burned up the international phone lines with Cat Bauer, who
spoke with us from her palazzo apartment on the Grand Canal
in Venice. Read on for Cat's take on Harley, Hollywood, Mexican
food, and la dolce vita!
you give us some background on your life in the pre-author
I grew up in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, and in the early '80s
I moved to New York City to the West Village. In New York
I studied theater with the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting,
then moved to Los Angeles to start my acting career. I did
some soaps, commercials, a little TV, and took screenwriting
classes at UCLA Extension. I also wrote plays, a couple of
which were produced locally. L.A. is actually taking over
Venice right now - they're downstairs from my apartment shooting
"The Bold and the Beautiful" today.
it sounds like you were pretty focused on acting - what made
you turn your attention to writing?
Well I've been writing for fun since I was six years old.
In grammar school, I was always the one picked to write the
essay for the fire department. When you get that kind of encouragement
when you're young, I think you develop a confidence and willingness
to take risks that you really need to ride the ups and downs
of a writing career.
you remember anything you wrote when you were a kid?
Yes, my first lesson in marketing! When I was six I organized
a book sale with the other kids in the neighborhood. My book
was called Children of Other Lands and I put a lot of effort
into it. It was very thick, about 10 pages, well researched,
and complete with illustrations. It cost 5 cents. Cookie,
an older girl who lived down the block, just scribbled on
a couple of sheets of paper, but she stuck two lollipops on
the cover and charged 6 cents. Everyone wanted her book and
no one wanted mine.
readers might not know that Harley, (Like a Person) began
life as a short story. Can you tell us about that?
always told myself that when I got too old to act, I would
write. Because you know in Hollywood, actress years are like
dog years. One day I decided it was time.
how old were you in dog years at this point?
just say I wasn't eating Puppy Chow anymore. Anyway, so I
went to the library and got a bunch of magazines that bought
fiction. I chose the late, now defunct, Sassy because I thought
it was wickedly hip - they'd do things like ask supermodels
when was the last time they ate. I wrote a short story called
"Run Away" that was basically the first chapter
of Harley (Like a Person), and they bought it. After it came
out I got a lot of fan mail demanding to know what happened
to the character. Here's one of the letters: "Dear Sassy:
I just wanted to let you know that the fiction story, 'Run
Away' was the absolute best story I've ever read in Sassy.
It had me cryin' halfway through. It was just so phantasmagorical."
So I decided to write a novel based on that short story.
that is phantasmagorical. What made you want to write for
this age group?
didn't intentionally set out to write "young adult"
books. I set out to write for Sassy's audience, which to me
meant 13 through 30 year old women (and incidentally, a large
gay male audience). I'd actually never heard of the young
adult genre. At the time I was naive enough to think I was
writing in a completely new voice. I was shocked to find out
there was this whole category out there, and even more shocked
to find out that's where my book belonged. In fact, I feel
really strongly about this - someone pointed out to me that
the young adult genre existed and this person suggested some
titles for me to read. I looked and looked, and finally found
them in the children's section with the kiddie chairs and
the stuffed animals! I thought, "nobody that I'm writing
for is going to want to trip over the Legos to get to these
books." So I'm glad that this issue is getting some attention
now, because there's so much wonderful literature for this
age group, I see it as a genre that's really ready to explode.
the big question on everyone's mind - since you're a child
of the New Jersey suburbs yourself - are you Harley?
piece of me is in Harley but she's not me. She doesn't feel
like me. She feels very separate, like a different person.
The biggest similarity between Harley and me is feeling like
a stranger in a suburban town. I took parts of Lenape Lakes
directly from the town where I grew up - like the Pond Hole.
That's real, it really exists in Pompton Lakes. One of my
favorite parts in the book is when Harley and Carla are looking
through the old yearbooks, because those entries, you know,
like "aspires to be a secretary," came out of actual
yearbooks from Pompton Lakes. The low aspirations are real.
Growing up I felt completely out of place, like nobody in
my town knew what I was talking about. Then I got to New York
and thought, "aha, here are all the other space creatures!"
has a teacher, Miss Posie, who believes in her. Did you have
a teacher like that who encouraged you?
- Miss Posey! That was her real name, but she wasn't an art
teacher. She was an English teacher and an advisor for the
drama club. But she has nothing in common, really, with the
fictional Miss Posey in terms of character, except that they
were both very supportive. I absolutely believe that one teacher
can make a difference.
did you decide to leave Hollywood and move to Italy?
I had a really comfortable lifestyle in L.A., but I felt like
something important was missing. I've always loved Venice,
and I wanted to go someplace where I didn't know anybody and
I didn't speak the language, so I could see where I was in
life. I couldn't see clearly in L.A. Life in Europe is completely
different than life in America. It's so much less insular.
The pace of life is different to Italians. Relationships with
other people are really important. We're losing that sense
of being connected in America. It's all out of proportion
- lots of money, very little connectedness. There's still
a strong sense of the family here, you know, aunts, uncles,
cousins, grandparents, all yapping around the dinner table.
things about the United States do you miss?
I miss my writer friends, just sitting around talking about
everything and analyzing everything to death! Books in English
- that's a big one. Also Mexican food, Purpose face lotion,
and zip lock baggies. But my friends come over and keep me
supplied with the essentials! And I don't feel like I'm so
far away because of the Internet.
has the Internet affected how you write, too?
I'm a real computer person - I had a KayPro computer back
when it was the only thing available. I used Word Star (ancient
word processing program) and loved it but finally had to give
it up because I was compatible with no one except maybe one
guy in a basement somewhere. I'd still use it if I could.
It's the computer equivalent of the yellow legal pad. Then
I fell in love with e-mail and have been using it from the
beginning. I'm aware of the dangers, language-deterioration
and all that, but I just love being able to edit myself! We
couldn't have done Harley without the Internet, we were e-mailing
every single hour at one point. I absolutely love that I can
stay here in Venice and still be connected to America.
do you do your writing, and what's your typical work schedule
I live in a 17TH century palazzo. It's a bit crumbling on
the outside but inside it's beautiful. My apartment is on
the second floor but Venetians call it the first floor, and
there are offices and shops on the ground floor. I have 15-foot
ceilings and a balcony that looks over the Grand Canal. There
are Murano glass lamps and the whole place is very open and
beautiful. I've set my office up so I can look out onto the
canal, and when the sun is shining, the water from the canal
reflects the light onto the ceiling. It's mesmerizing. But
Venice goes against my ideal writing schedule, which is from
about 10:00 a.m. until 2:00, then a break, and then coming
back to rewrite and edit in the late afternoon. Here everything
closes from 12:30 to 3:30 P.M., so you've got to run your
errands in the morning. So now I start at about 9:30 to 11:30,
then start again at 4:30 and work until 7:30 in the evening.
are you working on now?
in a slightly older voice that right now I'm calling, Mrs.
Elder. But who knows how long that title will last. Harley,
Like a Person used to be called Zee!