Kristin Harmel is a freelance writer, whose work has been published in many magazines, including People, Teen People and Glamour; she is also a columnist for American Baby. Harmel can now add novelist to her list of accomplishments with the success of How To Sleep With A Movie Star that has sold world wide (And the release of her latest book, The Blonde Theory). Between her busy schedule as a freelance writer, columnist and novelist, I feel lucky that she granted me an exclusive e-Interview.
MAG: You knew that you wanted to be a writer from an early age. Have you ever wavered on this decision?
KH: No, not really. I remember writing “children’s books” when I was about 6; I started a neighborhood newspaper with a friend when I was 9; and I attempted my first novel at age 13. I only got about halfway through it, but 150 typed pages isn’t bad for an eighth-grader! I started writing for magazines when I was 16, and I’ve been hooked since then. I love using words to weave vibrant pictures of things – whether I’m doing so as a reporter, using facts and quotes, or as a novelist, using characters I’ve invented.
MAG: You have had the opportunity to cover stories on celebrities, high-profile individuals and special events—you even covered the final taping of Dawson’s Creek. What do you feel has been your most rewarding work? What has been the most fun?
KH: The most rewarding story I’ve ever worked on was probably the story of Henri Landwirth, the founder of Give Kids The World, a Kissimmee, Fla., charity that gives terminally-ill kids a week-long “dream vacation” with their families. Henri himself was the most inspiring person I’ve ever met. He was a Holocaust survivor – he was in concentration camps from age 13-18 and lost both parents to the Holocaust – and from his pain, he founded a charity that would help ease the pain of thousands of other kids whose childhoods were also being impacted by forces beyond their control. I spent a lot of time with Henri and also got to interview his good friends John Glenn and Walter Cronkite – two incredible people too! Both said that he was one of the most inspiring, incredible people they had ever met. And imagine how much weight a compliment like that carries from two men who shaped the 20th century! That is what I like most about my job – the opportunity to interview all kinds of people from all walks of life. I’ve interviewed celebrities; I’ve interviewed world-changing politicians; I’ve interviewed people whose sons, daughters, husbands or wives have been murdered; I’ve interviewed people who are trying to make a difference in their own corner of the world. The amazing thing about being a writer or reporter is that you get to step into people’s lives for a short time and get a glimpse inside their minds, what makes them tick. It’s an incredible opportunity, and I feel very blessed to have it.
MAG: Is there a person or event that you would like to cover but have not had an opportunity to do as of yet?
KH: Not really. I know that’s a boring answer, but I’m usually enthusiastic about all my assignments.
MAG: Warner Books will release your first novel, How to Sleep with a Movie Star, this year. How did you go about writing this book? What was your inspiration?
KH: Actually, I should probably update my web site. I just found out that the release date is now February 2006, so early next year. The novel is about a magazine editor who gets involved in a situation where it looks like she has slept with Hollywood’s hottest bachelor, Cole Brannon, but really she hasn’t. Her life spins out of control when the whole world begins to believe she’s having an affair with Cole. I suppose my “inspiration”, if you could call it that, was the thought of “what if?” in my own line of work. In other words, “What if I violated all my professional ethics and hooked up with someone I was interviewing?” Or worse yet, “What if somehow a rumor got started that I was sleeping with someone who I’d interviewed?” It gave me the germ of an idea for the novel, and I tossed it around in my head for a couple of months before I started writing.
MAG: What were your primary challenges in writing this book?
KH: I suppose my primary challenge was keeping it a reasonable length. I discovered that once I got to know the characters, I just wanted to keep writing and writing and writing! My first draft was 120,000 words, which is very long for chick lit. I had to chop off 30,000 – which was very difficult, because it’s very easy to get attached to what you write. The other major challenge for me was believing in myself and truly believing that I was capable of writing a novel. So many days, I woke up and said, “What am I doing? I can’t write a novel.” It was just a lack of self-confidence. Thank goodness I stuck with it!
MAG: Do you envision your work being adapted for film?
KH: Absolutely. I would love that. I suppose I’m a bit biased here, but I do think it would make a great chick-flick movie. In fact, I have a fantastic film agent, Andy Cohen from Grade A Productions, currently shopping it around Hollywood. I have my fingers (and all my toes!) crossed that it will work out.
MAG: What actors could you picture in the lead roles?
KH: Good question. When I wrote the book, I wasn’t picturing anyone; the characters were totally a creation in my own head. But Claire is small, blonde and kind of insecure, so I could see someone like Brittany Murphy or Reese Witherspoon or Alicia Silverstone or someone like that. It’s a tough question, because no one will really ever “be” Claire Reilly (my main character) in my eyes, because I have my own way of picturing her!
MAG: Do you have a favorite character in your book and if so which one?
KH: Well, I guess my favorite would have to be Claire, my main character, because I really had to get inside her head to write the book, and she’s a lot like me. I wrote someone I could identify with. I also have a bit of a crush on Cole Brannon, the actor in the book. But if real guys came as perfect as that, well then, nobody would read novels!
MAG: The main charac
ter in your book is an editor for a magazine. Do you identify with her character or any of the other characters?
KH: Yes, I do identify with Claire. And I suppose there is a little bit of me or experiences I’ve had in my life in all of the characters – you have to be able to get inside their heads in order to write them realistically.
MAG: Do you have any plans to write another novel?
KH: Yes, I’m currently working on my second, tentatively entitled THE BLONDE THEORY, and my third, tentatively entitled THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE.
MAG: Based on your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
KH: Believe in yourself. I almost doubted myself right out of a novel! Believe that you can do whatever you set your heart and mind to. Just sit down and write every day. You’ll have to give up nights out with your friends sometimes, or other things you’d rather be doing, but in the end, it pays off.
MAG: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
KH: Thank you so much for your interest!