Cecily von Ziegesar
Von Ziegesar, 46, hit a zenith with Gossip Girl, her YA book series turned TV series, narrated by Kristen Bell and starring Blake Lively. And now comes Dark Horses, a YA novel with two voices: protagonist Merritt Wenner, who goes on an all-night bender before taking her SATs, and Red, a failed racehorse that steals the wild girl's heart. When von Ziegesar, a lifelong equestrian, decided to write Dark Horses, she reread several horse books from her youth, including Black Beauty. "Actually, Black Beauty was probably read out loud to me,'' she said. "It's funny, I didn't remember that it was told from the horse's point of view, and I thought, 'Oh, this would be such a challenge to write from that point of view.' "
Von Ziegesar, who received a degree in English from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.
What's on your nightstand?
I'm a very eclectic reader with many books on my nightstand. I've got, for rereading, Mrs. Dalloway (by Virginia Woolf).
Do you remember when you first read Mrs. Dalloway?
I think in college. I was an English major, and I read so much, but there's also a possibility I read it in high school.
Do you remember what impressed you?
The book itself impressed me, and how it's all about this woman who is preparing for a party and just the idea of an entire novel on the party, and the pressure she feels, and the world around her. For anyone to devote an entire book to such a thing was different from any writing at that time. I'm fascinated by that. It showed that you don't have to write a huge, sweeping saga. It can be a small world and still a very entertaining story. That's why I want to go back to it, to see how she did it.
And the other books you have out?
There's a couple more I'm rereading. The Little Prince is one. I read it out loud to my kids when they were young, and now there's a movie out about it. I got upset when they asked me, "What's that?" I was upset they didn't remember me reading it to them, but for me, I had actually read it in French class in high school.
And then I have Tom Perrotta's Election to reread again, too. I first got it when the movie came out with Reese Witherspoon. I always like to read the book first. I'm one of those who like to see what the filmmakers did or did not do. I was just reviewing a book that reminded me a bit of Election and so I wanted to go back and take a look again. I also just finished reading The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. I knew it was adapted into a movie, so it's that thing again about reading books first, but I also like reading about places I have never read about. I've never read about Australia. It was a nice love story. It was captivating. I was reading it on a lake in New Hampshire, and so I enjoyed reading about the windswept island.
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