As many of you may know, I’ve been spending most of quarantine catching up on the latest queer television shows, movies, books, and podcasts. Last week, I had the chance to sit down with Meryl Wilsner, whose debut novel, Something to Talk About has been one of my favorite reads this year. Here’s what Meryl had to say about their book.
For those who haven’t read the book, what’s your 30-second elevator pitch?
This is the story of a female showrunner [Jo, who is] famous in Hollywood and runs one of the top shows on TV, and her assistant, Emma, who are seen together at a red carpet event. A photo is taken of them that makes all of the tabloids decide that they’re dating, even when they’re not. And over the course of the book, they figure out that maybe it’s not such a crazy idea after all.
How did you come up with the idea for the story?
I got the idea of two people who are mistaken for dating before I had the setting or anything. I liked the idea of having to deal with how their behavior might change in that situation, both pulling back in order to not make the rumors spread and . . . situations where one of the characters does something that they actually wouldn’t normally do because they’re overcompensating. So, I had that and then I thought about a situation and a setting where this could happen, where it wasn’t just gossip in an office building. [I wanted] something where it was a little bit bigger, which sort of led me naturally to Hollywood because what relationship[s ]do everyday people care about? Celebrities’.
What was the inspiration behind the title of the book?
It’s [named after] the Bonnie Raitt song, “Something to Talk About,” that is itself about other people figuring things out before a couple does. There’s a line in the song, “It took a rumor to make me wonder,” which was something that I really liked and tried to emulate in this book. It was a question of, “If this rumor hadn’t happened, would these two people have found each other anyway?” And I think that’s something that they wonder about in the book as well.
If Something to Talk About was ever made into a movie, who would you cast as Jo?
The age isn’t even necessarily correct, but I will say that there is a reason that Lucy Liu is given a shout-out in the book. I would die on a battlefield for Lucy Liu. Lucy Liu could play Emma for all I care, who is the 27-year old white woman. Doesn’t matter to me.
Do you see yourself in the characters at all?
Some of the initial traits that I gave Emma were not like me, but I think in the end, Emma became a lot like me. I’m definitely closer to her. Jo, who is able to and does hide her feelings very regularly is the opposite of who I am. I have a lot of feelings, and I talk about them all the time.
What else do you have in the works?
I am working on my second book for Berkley coming out sometime next year. I’m really excited about it. It has queer characters and a couple of tropes that I really like, including the sunshine one and the grumpy one who fall in love. I’m also putting together ideas for future books down the road because I definitely want this to be a career. Even though my website says that I write stories about queer women—who take so long to kiss you want to fling yourself into the sun—I do also want to include non-binary characters along the way.