Like Charlotte “Charlie” Silver, the protagonist of her latest novel, Lauren Weisberger held a tennis racquet for the first time when she was about four years old. That, she says, is where the resemblance to Charlie ends.
“I’ve played since I was little, and I played in high school but with very different results,” she says, laughing. “I still play now casually, and I love it.”
Charlie, on the other hand, wants to be the best in the world – and she’s got a shot. In the entertaining, fast-paced The Singles Game (Simon & Schuster, US$26/RM104), Weisberger examines the course a talented tennis player has to take if she has any hope of winning a major tournament: the training, the travel, the discipline, the diet, the injuries, the rehab, the isolation, the second-guessing, the losses along the way.
As the book opens, Charlie suffers an injury at Wimbledon, brought on by the fact that her coach and friend Marcy hasn’t brought the right shoes and Charlie is forced to play in new, uncomfortable shoes that hinder her game. Frustrated and angry and determined to mount a comeback, Charlie fires Marcy to hire ruthless men’s coach Todd Felner. Todd is the stuff of legend, a rude, unapologetic tyrant who gets results. He gets his players big endorsements – and Grand Slam victories. But what price is Charlie willing to pay for success?
Weisberger, 39, made her name writing about young women weighing their choices in a cut-throat modern world. In her first novel, the best-selling The Devil Wears Prada, a young woman comes to work at a Manhattan magazine only to be terrorised by Miranda, her monster of a boss (played with chilly menace by Meryl Streep in the film). Since Weisberger once worked as the assistant to Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, imagine what you will.
But Weisberger – also the author of the novels Everyone Worth Knowing, Chasing Harry Winston, Last Night At Chateau Marmont and the sequel Revenge Wears Prada – says what she’s really interested in exploring is how young women build their careers and lives in a competitive society.
“Something that interests me is that experience every woman has multiple times over the course of her life,” she says. “Where you want something – a person, an experience, a job, whatever it is – you have in your mind that everything will be different and wonderful once you get it. And that’s not the case. I want to examine that dichotomy of how and why that is.”
How much access did you get on the women’s tennis tour?
Weisberger: Quite a bit of access. I went to quite a few tournaments: Key Biscayne, Charlotte, Connecticut, Wimbledon, the US Open. I was in the players’ lounges, the workout rooms, the places the players hang out when they’re not on the court. There was a lot of watching and looking at hitting partners, the Women’s Tennis Association, tournament officials, nutritionists – really everyone who has anything to do with that world.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned about the tour in your research?
I didn’t realise how long the season is. The women play 10-plus months out of 12. It’s just remarkable. They’re on the road the entire time. They follow the sun around the globe and live out of suitcases. They don’t even maintain homes. That was surprising to me.
Did the players you talked to complain about that?
One of the players I spoke with talked about how hard it is, obviously, to maintain a romantic relationship. You’re never around each other. You can’t keep up with family when you can never commit to being in one spot.
One player, her family was having a reunion in the summer, and even a week or two ahead of time she didn’t know whether she could make it or not. It’s living last-minute, day to day. That part is really challenging.
In your last novel Revenge Wears Prada, you revisited the characters from The Devil Wears Prada. What was that like for you as a writer?
It was exciting – and challenging. I’d never written a sequel before. People had bonded with these characters and knew what they were like and what was motivating them. That’s part of why I decided to see where a decade had taken them and didn’t pick up where the book left off.
So Anna Wintour eventually thanked you for bringing so much attention to the fashion industry. What was it like to hear that after all this time?
That happened only a couple of weeks ago! I saw that she said that when I was watching The First Monday In May, the documentary on the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had no idea she’d said that before then. It was kind of fun to hear it.
Who’s worse to work with: Todd or Miranda?
It’s hard to say. They’re so different. It’s a different enemy. Todd is much more verbal; he’d be in your face screaming and cursing. Miranda is icy and slightly more terrifying. I think I would lean toward Miranda being worse. Charlie has hired Todd. He doesn’t act like it, but he does work for her, so that factors in. But both are awful. – Miami Herald/Tribune News Service