Phoenix Entertainment and Development

Phoenix Entertainment and Development

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Christine Elise McCarthy Interview Part 1

Welcome everyone to a brand new edition of the Writer's Revolution. I am your host, the author of The Phoenix Blade, Andrew Hess. This week we have a special guest with us. She is an actress, a director, a blogger, a photographer and now an author. She is Christine Elise McCarthy

Tell me a little about yourself.

I am originally from Boston but I have lived in Hollywood for the last 30 years.  I have been acting professionally for 25 years and am recognized primarily for my roles as U4EA-popping bad girl, Emily Valentine, on Beverly Hills, 90210, as Harper Tracy on ER, and as Kyle, the gal who killed Chucky in Child’s Play 2.  I have also appeared in recurring roles on China Beach, In the Heat of the Night, and Tell Me You Love Me.  Among my other film roles are Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers and two films starring Viggo Mortensen: Vanishing Point and Boiling Point. 

As a writer, I have written three episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 as well as characters and storylines for the series, a pilot that was optioned by Aaron Spelling, and comical true-life essays that I performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade and Naked Angels theaters in LA.  I also maintain an irreverent food porn blog called  for which I provide recipes, photographs and sometimes share the details of the triumphs and, more frequently, the humiliations of my life. I also have a great passion for photography ( and I have shown my pin-up and decaying Americana imagery in the United States & Paris.  I have been on the selection committee of Michigan’s Waterfront Film Festival since its inception in 1999, I am co-director of the Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival, I program for the Self-Medicated Film Festival and The Lady Filmmakers Film Festival, and consult & judge for many others.  My directorial debut, Bathing & the Single Girl, was accepted into over 100 film festivals and won 20 awards. 

Bathing & the Single Girl, inspired by the short film, is my debut novel.

Wow, that’s one impressive resume. I remember watching 90210 growing up and thinking Emily was an awesome character that helped bring along some of the other casts characters. But with such an impressive acting resume, what inspired you to start writing?

I have always aspired to be a novelist & have always been an avid reader.  The success of my short film built my confidence that I could tell a story – about almost anything – and make it funny.  So – that is what I set out to do – to write the funniest novel ever written!   I wasn’t trying to change the world or make people think.  I just wanted to make people laugh – out loud – as often as possible.

There’s nothing better than a good laugh or making others laugh. My grandfather used to tell us; you should always start your day off with a laugh because then you’ll start your day off in a good mood.

Now I’m very interested to hear more about your novel: Bathing & the Single Girl. Can you tell us more about it?

BATHING & THE SINGLE GIRL is my smutty, mercilessly irreverent and laugh-out-loud funny debut novel.  Inspired by my one-woman short film of the same name, it’s the kind of novel Jonathan Ames might write if he’d dropped out of college and had been working as an actress in Hollywood for the last 20 years.  At least – I hope!

The book is summarized as follows:  The life of an actress in LA isn’t all glamour, money, and bedding rock stars.  Sometimes it’s more about humiliation, red wine hangovers, and the bad decisions they fuel.  Ruby Fitzgerald has barely worked in years, not that anyone remembers her for anything but her short stint on a long-canceled but iconic TV show.  But that was back when her career prospects seemed on the upswing -- longer ago than Ruby cares to admit, and awkward sex with regrettable partners is doing nothing to take the edge off. Everything once functional in her house is going on strike, but the unemployment checks barely cover the mortgage, and a self-respecting girl needs to be able to pay her bar tab -- so repairs are on hold.  One more bubble bath and a few more cocktails.  A gal can always get responsible tomorrow.

With everything mounting against her, a cranky and increasingly despairing Ruby will have to find out if her life’s larger indignities are the result of bad luck, or a chronically bad attitude.  What follows is a walking tour of the hilarious depths you can sink to if you stop exercising your best judgment.

This sounds like a great story and am looking forward to diving into it. In the meantime, can you tell us more about Ruby? What makes her unique?

Ruby Fitzgerald is a bit of a cranky miscreant.  She isn’t unique in her disappointing career as a struggling actress in Los Angeles – but her level of self-involvement keeps her from realizing that.  She distracts herself from the slings & arrows of life with a steady stream of wine & a nearly steady stream of criminally underwhelming romantic encounters.   The marginal success of her past acting career remains the carrot that keeps her on the treadmill – continually striving to fulfill her dream of being respected as an actress.  In the meantime, she faces humiliation after hilarious humiliation – whether they result from ill-advised & wince-worthy sexual encounters or degrading professional opportunities.    The question is – will Ruby succeed or will she have to take her place in mediocrity, like so many other aspiring actors before her? 

Ruby sounds like quite a character. I think there are many struggling in the business that can relate to doing anything to find a way to make it in the business but I feel Ruby will have us enjoying the trip along the way.

So tell our readers what inspired you to write this novel?

The short film (of the same name) was so well received (screening at over 100 festivals) that it built my confidence as a humor writer.  Every question & answer session in which I participated at these fests had someone in the audience inquiring if I did stand up – or if the stories in the film were true.   Then someone just said it.  They said, “You should turn that into a novel!”  Incredibly, that suggestion immediately resonated & I knew exactly how I could turn a 2k word short into a 115K word novel – so – I set about getting it done.

Now we briefly touched on some of your other writing in the past; such as your food porn blog and writing for 90210. I’d like to just go into that a little more.

Can you explain to our readers that might not know what a food porn blog is?

Food porn is just a provocative short hand for the glorification – fetishizing, even – of preparing, presenting  & serving food.   Food porn consists of food lovingly composed & lushly photographed.  The recipes themselves can often be decadent & might coyly suggest that the foods are substitutes for sex – the way lots of women’s fiction represents chocolate.  It is a playful term for a serious business – EATING!

How different is it to write for TV as opposed to writing a novel?

I wrote for the original 90210 but that is a very structured writing environment – as characters & stories are all pretty well-defined when they ask you to write an episode.  All serial TV is that way.  As a guest writer on a show, your job is really just filling in dialogue & bringing their outline to life logically.  Being a staff writer for TV means a lot more creative input but I have never yet been on staff.  Beyond my short, the only writing I have done is for my food porn blog –

The novel – the first draft – was written stream of consciousness-style.  I drew up no outline.  I didn’t know what the next chapter would bring – let alone have an ending in mind.  I just sat down every day, after the gym, and wrote until 5pm – or until I felt I had come to a natural stopping place.  I usually tried never to stop writing without having some idea of where I would be starting the next day – in an effort to avoid a block.  The first draft took eight weeks precisely, I think, because it was so free form & without constraints or expectations.  The final version is about 50% different from the first draft so, clearly, the first draft was far from perfect but I just had to pound it out & get something “done” before I could begin to look at it critically.

I enjoy both kinds of writing.  They both have their pressures & freedoms & their own rewards.  Seeing a produced episode of TV & hearing actors say your words is thrilling & TV writing is a union job which has other important rewards.  But writing the novel provided a total aesthetic freedom – both as to content & work ethic – that I also very much appreciate.  Doing both in tandem would be heaven.

Who is your greatest writing inspiration?

I am a huge fan of Charles Bukowski.  I have always been impressed at how well he combined grit & honesty with humor & sentimentality.  He is often mistaken as a vulgar novelist but the man was a poet first and his is the only poetry I have ever enjoyed.

Also, actor Frank John Hughes is a friend of mine.  He is an inspiration to me as a writer because 1) I love his writing and 2) he just writes!  And writes and writes.  He writes screenplays & poems & short stories – whatever -  and just fetishizes the act of writing so much as the Godhead of all art - he bleeds writing.  He makes writing sound so noble & warrior-like & divine & so important – it is hard not to want to get right to it & earn your place in the heavens with other great writers.  He makes grinding it out, alone, in front of a computer – unpublished, unread, unrecognized – sound fucking exciting & saint-like.  And, I think you have to approach writing from that place – that place of “I simply MUST write and keep writing” – to do it with any happiness and authenticity because most authors will never get read – or achieve commercial success.  So – you must write for yourself first.  My boyfriend, Miles Miller, is a writer-director and he, too, has a work ethic like Frank John Hughes & will hole up & write just because he loves it – but he approaches it from a quieter place – maybe a bit less confrontationally than Frank’s attitude.  But they are both prolific & write to keep their souls from withering.  I admire that very much.  For me – these men are true artists – and they take their art very seriously.  That has also been an important lesson for me – to take myself seriously as an artist (as they do) & not dismiss anything I do as crap or “less than” or something to be sort of – presented wincingly – or apologized for.  I am very proud of the book and despite the fact that is churlish & vulgar at times – I feel it is very well written & I hope that the humor & vulgarity come across as intelligently as I intended them to.  Real life can be ugly & drag you through the gutter just as some of the funniest comedy can – but that doesn’t mean stories about those elements of life deserve less respect. 

I had better shut up now.   I wrote a book full of raunchy sex jokes & scatological humor.  I don’t want to sound too highfalutin, here!

Stay Tuned for part 2 of my interview with Christine Elise McCarthy and in the meantime, pickup your copy of Bathing & the Single Girl on

And a copy of The Phoenix Blade Project Justice

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