December 2007


Gwen Cooper got a lot of publicity when news of her 'tell-all' about the South Beach scene of the 1990s broke. Now a full-time writer, the author of Diary of a South Beach Party Girl is working on another book about Miami in the 1980s. The Miami native now lives in New York.

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  1. What was the inspiration behind Diary of a South Beach Party Girl?

    Originally, Diary of a South Beach Party Girl was going to be a collection of humorous short stories based loosely on some of my crazier experiences in South Beach. But I found as I was writing that, because the stories were so outrageous, I'd have to give readers an understanding of what South Beach was like if I expected them to believe that people would actually do the things the characters in my stories did. So I wrote what eventually became the prologue to Diary of a South Beach Party Girl. I showed it to a few friends and they all said the same thing: that this was the beginning of a novel about a girl who's dealing with all the things that women in their 20s deal with - trying to build a career, finding her place in the 'grown-up' world-and whose life takes this hard left turn one day when she unexpectedly finds herself thrown into this very glamorous and very decadent South Beach environment. And, of course, South Beach is just a really inspiring place for a writer. It's beautiful, it's sexy, it's kind of dangerous, and it's populated by the most exotic people I've ever seen.

  2. How did your publishing deal come about?

    The place where I was working when I finished the manuscript was a fairly high-profile company in New York (they publish Rolling Stone and Us Weekly). Everybody there knew I was working on a novel about South Beach, and word leaked out to a few of the gossip columns - like Page Six and - and the fact that somebody at Wenner Media was writing a 'tell-all' about South Beach became a minor news item. So, literally, the week that I finished the manuscript, publishers were reading about my manuscript in the gossip columns and a bunch of them called my agent asking if they could see it. Simon Spotlight ended up making the best offer, and the rest is history.

  3. How much of Rachel is based on you?

    There's a lot of me in Rachel, but there's also a lot that's unique to the character. Rachel is a bit more sheltered at the beginning of the novel than I was when I moved to South Beach, so she ends up becoming a tad more reckless than I was in my own South Beach days. The central romantic relationship in the book, for example, is one that's very passionate and very intense - and also very doomed. In my own real life, I've always been hesitant about throwing myself headlong into that kind of relationship. The great fun of writing fiction is that you get to live vicariously through your characters.

  4. What is it about Rachel that will appeal to readers?

    I see Rachel very much as an 'everygirl,' and to that extent I think she's a very relateable character. I think it will be easy for readers to envision themselves living her story themselves, even if it's a far cry from their own lives. She also - for all the ups and downs she goes through over the course of the novel - has this strong, solid core. She suddenly finds herself thrown in among heiresses and models and people who can be very intimidating. But, no matter what insecurities she has or what trouble she gets into (she gets into a LOT of trouble!), there's a fundamental level of respect that she has for herself and that she expects the people in her life - especially the men in her life - to have for her. I always think of her as being refreshingly un-neurotic.

  5. For those who have never been (or can't remember), describe the South Beach scene.

    South Beach goes through so many different iterations that trying to describe it is like trying to hit a moving target. But I see it as being equal parts grit, glamour, debauchery, beautiful people and shady characters. There are all kinds of unwritten rules that govern the social scene down there, and the book spends a lot of time showing readers how it all 'works,' but overall it's probably the most permissive - and forgiving - place I've ever lived.

  6. Did the reaction to the book surprise you?

    When it's your first novel, any reaction will surprise you to a certain extent, because even though you write a manuscript expecting it to be a book someday, it still comes as a shock when it actually happens. It's been just this Word document in your computer for so long, that to have it out there and to have people reading it and responding to it kind of knocks you out. And while the book doing well is certainly something you hope for, you don't necessarily expect it. So, yes, this book ended up doing a lot better than I expected it to, and it was definitely a surprise!

  7. Did anyone famous mind being mentioned in the book?

    I think our legal department may have heard a few rumblings, but no lawsuits so far!

  8. Tell us about your next book. I've heard it's set in Miami in the 1980s - is it still a chick lit book?

    You heard right! It's set in Miami in the '80s, during the 'cocaine cowboys' heyday that made Miami both famous and infamous. The way I usually describe it is sort of a Great Gatsby meets Scarface. I'll leave it for readers and critics to decide whether or not it's 'chick lit' (I hate trying to dictate what readers should think about something I've written), but it's definitely a love story. And also a story with a lot of drugs, scandal and social upheaval.

  9. What made you decide to move to New York?

    I always tell people that, as I approached my 30th birthday, two things I never thought I'd find in South Beach became increasingly important to me: serious career opportunities and heterosexual men. I'm being somewhat facetious, of course, but at a certain point I really was starting to feel like my career and my relationships were stalling on the Beach. And I've always loved New York - once I knew I was ready to move away, there wasn't anyplace else I seriously considered moving to.

  10. What are you working on at the moment?

    I've just completed a proposal for a non-fiction book called Homer's Odyssey: Tales of an Eyeless Wondercat. I have an 11-year-old cat named Homer who's been blind since birth, and he's the most amazing, inspirational, and laugh-out-loud funny little guy you can imagine. He's kind of like the superhero daredevil -I mean, it's absolutely extraordinary how utterly fearless he is, and how incredibly developed his other senses and reflexes are. It's like he has superpowers. Here's a link to a (funny) story I wrote about him for a dating blog I used to write:

  11. How are you spending New Year's Eve?

    I'm playing it pretty low-key this year. My fiancé and I are heading down to Miami Beach to spend New Year's with my family (they all live down there) - we're getting a ton of stone crab and lobster and having a few people over to my parents' house. I've been in Miami a lot this year promoting the book, but because I was busy promoting the book I didn't get to spend much time with my parents. They're very much looking forward to a nice, 'civilised' evening with us!

  12. Name your favourite:

    1. Book
      The Great Gatsby - it truly is the perfect novel.
    2. Movie
      The Princess Bride - it's got action, adventure, romance, pirates, sword fights, revenge, magicians, sexy period costumes and true love. What more can you ask for?
    3. Celebrity
      I've been madly in love with John Travolta ever since I saw Saturday Night Fever when I was six years old.
    4. Party drink
      I'm a pretty straightforward drinker - two parts vodka, one part cranberry, and a lime wedge for garnish.
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