I felt compelled to write the L.A. Candy series because I had a story to tell beyond the one you saw play out on MTV. I lived a unique life for six years between Laguna Beach and The Hills and only a fraction of my life story was broadcast on television. Off camera, the rest of my world was being turned upside down as I came into my newfound celebrity. I saw a book series as an opportunity to tell the other side of the story—the story about what goes on when the cameras aren’t rolling.
When I first decided to write a novel my announcement was met with a great deal of skepticism. People didn’t think a reality star could write. Even though I’ve never studied writing professionally, I think creatively and have an insider’s perspective on one of the hottest topics of my generation: reality television. L.A. Candy turned out to be a #1 New York Times Bestseller and the series has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide. Here’s how I did it—
How Real Is Reality?
Simply put, I wanted to pull back the curtain on reality television. I think a majority of people have no idea how deceptive and unreal reality television actually is. For instance, a friendly conversation might be mutated into a grandiose romance, or people who you thought were your friends were in fact cast to become your newest on-camera confidant. By exposing the other side, I hoped to remind people that situations are often distorted when filtered through an editing room. L.A. Candy was my chance to shed light on the actual realities of my life. Ironically, I was able to reveal these truths through fictional characters.
I always start my books by mapping out a detailed outline. This helps flesh out the story I want to tell—plot, characters and everything in between. Once the overarching story of the series is summarized, I break it down and do another outline for each book, focusing on each main character’s narrative arc. After I share the outline with my editor and get feedback, I begin writing—my favorite part of the process. I prefer to do my writing late at night when my cellphone isn’t ringing, my roommates are asleep and all is quiet.
My greatest challenge throughout the process is staying on schedule. Since writing isn’t my full-time job, working on my novel often gets set aside and when I do find time, it can be difficult to force creativity. I’ve had to ask for a deadline extension on more than one occasion.
When the manuscript is complete I send it to my editor for revisions. I learned very quickly not to get caught up in the details of my first draft because the minute you hand it over for edits everything starts to change. The feedback varies—it can be anything from a couple of comments per page to suggestions for restructuring the entire novel. From this point forward, the editor and I work back and forth on the book until all the elements work (voice, characters, pacing, and so on) and we’re both happy with the final draft.
Thankfully my publisher Harper Collins has been respectful of my creative process and extremely supportive of my work. They give me the freedom to do things my own way with everything from writing and marketing decisions, down to book cover design. A partner that is open to collaboration is important, especially when my name and brand are on the line.
Publicity is an important component of every project so marketing and PR are a vital part of the publishing process. I do press tours, talk shows and interviews just as I would for a TV show or a clothing line. I also do a book tour, where I get to meet my fans face to face and sign copies for them. This helps me connect with my readers, which is especially important for authors in today’s highly competitive market.
I am currently working on The Fame Game, the first book in my next three-part series. It’s a spinoff of the L.A. Candy books inspired by the character Madison Parker. L.A. Candy was a bit easier to write because I modeled the main character’s experience after my own. With The Fame Game, I am writing from a completely different perspective. The central character, Madison, is a callous fame-chaser who has a lot to learn about herself before she is redeemed – and I’m throwing many obstacles in her way. While the writing process isn’t as fluid as my last series, delving into another character’s mindset has been a fantastic creative challenge. The first book of The Fame Game trilogy is due out in April 2012.
- Lauren Conrad