Laura Dave's first novel, London Is the Best City in America, is the kind of brainy chick lit that makes for perfect summer reading... or staying-up-all-night reading... or, well, you get the idea. In the book, Emmy Everett is watching Fourth of July fireworks with her brother a few days before his wedding when he reveals to her that he's not sure he wants to get married. What follows is a weekend of clandestine journeys, bittersweet moments and flashes of revelation. The quirky, thoughtful Emmy emerges as the quintessential romantic-comedy heroine.
Apparently we weren't the only ones who thought this book would make a great movie — Reese Witherspoon's production company has optioned the rights to make London into a film, with Witherspoon slated to play Emmy. Take a sneak peek into the world of London before the cameras start rolling, and see what the author had to say about it all.
How is it significant that the events of the book are centered around Independence Day weekend?
On a metaphorical level, Emmy and her brother are both coming face to face with the very definition of independence. In learning how to be independent, to stand up for themselves, they also begin the challenging — and highly rewarding — task of standing up for someone else. And, on a more literal level, I love Independence Day. I love fireworks and family and fried chicken. I was going to figure out a way to sneak those things in.
Your book focuses on siblings whose lives are shaped by failed relationships. In your opinion, what's the biggest mistake people make in relationships?
I think the biggest mistake people make in relationships is taking their partner for granted. The longer you're with someone, the easier this is to do. It's a challenge to remain gentle and loving, but it seems to me the most crucial one. I met this amazing couple who had been married for more than 40 years — and still seemed very much in love. I asked them what their secret was. The woman told me, "Well, I try to listen carefully when he talks, and whenever possible I look for reasons to agree." The man said, "I do the same." The spirit of that touched me.
In London, I was definitely working with my theory that love — with all its complexities — comes down to two people who want to do that work together. It can't be an 80/20 proposition. That is a lesson that Emmy learns. I like to hope that she does so just in time to give all of herself to someone who is able to be there for her.
Emmy visits the suburb where she grew up after a self-imposed exile of several years. What did you want to say about "coming home"?
When you come home, you butt up against your former self, the one your family and childhood friends know cold and who — gratefully — they remind you of. It creates an opportunity to do some serious soul-searching and ask yourself the tough questions about where you came from and where you truly want to go.
Emmy is an aspiring filmmaker, and eventually she realizes that the documentary she's been working on is stalled because she keeps looking for a happy ending that isn't there. How do you feel about happy endings?
I've been thinking about this a great deal, actually, as the concept of happiness plays a big role in the novel I'm working on now. What I keep coming up against is that the very idea of there being "a happy ending" is going to get you into trouble. We are beginning and ending all the time. We constantly have to be moving, altering, trying on new things. Challenging ourselves. This is the only happiness.
How did Reese Witherspoon get a hold of your book?
I'm not exactly sure, but I'm very grateful that she did! She is attached to play Emmy, and her production company, Type A, is producing the film along with Mandalay Pictures and Universal Studios. Everyone involved is great: very smart, very creative. I've met the other producers and the screenwriter, a woman named Gwyn Lurie. She recently completed the script and did a superb job. It's very funny and moving and surprising. I often hear that writers worry about their books being turned into movies, but I'm not worried. The movie feels like its own thing, and I'm looking forward to it.
Even before Reese Witherspoon optioned the script, I thought she'd be a dream Emmy. She has this amazing capacity for comedy and for drama. Ever since I saw The Man in the Moon, I've been a fan.
So who would win in a fight: Emmy Everett or Elle Woods?
I wouldn't want to meet either of them in a dark alley, but I've got to put my five bucks on Emmy. Elle Woods has better shoes, and she's going to try hard to protect them!