Taylor Jenkins Reid Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid

An interview with Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid offers a behind-the-scenes look at the writing process and inspiration for her 2019 novel, Daisy Jones & The Six.

How did you begin your career as a writer?

After I graduated college, I moved to Los Angeles and took a job in feature film casting. I enjoyed it, but I kept thinking there was something else I was supposed to be doing. I started writing small stories about things that had happened to me and sending them to my friends just for fun, but interesting things didn't happen to me every day, so to feed my urge to write, I decided to try fiction. I wrote a short story that ended up becoming a novella, and then used the novella to get a literary agent. Then finally I sat down with the intention of writing a full-length book, which became Forever, Interrupted, my debut novel.

How would you describe your new novel, Daisy Jones &The Six?

It's an oral history of the rise and fall of a fictional 70s rock band. I wanted to tell a story that took place against the backdrop of the whole "Southern California sound" scene of the 1970s. I imagined this band, Daisy Jones & The Six, and then told the story of how they were formed, their journey up the charts, and why they ultimately broke up so abruptly the night of July 12, 1979.

How did the idea for Daisy Jones &The Six originate?

I loved Fleetwood Mac, and was always captivated by the stories of the romantic tension between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham and how it affected the creative process of making music. I was also fascinated by an indie band called The Civil Wars, the lead singers of which sang very romantic songs but were each married to other people. When they broke up a few years ago, I scoured the internet trying to find out why without ever turning up anything conclusive. Fleetwood Mac and The Civil Wars became the leaping off point for a novel about a band that breaks up at the height of huge success and the emotional and sexual and creative tensions that brought them to that moment.

How is Daisy Jones & The Six different from your previous books?

It's different in that I'm writing male characters in the first person. In my previous books, the readers have only seen the men as filtered through the point of view of a female main character.

Also, the fact that it is written as if it is an "as-told-to" autobiography of the band, means the structure of the narrative is a little different from a traditional novel. It is a story with no narrator, really.

But it contains all the same themes I've always been preoccupied with. It's still a story about what it takes to be a woman in this world, what it means to love, what defines loyalty, what it costs to succeed. It's about marriage and family and womanhood and ambition. It's just that it also happens to be about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, too.

What inspired you to write Daisy Jones & The Six in an oral history style format? What challenges did it present?

I wanted the story to feel like a rock documentary, and the oral history format was the best way to do that. I felt excited going into my first draft because it's not a standard technique for fiction and that felt invigorating. But then I sat down at the blank page and realized that by eliminating a narrator, I had absolutely no way to convey anything at all except through the dialogue of one of my characters. I had to let the characters speak for themselves even if I knew what they were saying was factually incorrect or shaded by prejudices.

It required relinquishing a lot of control. I was much more constrained than usual. And I feel like I grew as a writer significantly.

What draws you to pop culture and famous women?

I've always been drawn to the people we elevate in a society. Fame tells us so much about our desires and demons. The people we canonize are a reflection of ourselves and our times.

And yet, they are still human beings. And we've asked them to seem superhuman so that we can experience them as we want to, not as they truly are. There's a lot of pain that goes with that. To me, there's nothing more conflicting than the way we build famous women up by expecting them to be better than we are.

It all comes down to a quote I read in high school that blew my mind. Cary Grant once said, "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even Cary Grant."

Everyone wants something that does not exist. Even Evelyn Hugo is not Evelyn Hugo. Daisy Jones isn't Daisy Jones.

All of it is fake. And my question is: If it's fake, what's the truth?

Have you always been interested in the 70s music scene?

No! In fact, three years ago I would have told you I'm the last person to be writing about classic rock. I'd always loved Van Morrison and Fleetwood Mac but that was about all I knew of 70s classic rock. Maybe a "greatest hit" from somebody here or there. But as I conceived this story, I realized it had to be set in the 70s, because it was such an exciting time in music. As I started learning more, it was like discovering a hidden part of myself. I'm forever changed and my music taste has done a 360 since writing this book. Tom Petty forever, Bruce Springsteen is everything, God bless Freddie Mercury.

Which character in Daisy Jones & The Six was the most difficult to capture? Who do you love the most?

Billy was really hard to pin down at first. He grows into being a good man but he doesn't necessarily start there. I always want to love the people I'm writing about, to believe in them even more than they believe in themselves. But with Billy, at the beginning of his journey, he does some things I had a hard time stomaching. Learning to empathize with him anyway—to feel for him, and see his side of things—made it easier to understand how far to push him. I became firmly on his side.

Billy's wife Camila was different… from the moment I figured out what role she would play and what type of woman she would need to be, she instantly had my heart. I understood her and felt like I could stand by her no matter what.

What was it like to write the songs featured in this novel? How did you come up with them?

I knew that the lyrics to the album described in the novel, Aurora, had to be part of the story because they add another layer to it. Whatever was going on for Billy and Daisy personally during that time would show in the songs they were writing. But I'd never written songs before—I'd never even written poetry—so it was very daunting. I started by listening to some of my favorite songs, learning their patterns and rhyming structures. And then if I could get a turn of phrase I liked, I'd start to build around that. Eventually, I got confident enough to let loose. "Aurora" is the first song Billy writes for the album but it was the very last song I wrote for the book. I kept putting it off because I knew it had to be just right.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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