Bestselling author Lauren Weisberger made waves with her first book, The Devil Wears Prada—the 2003 book inspired by Weisberger's experience working at Vogue as an assistant for Anna Wintour was made into a popular movie of the same name in 2006 featuring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. Ten years and four books later—including Chasing Harry Winston and the recently published sequelRevenge Wears Prada—Weisberger will visit Chicago this month to speak to JUF's Young Women's Board.
In an email interview with Oy!Chicago, Weisberger talked about her strong Jewish identity, her love of planning travel, and how her personal life inspires her writing.
Oy!Chicago: Can you give us a preview of what you'll be speaking about in Chicago this month?
Lauren Weisberger: I'm so excited to visit Chicago, although I'm not going to lie—I do wish it was in July and not January. But seriously, I'll be talking about what it was really like working atVogue, how The Devil Wears Prada came about, and what it was like being on set while they made the movie. I'll also touch a bit on trying to find a balance between work and motherhood, which is a topic important to so many women.
What was your Jewish upbringing like? What role does Judaism play in your life today?
In Scranton, where I was born, we belonged to a Conservative synagogue. I went to Hebrew school three or four days a week and Sabbath school on Saturday mornings, which was taught by the rabbis' wives. Once we moved to Allentown, right before my bat mitzvah, we joined a reform synagogue with a really wonderful, progressive congregation. Israel is important to me: I went for the first time in high school (on Alexander Muss High School in Israel), studied abroad at Tel Aviv University in college, and have been fortunate enough to visit half a dozen times in the years since college graduation. My daughter attends a Jewish preschool, and it's important to both my husband and myself that our children will be raised to understand and value our Jewish traditions.
How, if at all, does your Judaism influence your writing? Do you consider yourself a Jewish writer?
Of course I consider myself a Jewish writer—I am one! All of the protagonists in my five books have been Jewish, and I wouldn't be surprised if all my future main characters were as well.
Your time working at Vogue inspired The Devil Wears Prada and all of your books have young, female protagonists—how much of your own experiences motivate you as a writer?
So much of my own life inspires what I write. Whether it's work, family, friends, motherhood, I am a writer who tends to write what she knows. In Revenge Wears Prada, a great deal of my own life finds its way into the book. Andy and I may have had divergent career paths since the first book, but we both still make a living by writing; we both still have passionate love affairs with New York City; we both struggle with trying to strike the right balance between excelling at work and being good mothers. And naturally I mine my girlfriends' lives for good anecdotes and stories—so many of their experiences find their way into my books.
What is one interesting thing about you not many people know?
I am obsessed with planning travel! Not just traveling, which I love, but the whole planning process and all the details that go into it. I subscribe to all these travel blogs and airline forums and research hotels and activities and destinations for hours on end, and I volunteer to plan trips for everyone I know. Little is more exciting to me than figuring out a way to use frequent flier miles on a blackout day. If I had another life to live, I'd probably come back as a travel agent.
What's next for you?
I'm working on my next book! This one is a little different than the others I've written, and I'm having such a great time with the research. I'll tell you all about it in person.