Rebecca Serle is a full-time writer, which means she gets to wear pajamas to work. She went to the University of Southern California, then got her MFA from the New School in NYC. (She likes New York much more than LA, but don’t tell anyone that.) Rebecca loves shiny hair, coffee, yoga, and pretending to be British. She is the author of several YA novels, including Famous in Love, which she recently co-developed into a television series. Her first adult novel is The Dinner List and she recently agreed to be interviewed by Daryl Maxwell about it for the LAPL Blog.
What was the inspiration for The Dinner List?
I wrote the first hundred pages about five years ago. They came really easily and the world felt good. Then my television show, Famous in Love, began to come together—first the show was sold, then the pilot got picked up, then we were picked up to series and all of a sudden I was living in LA, kind of catapulted into a very different world. I was incredibly busy for three years—and they were hard years—and when the show ended I was desperate to write again, to return to something that really felt like mine. I kid you not, I discovered The Dinner List on my computer like a gift from my past self. I sent the pages to my agent and she loved them and told me to finish the book—obviously I did!
Are Sabrina, Jessica, Tobias and/or Professor Conrad inspired by or based on specific individuals?
I think that all the characters in my books are always inspired by relationships in my life, although not necessarily people. I had a professor in college who was immensely important to me—she’s on my dinner list! Sabrina and Jessica’s relationship is one I’m familiar with. I think many women can relate to those twenty-something best friendships that change over time—and how painful that change can be. People get married, have families, stay single, and life doesn’t look the same for everyone anymore. It’s no one’s fault, but it hurts. Tobias is probably based on a few relationships I’ve had over the course of my life.
How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?
Keep in mind this is my fifth novel, so I have seen every stage of what can go wrong in the writing process a hundred times over—but in this one, no. The first draft ended up looking very close to what you see here in the finished book. This is very unusual, and isn’t usually the case. Because the chapters have to speak to one another (the book moves parallel in two time-frames), once it was written the structure couldn’t really change. There was one…romantic addition? That took a sideways edit very early on, but I’m thankful that was short-lived—it didn’t work!
Who are the five people, living or dead, you would invite to dinner?
My grandfather, Sam, who the book is dedicated to. He died when I was two years old and I never really got to know him but I have always felt him so strongly over the course of my life. I’d love to have a meal with him.
My old college professor, Marianne Wiggins. Brilliant novelist and fascinating person. I miss her.
Jon Lovett, host of Pod Save America. This entire book is a ruse to meet him. I think he’s hilarious.
Nora Ephron. She could cook! (Although of course, that would be at her discretion). I love her, I love her books, I love her movies. I miss her voice.
Joan Didion.Goodbye To All That is woven into The Dinner List. She’s formidable.
Nervous. Grateful. Fall. Contented. Food.
What’s currently on your nightstand?
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?
Hah. Now that you mention it I was very into this book about a babysitter. I cannot for the life of me remember what it was called—I’ll have to ask my mom. Maybe she did ballet? But my parents were and are open-minded, liberal, and encouraging of anything that made me read.
Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?
Caveat: this list is incomplete and purely indicative of the moment I find myself in right now.
What is a book you've faked reading?
No faking—I proudly tell people I’ve never read Ulysses, and never will.
Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?
Any edition of Eloise I ever encounter. I have Eloise in Paris that I bought at Shakespeare And Company on a trip to Paris. It’s excellent.
Is there a book that changed your life?
Many. First and foremost: Wuthering Heights. It made me want to be a writer. Whatever was happening there, I wanted in on.
Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?
Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?
What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?
Yoga in the morning with my favorite instructor, Erin Jacques. Coffee coffee coffee. A rainy New York day. A big, delicious lunch with my friends at one of our favorite cafes like Rucola or East One in Brooklyn. A cozy night in with a great wine and a good book. I really love my life, and I like to keep it simple. Or I suppose, a night out dancing in London. I am a homebody, but I love a night out dancing in London.
What are you working on now?
I’m taking my time, feeling my way to the next thing. Publishing a book is such a big, beautiful undertaking. I want to be present where I am in my life, not always where I’m going.
Book Review: The Dinner List