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What’s Your Number? – Karyn Bosnak interview

Karyn Bosnak

Interview by Rob Carnevale

KARYN Bosnak, the author of What’s Your Number? (formerly 20 Times A Lady) talks about the film adaptation of her book (starring Anna Faris and Chris Evans) as well as what inspired her to write the story in the first place.

She also talks about her forthcoming novel, Crazy Bitch, and reflects on her past, including the credit card debt and subsequent Internet blog that changed her life.

Q. You must be pleased with how What’s Your Number? turned out?
Karyn Bosnak: Yeah, very pleased. I think Anna [Faris] is so perfect as Ally Darling. She really embodies the character and so does Chris [Evans, as Colin].

Q. Did you get involved in the casting at all?
Karyn Bosnak: Not really. Anna was already attached when they talked to me. I did see a list of guys and Chris was on that list and as soon as I saw his name I thought definitely because he’s what I saw in the character, even though I wrote him originally as an Irish guy. But I loved Chris in The Nanny Diaries. He didn’t have a big part in it but I thought he was so sweet and I sort of based the character of Colin a little bit on him. In fact, I remember when he was supposed to come and read with Anna he was sick, so he didn’t come to read and I was really worried he’d be given another opportunity. I was really rooting for him.

Q. They have great chemistry…
Karyn Bosnak: They do have a wonderful chemistry.

Q. I gather you were pleased the producers opted to keep the integrity of the book and make it R-rated?
Karyn Bosnak: Definitely! When I first wrote the book I met with a lot of producers who wanted to make it a PG-13 and have it about 10 guys that she dated and not the 20 guys she slept with. But that’s why I went with the producer, Beau Flynn, that I did because he wanted to make it the same as the book. And I give him a lot of credit for remaining true to his word because at any point he could have changed it and tried to make it PG-13.

Q. Do you think it also came out at the right time, as Hollywood started to produce more female-driven R-rated comedies such as Bridesmaids?
Karyn Bosnak: Yeah, definitely… last year was a really great year for women in general. The roles for women became a little more true to life…

Q. And they’re the type of roles and situations that men can also enjoy…
Karyn Bosnak: [Laughs] Exactly… who doesn’t want to see Anna in her bra and underwear! It took the guys into consideration…

Q. Did you visit the set at all?
Karyn Bosnak: I did visit the set probably three times. I went for a table read before the start of production and that was really great to see characters that were just piles of paper at one point in my apartment coming to life. I mean, when I started writing Colin he was just a character I’d started to scribble on napkins before I eventually got him into the book. So, it was really interesting to see someone that had previously just existed on a piece of paper being brought to life in front of you. I also visited the set on the day that they shot the Andy Samberg scene with the puppets, which was cut from the theatrical release but is included in the extended version on the DVD. And then I visited again towards the very end [of shooting]. So, it was great.

Q. Was there anything that took you by surprise that the actors did with your characters?
Karyn Bosnak: You now, I don’t think I was at all disappointed if that’s what you meant. They did try to essentially stay true to the tone of the characters in the book. For instance, Chris’ character was a ladies’ man in the book and was always in his boxer briefs, so they kept to the spirit of that and I feel Chris really nailed him.

Q. I meant did anyone do something with the character you thought was cool… something you maybe hadn’t thought of?
Karyn Bosnak: Well, the big challenge of making the book into a film was that, in the book, it took the form of a road trip a lot more, which meant that Ally [Anna Faris] was by herself a lot and her relationship with Colin developed over a phone. So, they had to keep it local for the film and dispensed with the road trip element. And that was a change. But I knew that had to happen. If there’s anything I was maybe slightly upset about it was the decision to move it from New York to Boston. In the book, the wedding took place at the Waldorf and as part of my research I went and met with the wedding co-ordinator in order to write that scene. So, it was a very personal scene for me and I was looking forward to being brought back to that moment. But for budget reasons they had to move to Boston, so I was a little sad about that. Don’t get me wrong, though, Boston is a great city and it looks great in the film.

What's Your Number?

Q. So, what inspired you to write What’s Your Number? – or 20 Times A Lady as it was originally called – in the first place?
Karyn Bosnak: It’s like you see in the book… it was based on a real article that I read while sitting on a train. It was in the New York Post and it was called the world’s largest ever sex survey, which said that the average American woman had 10.5 sexual partners. That figure seemed really low to me. So, it came from a really honest place and a real worry because my own number was around 20. So, I was self conscious about it when I read the article. I started thinking things like: “What am I doing wrong?” Or: “Is there something wrong with me?” I then went out and asked people about it and women would always tell me four was their number… four! Like it’s some magical number! But why four? I would say to some of them: “But you’ve had sex with four men just in the last year! So, don’t lie!”

Q. Is it harder for women to have several partners and not appear promiscuous? Whereas men tend to brag more about how many women they’ve slept with and not be labelled the same way?
Karyn Bosnak: Absolutely. It seems to me to represent a double standard… women don’t want to be perceived as being easy, instead of just owning it and saying I’m a confident woman who can do what I want. To say that what you’ve just mentioned doesn’t exist is crazy. Some people argue that we’re in a different time and that thinking doesn’t apply anymore. But it does.

Q. Well, I know men who like to lay claim to multiple partners but still hope the one they settle down with has had very few…
Karyn Bosnak: You’re so right… they do [laughs].

Q. Have you met your Mr Right yet?
Karyn Bosnak: I have not met my Mr Right… I’m still working on that. Maybe one day soon. I’ve met lots of Mr Rights in my past, though, so I don’t have many regrets.

Q. Does it bother you that you’ve not yet settled down?
Karyn Bosnak: No, it doesn’t bother me. I still enjoy dating, although I’m definitely ready to settle down. So, hopefully soon…

Q. Does having written a book like What’s Your Number? make it harder?
Karyn Bosnak: It hasn’t made it harder at all actually. I’ve had a movie made of my book, so if anything it’s improved my dating life! It hasn’t affected it at all!

What's Your Number?

Q. You’re writing a book called Crazy Bitch at the moment, I believe? How’s that coming along?
Karyn Bosnak: It’s coming along great. It’s a really funny book about a woman who doesn’t want to admit she has mental problems. But then, as she learns to accept them, she jumps into the world of psychiatry and all of those kinds of things to accept and embrace them. It’s a funny book on mental illness!

Q. Will that be controversial?
Karyn Bosnak: I think I find things that I’m self conscious about to write… I mean, my first book was about credit card debt, my second was about sleeping with too many men, and now I’m tackling mental issues. And then I try to write a book that makes it all better… that says it’s OK if you’re not perfect; you’re still a good person!

Q. Could that be turned into a movie?
Karyn Bosnak: I hope so! I love publishing but unfortunately publishing doesn’t pay as well as movies, so as a businesswoman I always try to write something that’s commercial.

Q. Would you look to screen-write?
Karyn Bosnak: Well, I adapted my first book, Save Karyn, and it was optioned. And I did a first draft of 20 Times A Lady. But it was harder for me to adapt than the first book. I have enjoyed writing screenplays in the past, though, so I would like to do it again.

Q. Could Save Karyn, the book about how you dug yourself out of your own credit card debt by setting up a website and asking people to help pay it off for you, be developed into a film?
Karyn Bosnak: I actually got pretty far into the development process with it. It was cast but not green-lit. Now, it’s a little dated… the premise. We could change it. But it was really set at the beginning of the Internet when people were starting to set up their own web pages. It was a different era. You would have to do it as a retro piece looking back on the early days of the Internet. That might be interesting.

Q. But the issue of debt hasn’t gone away…
Karyn Bosnak: It does speak to the times and the current economic climate. So, in that sense the story is still relatable…

Q. And they made Confessions of a Shopaholic from a similar premise…
Karyn Bosnak: Right, that’s very similar… They could take mine and make it funny. I mean, I made my blog on a dial-up modem! So, if you did it in the same kind of way as they did the Facebook movie, which was kind of funny to see because we all know what Facebook is today, so to see them making it from scratch… and knowing what the Internet has become. So, you could do it from that kind of perspective because mine was one of the first blogs ever to exist. It was one of the first blogs to book deals.

What's Your Number?

Q. How do you look back on that time in your life? Can you believe your blog captured people’s imaginations in the way that it did?
Karyn Bosnak: God, it changed my entire life. I went from being anonymous to beginning a website. It’s where I discovered my love for writing. If I didn’t make that change I might still be an unhappy television producer! I hated television, especially daytime TV production. I wasn’t happy, I knew it wasn’t my calling but I didn’t know what else to do. But I knew in my mind that this had to end because I hated it so much. So, I set up this crazy website in desperation. I was supposed to get into credit card debt [laughs]!

Q. When it comes to giving advice to writers who might like to follow in your footsteps is the age-old adage about writing about what you know the one that is truest?
Karyn Bosnak: I think definitely write about what you know. Publishing today is really tough. You almost have to have an audience already. So, I would also say start a blog first. It’s a great exercise in writing. And then network… start to make Twitter contacts. Publishers have no money to promote books like they did in the past. So, one of the first questions they ask is whether you can help market it? Do you have a network of people even if it’s not huge? And write in the voice that you know, not someone else’s. Write in the same way that you talk to your friends. And write about your life or something that you know.

Q. Now that you’ve used that to establish yourself, do you have any ideas that would take you into a different area? Would you like to take a shot at the vampire genre for example?
Karyn Bosnak: I do have a mystery book idea that I want to work on next. It’s kind of young adult, but more adult… but it’s not vampires! It’s supernatural but it’s not vampires. So, I’m kind of thinking about doing something a little different. I’m trying to read more mysteries at the moment. I loved Agatha Christie when I was little, and Raymond Chandler. So, maybe I’ll take a leap and try and do something like that next.

Q. What books have impressed you recently?
Karyn Bosnak: I would say Commencement by Courtney Sullivan. And before that Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. It’s about a woman who went to prison for a drug offence. She’s engaged, she’s about to get married, and then one day the police knock on her door… and it turns out that earlier in her life she dated this person who was into drug muling. The bottom line was that 10 years after she did this one thing for him, it made her a part of the drug thing and she had to go to a women’s prison for one year. It’s a really fascinating story. And she is an intelligent, educated woman. I think she’s just optioned it for a TV series. It’s a great book.

Q. What’s the biggest lesson you learned from this whole experience?
Karyn Bosnak: The biggest lesson? To go after your dream! It sounds weird but if you stay true to who you are, because I really wrote about things that were personal, and people responded to it and it turned into a big, exciting thing. So, be true to who you are and follow your dreams.

Read our review of What’s Your Number?

What’s Your Number? is released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, January 30, 2012.