Your last book, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, was a best-selling memoir. How was writing a novel different?
My fiction and my nonfiction have made each other stronger. I bring a journalist’s eye for detail to my fiction writing. But what’s nice about fiction is imagining the narrative.
Why did you decide to set Pretty in a beauty school?
Like my main character, Bebe, I’m in recovery from drug and alcohol problems. When I was first sober, about ten years ago, I was trying to figure out a way that I could write and work and live in the world as a responsible citizen. So I went to beauty college in Glendale. For me it was this very tedious, shabby-feeling experience. Supposedly you’re there to move into this glamorous world—to participate in this whole pervasive beauty culture of Los Angeles. The beauty that I saw in beauty college was more in the moments of caretaking and nurturing and true friendship that happen there.
So can you do a wet set?
I am the proud owner of a cosmetology license! But I was a pretty terrible hairdresser.
ALSO: Read an excerpt of Pretty from the August issue of Los Angeles magazine