'Queen Takes King': The Nature Of Love

NPR's Liane Hansen talks with Gigi Levangie Grazer about her new novel, Queen Takes King. Grazer is the author of The Starter Wife and Maneater, which was recently adapted for a miniseries. She also wrote the screenplay for the movie, Stepmom.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The story is as old as the amphitheater: Girl meets boy from a rich and powerful family, boy marries girl, man cheats, gets caught, woman divorces man, woman gets even.

The new novel "Queen Takes King" is the latest variation on that theme from Gigi Levangie Grazer. Her first book, "The Starter Wife," became a TV series. A second novel, "Maneater," became a Lifetime mini-series. But this new one moves from the hills of Hollywood to the avenues of Manhattan. Gigi is in our New York bureau. Welcome to the program.

Ms. GIGI LEVANGIE GRAZER (Author, "Queen Takes King"): Thank you. Thank you for having me.

HANSEN: Why move location from the known territory of Beverly Hills to Park Avenue?

Ms. GRAZER: You know, I was - well, let me just be frank, I was tired of Hollywood.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GRAZER: I was just tired of it. After I had written two books about - actually, three. My first one was "Rescue Me," but that was a more serious take on coming-of-age story in Los Angeles. My second and third one dealt with Hollywood and its environs. And when I was done with those, I felt that I was done with Hollywood itself in that, you know, I'd go to a 500-person valet party for Easter and I couldn't write about it anymore. I just didn't have it in me.

HANSEN: Exhausted.

Ms. GRAZER: The satire was exhausted and so it was stone-cold reality and I was finished. And we moved, my husband and I - my husband at the time moved to New York. He had to make a movie, and I thought, why not choose this time to delve into New York and society there?

HANSEN: You moved to New York with your then-husband. Your then-husband is Hollywood producer Brian Grazer.

Ms. GRAZER: I call Brian, I love him, I call him my was-band because I think that sounds nicer.

HANSEN: Oh.

Ms. GRAZER: Doesn't it?

HANSEN: That's what you have your character calling her husband, the was-band.

Ms. GRAZER: Yes. The was-band, not the ex.

HANSEN: Okay. Now, go back to the time when it wasn't as - you weren't as nice to one another and you began to write when you broke up. Was there a line between personal and private? Were there things about that relationship that you considered verboten as inspiration for fiction?

Ms. GRAZER: Oh, that's so interesting because people assume that I wrote "The Starter Wife" when we had trouble in our marriage, and that wasn't true at all. Because, as you know, "The Starter Wife" is about divorce in Los Angeles -powerful couple breaking up. This was long before we had any - I mean, I'm sure there was an inkling probably more on his side than mine, but I didn't know that we were going to break up. I just had this character in mind. And I guess I always did.

I'd have girls nights at my house and I could see that other women really wanted to be in the position of the producer's wife. I mean, I loved Brian, but I could see what they wanted. They wanted the setting, the garden, the staff, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GRAZER: I was not really - that's not my orientation. I feel that it's much more important to do what you want in life, to find your own way. I come from generations of women who worked, and in some cases, the husbands didn't. So, I come from a very powerful line of a matriarchichal society. So, I don't relate - I didn't relate to Brian on that level.

HANSEN: Do you see this as a product almost? It's kind of a guilty pleasure, a little like soap opera and paperback romance novels. Even this "Queen Takes King," I mean, it's, you know, you're reading it and it's like, you know, it keeps going, it's a page turner.

Ms. GRAZER: Well, with all my books, except for probably "Maneater," "Maneater," I just knew this character and I had seen her - I had seen her in a composite of different women in L.A. I saw how they went after men. And one woman I know had already planned her wedding without the groom. And then she picked the groom to fit what she had in mind for the wedding.

And I hadn't grown up with people like this. I mean, I grew up, you know, sort of, quote-unquote, "On the wrong side of the tracks." And, in fact, my father wouldn't even let me step foot in Beverly Hills because he thought I'd be arrested because I didn't have any money, I wasn't wearing the right kind of clothes and that sort of thing. Beverly Hills terrified me.

I feel like I'm a person and still I have issues with it, who is on the outside looking in. And so it's not just a group of, you know, a gaggle of girls with their designer dresses and everything. What makes them tick, that's what interests me. I mean, I'm a girl. I've been reading - I read Dear Abby from the time I was six years old. People's problems interest me, human interest stories consume me.

It's not just the action, it's what happened beforehand. Especially with "Queen Takes King," I wanted to write a love story about the nature of love and how you can fall in love and it changes everything in your life. And, in fact, there are chemical changes in your brain that happen when you're in a state of infatuation. It's a drugged state, and I wanted to write about that.

But of course what happens with me - and this is what happens in my life - is I can't help but make it funny, and that's just who I am. I mean, I can have -there have been tragic moments in my life, and if I wait long enough, it becomes a joke and that's how I deal with life.

HANSEN: Gigi Levangie Grazer's new novel is "Queen Takes King." It's published by Simon and Shuster and she joined us from New York. Thanks a lot. Good luck with this.

Ms. GRAZER: Thank you so much, Liane.

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