I just sat there reading it like, what? Is this true? I know. It’s crazy, right? Then the way TV happens, things happen in increments. The first thing is there’s a pilot order. That’s what I read on page six. The pilot had been ordered. Then it was six months until they shot the pilot. I think it was the night before they shot the pilot, Darren Star’s assistant texted me and said, “We’re shooing tomorrow. Can you come to this spot?” Of course, I just said yes. I think it was a three-hour drive from my house. “I will be there.” I do remember this moment of standing in this room. It’s the first episode of the show. Liza’s selling her suburban house. The scene is that there’s a real estate agent showing people her house, which I don’t think was actually even in the book. I was standing in the corner of the room. There are a hundred and fifty people in this suburban living room standing around watching the actors. It was just so surreal because I also remembered the moment that I had the idea. It was a very discrete moment. Some ideas morph over time. This idea landed in my head from outer space. That was incredible, that all these people were making the show. Then the fact that it got picked up for a season and then it got ordered for a second season, that was pretty surreal. It has changed my life in the sense that people know who I am, which they might not. Most people say to authors, would I have read anything you’ve written? Usually, unless you’re John Grisham or somebody, the answer is no, you have no idea. People don’t notice the names on books or on magazine articles. I’ve written over twenty books. I’ve written hundreds if not thousands of magazine articles. I think I’ve met one person in my entire life who’s recognized my name. People know the show. It’s great to get that moment of recognition or credibility. That’s been good.

Zibby: It’s such a shame. People might know the names of your books. I think about this all the time when I’m wandering around the city or I’m sitting in a restaurant. I’m like, that person could’ve written the book — this is before I did what I do now. Who knows? That could be the biggest person ever and I just wouldn’t even recognize them. A friend and I joked that we should start a magazine that was celebrity pics of authors. Who are they wearing? Really, what authors do, it’s no less of an accomplishment than what the writers for TV do. No offense to writers on TV, but everybody should be equally lauded, but it’s so disproportional. I’ll get off my soapbox.

Pamela: It’s a pretty anonymous profession. Maybe some people become authors because they want to be famous, but that would be a very misguided reason.

Zibby: Yes, that’s true. In fact, maybe people like the anonymity. I’ve kicked my soapbox to the side now altogether. Forget it. How has this experience changed your writing, if at all? Has it changed what you want to write about, how you write?

Pamela: That’s a really interesting idea. I think it’s been really helpful and useful to be this exposed and become this familiar with how a television show is put together. I love taking writing classes. I also take a lot of writing classes of all kinds. I find them just stimulating and . I’ve taken a few TV writing classes. Those have really influenced me to plan a lot more, create a much more detailed outline, and really think through the story in terms of plausibility and causality in a way that a lot of writers or novelists are not to do or used to doing. That’s been very helpful.

Zibby: Are you done with these set of characters now with this book? Do you foresee more books about them, or totally different types of things?

Pamela: I’m writing a new novel now. I’m in the middle of that. It’s totally different characters. The theme of age is one that I realized at some point that I’ve written about in several different ways. I had a blog at one point called How Not to Act Old. That became a book. That was a Times best-selling book. That came at it from a totally different angle. It was a humor book. I was, for a long time, a columnist for Glamour magazine. I wrote a column called 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know By The Time She’s 30. That was very age related. That became this viral internet list. It’s something even long before I was actually an old person myself. I was thinking about age and how age influenced your life, your perception of yourself. For women, it’s obviously so different than for men. How you plan your life and how you fulfil your dreams as a woman is so connected to age. You have this very short window in which if you want to get married and have children or just have children, you have to do it in this really tight timeframe. As you know and I’m assuming a lot of people who are watching know, being a mother is extremely time-consuming. When I had my first child, I was an editor at Glamour. I was working on a novel at night when I was pregnant. Then the baby was born. It was like, okay, so I have a full-time job and I have a baby. That’s the end. I had three children, eleven years apart. It wasn’t until my third child started kindergarten that I start writing fiction seriously.

Zibby: I know. It’s so funny. This fall, my littlest guy — I have four kids. He’s supposed to start kindergarten. In my head for the last five years I’ve been like, I just have to get him to kindergarten. Then I’ll have all this time. Now it’s a joke because no one’s going to be at school at all. I guess my novel will have to wait. No, I’m kidding. The ability to stop getting interrupted so much cannot be underrated, being able to just focus and get stuff done.

Pamela: To feel literally and figuratively free. I think when they actually go to kindergarten, you feel free in a way you don’t if they’re just with the babysitter.

Zibby: Yes, totally. Now that has been taken away from me. I am in mourning.

Pamela: I would be really beside myself. I remember that last week of August every year. That was the worst, just waiting, waiting, waiting.

Zibby: Do you have any advice to aspiring authors?

Pamela: One advice I’d give along these lines especially to women is it’s not too late. You look forward to that day when your youngest is in kindergarten thinking it will be easy then, but then you’re in your forties, maybe, or in your fifties as I was. I guess I was in my forties. It’s scary. It’s scary to start something new at that age. You can kind of talk yourself out of it and think, everybody’s young, they’re so far ahead of me. I remember I signed up for a class in novel writing. I’d taken one twenty, twenty-five years before in college. I remember sitting in the parking lot. I was so nervous. I was really almost sick. I thought, to put myself out there as a beginner again after a career as a journalist, I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought, they’re all going to know how bad I am. I’m going to know how bad I am. I’m going to find out how bad I am. I think that fear is enough to stop you, but obviously I don’t think you should give into that. I think you should power through it. I went to the class. There were a lot of people my age, actually, as well as younger people. Don’t let the age thing stop you is one piece of advice I’d give. It is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. I see people who are trying to write something new and they’re like, I’ve been writing this thing for three months and I don’t know, is it ready to be published yet? I used to think about that too. You kind of have your eye on the product. It really should be on the process, on getting better, on getting used to it, on learning how to write fiction or whatever it is you want to write in a way that will truly be both satisfying to you and commercially viable.

Zibby: Interesting. I just did an interview with Fiona Davis for her new book about the New York Public Library and the story there. I was joking around and I was like, they should produce greeting cards that say, “Happy Fortieth Birthday. Welcome to your forties. Now you can write a novel.” I really feel like, yes, of course people of all ages write novels, but I feel like there’s something about getting a little bit older that just changes everything and makes for much better fiction. I actually think this is such a great thing for women as we all get older to know that it’s there. There’s no rush. Sometimes time can feel overwhelming if it seems like there’s too much of it. It’s so in demand, and then it’s too much. Knowing you can fill it all with writing, this is your time. I think there should be a public service announcement about it. Now it’s time. You go.

Pamela: I’ve been thinking recently that I’d like to do a class specifically for women over forty on starting your first novel or your first book because I think it is a special thing in terms of your self-image, in terms of just being a beginner at something that’s really hard. It’s like trying to become the intellectual equivalent of a ballet dancer or an Olympic athlete. It’s really hard to write a novel, but it’s so rewarding and so much fun. Anyone can do it.

Zibby: A lot of those other things, I think my ballet days have passed. So many things are now off the table. It’s nice to know that something has been added in that maybe you didn’t have the spotlight shining on before. It can be really rewarding and also help other people. Thank you. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to talk about Older. Thank you also for just making me laugh. I really needed that. Your book was really funny and clever and smart. I just needed that laugh, so thank you. That was great.

Pamela: Thank you. Thanks for reading it. Great to be here. I love what you’re doing.

Zibby: Thank you. Thanks for coming on.

Pamela: Buh-bye.

Zibby: Buh-bye.

Pamela Redmond, YOUNGER

YOUNGER by Pamela Redmond

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