Monday, October 08, 2007

shoppingsmycardio interview: diane vadino of bunnyshop!

i think i've raved about bunnyshop more than a few times - i have a serious blogging crush on these ladies. not even so much because of the items they feature, though the writers do have an amazing eye and a talent for finding the off-the-beaten-track stuff i never seem to be able to locate. but also because i just happen to love their writing style. smart, funny, just sarcastic enough...these are my kind of girls!

so, when i found out that one of the bunnyshop-ers, diane vadino, had written a novel, well, i jumped at the chance to (a) find out where to buy it, and (b) chat with her about the book and the blog. she was kind enough to give us some great food for thought.

so, the novel is called smart girls like me, it's available everywhere, and you honestly have to pick up a copy pronto - if the book is anywhere near as fabulous as the blog, it'll be impossible to put down!

shoppingsmycardio: Okay, probably best to start with the “what’s the book about” question. Can you give us a thirty-word-ish plot summary, other than the one on

Diane Vadino: I always end up saying that it's about a girl who comes of age about 10 years too late — that thing where you realize that everyone else around you is a grown-up and you still have mustard stains on your shirt. Hmm, is that not alluring? It is also about hot guys! And making out! There are also a few models, but they don't have a very big role. So really, it's about two best friends, and how they figure out what they mean to each other as they get older and become if not adults then adult-like.

SMC: So…would you say the book is autobiographical? Or pure, unadulterated, completely exaggerated fiction?

DV: There's no denying I experienced things similar to Betsy, but if it is autobiographical, it's an autobiography of me as I was almost a decade ago - so that person ends up being someone pretty different anyway. Does that make sense?

SMC: This whole “being an author, going on book tours, etc.” has to be pretty incredibly exciting for you. How did all of this happen?

DV: I worked for an amazing publishing company called McSweeney's, and part of my job was to help arrange the author tours - I loved that part of it, and I always knew I wanted to set up a really massive one, if I could. I would really love to go to all 50 states. I think we have 14 so far, and we're working on adding to it. I'm excited but nervous, too - I'm sure it's going to end up being me and like a half dozen booksellers totally sad that I'm basically by myself. But fingers crossed though - we start this week, so I guess we'll see.

As for the author part - I guess I always knew I wanted to try to write a book and at a certain point, it was just sort of the inevitable next step.

SMC: Which came first – the blog or the book? Did one lead to the other, or are they more or less independent of each other?

DV: The book definitely came first - unbelievably I started putting it together in 2001. Bunnyshop only goes back to 2005. I do really think of them as separate entities. Bunnyshop is really just my totally unmediated voice, and I'm usually writing as fast as I can so I can go to sleep. But with the book, obviously, I spent literally years trying to make it as good as I could. I was pretty worried that Bunnyshop might sort of take over my writing life, but I discovered that it really didn't - I could keep the two things separate. They just occupy two really different parts of my head.

SMC: How did you have to change your writing style for the book, versus the way you write for the blog? Or did you keep it essentially the same?

DV: I do think they are very different - for the book, I'm definitely writing in the main character, Betsy's, voice - and it is sort of a sad one. She's sad a lot of the time, anyway. In any case, I'm definitely trying to write for the character. With Bunnyshop, there's no character - it's just me. I'm sure there are things in common, but I definitely tried to keep them in different head spaces.

SMC: If your book gets lumped into the “chick lit” category (as so many clever female writers do these days), will you happy or irritated?

DV: I so don't care anymore - I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if that would happen, and what it meant if it did, but at this point - I'm over it. Not to be totally Afterschool Special about it, but there's no just no way to control what box people put it into, if they want to put it into a box. I'm delighted people I'm not related to are reading it - if they want to call it chick lit, historical fiction, military history, I couldn't care less.

SMC: From reading bunnyshop, I know that you said this book has been six years in the making. Are you just ready to enjoy this part of the experience, or are you already planning what comes next?

DV: I'm working on a bunch of projects I'm excited about, plus I'm super psyched to go back to art school - where I'm a junior! - in the spring. I do really just take way to long to get things done, though - whatever I do next, I hope it takes fewer than six years. Life's too short.

SMC: Completely unrelated to the book, but I have to ask: talk to me about Mongolia. [diane recently participated in the mongol rally, in which she spent a month driving through mongolia to raise money for mercy corps and send-a-cow.] What prompted it, how did you manage to actually DO it, and what did you come back with (you know, in a serious, life-altering sense – I’m not asking if you got a parasite or anything!)?

DV: Ha! I did not get a parasite, but all my friends drank the mare's milk - one of the those staple Mongolian beverages, we were told - and they all got unbelievably sick - my teammate was actually so ill I thought he would die - no joke. He's a trauma nurse, though, and he figured he'd make it (when he wasn't delusional), so I trusted him. Anyway: Mongolia was amazing. I'd read about a team doing it from NYC last year, and I just knew I wanted to do it. My teammate is basically amazing and singlehandedly drove most of the way, fixed the car a billion times, and pumped most of the gas. I couldn't recommend it more highly - really, and I say that knowing that I almost chickened out - the night before we left, I truly did not want to do it - if I could have backed out, I would have, I was so freaked. But it was awesome, and if anyone can take about five weeks off next summer, I really recommend it. And I came back ... I don't know. Entirely different. I actually really just got back home today – I spent a month in London after the rally, so I'm just back in the US for about two hours now. The world feels a lot bigger, and more awesome. And I met more great people than I have in ages.

SMC: A couple of style questions for you now, since that’s the side of you I’ve become most familiar with. You and your bunnyshop partner-in- crime have the most eclectic fashion sense – I love it! I’d love to know where you find your fashion inspiration – so, what fashion icon would you love to have in the dressing room next to you?

DV: That is an awesome question. I would be totally too freaked out to have a style icon in the changing room with me - I'm too freaked out to even do the Topshop style advisor, even though I'm dying to – I just think they'd be shaking their heads like, 'no, no, no..' I love looking at really well wardrobed films - like Sabrina, that's definitely a favorite even though I know Audrey Hepburn's kind of a cliched style-icon answer. I love, love, love some of the French style-y girls from the 60s - like Francoise Hardy or Chantal Goya. They just look so unprocessed to me and are so much more interesting than contemporary starlets. I'm just so over and uninterested in the beauty-industrial machine - I mean, we have to look at all these flawless images of women and then we're supposed to obtain the same thing - nevermind the fact that the images were Photoshopped and then, of course, the star has the time and money to make her appearance basically into a full-time vocation. It fucks with people's ideas of what a woman should look like, and I don't think it's good for any of us.

SMC: How would you describe your personal style?

DV: I never spend enough money on accessories or shoes - but I'm a sucker for a nice piece of outerwear. I just brought two home from the UK and I almost had to wear both of them through security to accommodate the one-carry-on-only rule there. In general, though, I keep things simple. This sort of goes back to one of your questions above – while I love people who can really making dressing an artform, it's weird but I really have a lot of respect for the way Jennifer Aniston dresses. She always looks, to me, totally pulled together and never trying too hard.

SMC: Tell us about your favorite, no-fail outfit.

DV: I am trying so hard not to revert to jeans and cute top. I was actually styled by the original British What Not To Wear girls, who told me that I should never wear anything about the knee. It took me ages to get over that, but now that I have, I wear a lot of pretty short skirts, with flats, and usually just a t-shirt. I honestly keep it super simple - I spend half the day in yoga clothes anyway. My favorite piece - and I am freaked because I can't find it right now - is a printed Topshop mini dress that I wear with white vintage heels I found for eight dollars at the Painted Bird, an excellent vintage clothing store in my neighborhood in San Francisco. When I worked at a hair salon in SF (I was a professional shampooist) those heels were the only covetable item I ever wore to work.

SMC: What one style secret do you wish you could teach every woman out there?

DV: I don't know if it's a secret, but I do wish we - myself included - wouldn't just give up on fashion sometimes. It sucks because it's expensive, and we're bombarded with images (again, sorry to be so rantful) of actresses who have literally our annual salaries available as their clothing allowances. It's impossible to compete with that. So I think a lot of times you can just check out – and then you find yourself wearing mustard-stained jeans (I've been there) and a sweatshirt and running shoes to the mall. And I don't think the problem is so much that, specifically - everyone deserves a day off - but that it always sort of gains momentum, and I do think there's a relationship between how you feel about yourself and how you present yourself, visually, or fashion-wise - I know there is for me, anyway. I feel so retro even thinking this but when I just sort of straighten up I do feel a lot more capable - and it's that relationship to fashion that's behind my reason for Bunnyshop. I do see fashion as a means to an end - the end being the confidence and ability to go after what you really want - for me, maybe, the freedom to drive to Mongolia for a month. I did realize that on that trip, which was the best ever, I basically wore the same thing every day, more or less, for four weeks - I just didn't care. And that was amazing.
aren't you just dying to meet up with this girl for an afternoon of shopping and hanging out at a coffee shop? you know, after you've read her fabulous new book, of course.

so, order the book now, and until it arrives, read the blog to tide you over. and a great big huge thanks to diane for chatting with us - it was such fun!