At first, Gillies followed her acting bug. She is recognized for her role as Kathy Stabler on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. It wasn't until she divorced her first husband that she realized her penchant for writing. In her first memoir, Happens Every Day, the native New Yorker wrote about the dissolution of the marriage. In her second, A Year and Six Seconds, released in August, she continues her story, sharing her trials as a single mom and ultimately how she falls in love again. Gillies spoke to us by phone from her home in New York, where she lives with her two sons, stepdaughter and husband, Peter Lattman.
What's on your nightstand?
I just started The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell. I also have The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen With Nigel Slater, which is fabulous. I like to read books like his and cookbooks when I can't sleep.
Wait a minute, you typically keep cookbooks on your nightstand?
Yes. They slow me down and relax me, like The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters and the New Yorker cookbook, Secret Ingredients.
When you read a memoir like Kitchen Diaries, do you find yourself critiquing it?
Not critiquing. I've always liked the idea of memoirs, going into someone else's life, going through someone else's day and getting out of your own head.
Was there a memoir that got you excited about writing in the genre?
It was a long time ago: Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. It was a great story that was lasting, and I loved it so much. I also love Nora Ephron. I gobble up everything she writes. Also, I love Anthony Bourdain, very irreverent and funny.
Did you struggle with what sometimes is seen as the big challenge of writing a memoir, feeling like you sound too self-absorbed?
Oh yes, and coming from a big WASP-y family where you are raised that you don't ever talk about yourself, memoir is terrifying. What it does, though, is illuminate experiences. It truly shows that humans are so similar . . . . I don't think memoir writing is therapy as some people do. Therapy is therapy. Writing is for writing.
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.