Photo By Mario Nicholas Torres
"I've been compared to Carrie Bradshaw since the first day that show aired," says Alyssa Shelasky, a sex, relationship and celebrity writer who edits New York Magazine's “Sex Diaries” column.
It's only fitting then that the title of her second book, This Might Be Too Personal (now out from St. Martin’s) is inspired by a comment made by Sarah Jessica Parker to Shelasky, who interviewed the Sex and the City star on a day that proved momentous for other reasons (more on that, below). Shelasky's first book, Apron Anxiety, followed her pursuits with Top Chef's Spike Mendelsohn…and in the kitchen. Picking up where that memoir left off (and backtracking/ delving even deeper into her romantic affairs), This Might Be Too Personal is an account of Shelasky's most intimate experiences—from grueling breakups, to professional highs and lows, to having a baby with an anonymous sperm donor and finally, finding love on her own terms.
Here, Shelasky—a producer and star of the upcoming HBO docuseries Sex Diaries, inspired by the column—discusses her favorite L.A. moments, breaking into the TV biz and what she hopes readers take away from her spirited, inspiring and gloriously unfiltered story.
1- I loved your first book. At what point did you decide you wanted to write another book, and in what ways had you changed since publishing Apron Anxiety?
Thank you! Apron Anxiety was a wonderful but intense experience, and I needed a major break from book-writing after that. I think it's because I was writing about a very painful breakup in real time...it made the healing process extremely hard and probably more dramatic than it needed to be. So...I focused my attention on my New York Magazine work, picking up a few more regular columns and also pitching various TV series which is time-sucking and blood-sucking but in a really addictive way. After I had my two children and collected more life...and realized my readership had grown to a whole new level...I had an epiphany and was like, 'It's time for another book. It's time. Damnit.'
2- Without giving away too much, tell us a little about how Sarah Jessica Parker inspired the book’s title, This Might Be Too Personal, and why you chose it.
I've been compared to Carrie Bradshaw since the first day that show aired. It's flattering, of course, but I can't tell you how many TV execs have said, 'We love you but...there's already a show about you out there and it's called Sex and the City.' It's so frustrating! But anyway, several years ago, I was assigned a cover story with SJP for People mag, which meant we'd get to really talk and get to know each other...I was thrilled! But then, the interview was set for the same day that I was having an abortion. The universe works in such mysterious ways. Here I was dealing with one of the most anticipated and most dreaded moments of my life, both such extremes, all at once. But I do want to say: SJP was so lovely...they say never meet your heroes but she was truly a gift that day.
3- Which are some of your favorite L.A. moments and experiences you wrote about?
The "Echo Park" chapter is my favorite chapter in the book and my favorite chapter in my life. I was pregnant, via an anonymous sperm donor, and I had a hot, sober, musician boyfriend who lived in a bungalow with a roommate who was equally sexy and cool....and they were my people during my pregnancy...and it was glorious. I have the most romanticized idea of Echo Park and Silver Lake and all those woozy little neighborhoods, probably because I've never lived there full-time. To me...it's utopia there.
4- You lived in L.A. while writing a relationship blog, spent a period in Echo Park, and frequently returned for reporting gigs and TV meetings. How has L.A. changed over the years, and what are some of your current favorite areas and places?
I will always and forever love L.A....then, now and in the future. I have an extremely close family in New York, and I just have too much guilt to leave them all especially now that I have kids. But my heart is in L.A., for sure. I love all of East L.A.; I love Malibu. I don't really need to hang out in West Hollywood anymore but I'm not going to lie...I'd probably get very excited by a Vanderpump Rules sighting.
5- Your book broaches difficult topics from breakups to an abortion to a #MeToo moment to loss. What was hardest to write about?
My #MeToo chapter was easy to write because the memory is still so vivid, but it was the hardest to write because I was terrified of the repercussions. Women who share their stories openly are so f-cking brave. I wasn't brave enough to go all the way with it, in so much as naming him, but I knew where my comfort zone [was] and chose to stay there.
6- Your decision to have your first child as a single mother by choice was incredibly inspiring. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
I hope readers who want to become mothers (or fathers) realize that you genuinely can do it on your own...and it doesn't have to be a 'last resort' or attached to any sense of failure. It's the opposite! It's so liberating and victorious! For me, having a baby solo was the perfect choice once I opened my mind to it. The Single Mother By Choice lifestyle suited me...I never wanted to get married, and I certainly didn't want to be tied to one of these problematic boyfriends forever, and I couldn't fake attraction to some of the more decent, good, family-oriented guys. So this SMBC option was just the best road for me to take. Also, I am not a rich girl and I don't come from any family money and I was able to afford it...so I just hope people start seeing the option as less daunting all around.
7- What sort of reaction have you gotten to this book? What feedback has most surprised you?
The feedback has been remarkably loving, positive and heartwarming. I mean, it's been pretty mind-blowing. Thousands of emails and DMs from people who are enjoying it. It's astounding. I was prepared for a few haters, at least, and so far...only love. That being said, I don't read any comments...it's the one rule I actually obey...so who knows what I'm not aware of. Don't tell me, LOL.
8- What role did you play in the upcoming HBO docuseries based on your "Sex Diaries" column? What can we expect from the show and when will it be airing?
I can't talk about the Sex Diaries docuseries other than to say ...it's absolutely beautiful and gorgeous in every way!
9- Getting started as a TV writer in Hollywood is notoriously difficult. What advice do you have for people looking to break into the TV writing industry?
Oh it's brutal. I hope this doesn't sound ageist but the most honest advice I can give is to start young. It will take up your entire life and you'll make no money, so do it when you can be scrappy, and obsessed, and without major responsibilities. Trying to break into TV writing in my late 30s, as a single mom with a baby, was just psychotic. I'm still waiting for the payoff! But there must be something I love about it because generally I don't do anything I don't want to do...and here I am, still pitching my heart out.
10- What’s next for you, personally and professionally?
I want to write a chic, little lifestyle book. My daughter wants to write a children's book together but writing a successful kid book is much harder than one might imagine. And I want to turn This Might Be Too Personal into a TV series. Because, you know, why stop now?