Author – GirlTalkHQ
Three-time-Emmy nominee and former editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine and Soap Opera Digest Meredith Berlin is releasing her debut women’s fiction, ‘Friends With Issues’ (January 24, 2023, Warren Publishing), which follows three glamorous, self-made women in their 40s who gamble with love, sex and their careers in NYC and L.A., as one charismatic man captivates them all.
‘Friends With Issues’ follows Brooke, Elizabeth, and Susan, three friends who have made their mark on Manhattan but who now struggle with the daily balancing act of career, friendship, and intimacy. Brooke thought she married the man of her dreams, but now she’s questioning her marriage as she embarks on a new venture to Hollywood.
Elizabeth’s sex life is incredible, but only on her husband’s terms–and after a shattering diagnosis, she attempts to remake herself in order to recover some semblance of her identity. Susan should be ecstatic when her media mogul husband catapults them into financial security, but as her uncertainty about their relationship grows, she opens a Pandora’s box of new passion by finally admitting that her sexual and romantic preferences do not lie exclusively with men. In Meredith Berlin’s provocative debut, these women discover that their relationships to sex, love, friends, and personal identity can transform at any age–and money doesn’t protect you from the unimaginable.
In the interview below, Meredith opens up about what it was like at the helm of Seventeen, her mission to write multi-dimensional female characters, and how being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis taught her so much about her own body.
How has your professional life, working as editor-in-chief for Seventeen Magazine and Soap Opera Digest, influenced your writing?
Soap Opera Digest not only taught me about that particular community of actors and actresses. More importantly, it taught me about the art of storytelling. Daily soap scripts are the length of most movies. No reruns. Soaps are where writers learned about arcs and long form storytelling. They’ve been around since the early days of radio. Seventeen, is considered a national treasure. A girl’s first real magazine. It taught me about fashion, respect for teens, what is current and on the minds of girls. It taught me how to capture a reader and not let go.
How has your MS diagnosis impacted you and your writing?
MS taught me that I have to respect my body. It’s a disease that doesn’t allow you to “push through” When you need to rest, you must rest. Because I look fine, with no outward symptoms, it’s also called on me to be more of an advocate for myself. My disability is not seen but I must communicate that I have one, IF the situation calls for it. It’s taught me about self advocacy in general. I have learned to accept what my body tells me and listen to it. I would LOVE to expand on this.
What made you decide to return to writing, and how has your life changed since you have?
I saw a movie on TV 20 years after I wrote the book and said, “That’s my book!” Of course it wasn’t, but the relationship between the women, the fact that they were wealthy but also self made, had strengths, weaknesses, love problems, children problems and relied on each other, made me realize that my book’s themes were evergreen. I was enthused to return to it. And finishing the book became a fever goal. My family pushed me on.
Let’s talk about your characters. You mention that people are not just “one thing”. How does this show up in your characters?
I can expand more fully! If you see a well dressed, wealthy woman, you can come up with an idea of what kind of life that person lives. If you talk to someone who’s confrontational, and rude, you want to stay away. If you meet someone with a wrenching disease, you imagine that their life is a struggle. But you don’t know their backstory.
It’s only by listening and investing the time in someone else that you might learn, ie, that the confrontational person, ie, has been severely emotionally crippled in their past and it colors what they say and do. Listening, giving people second chances and believing that everyone has a story is, for me, a more connected way to live. Doesn’t mean you have to like them. It’s just interesting to remember that most of us have layers and reasons for what we do.
How does this book show the truth of life – that we all struggle and have to adapt?
Yes, it’s a good subject to expand on. Well, the most recent example of that is that my entire family has come down with CoVid and I’m on deadline. I’m here in Massachusetts, meant to take care of my granddaughter, while being slayed with the disease. Didn’t plan on it. I’m exhausted, anxious, worried. I want to push through but I can’t. So what to do? Ask for help, lower my expectations, believe that I will still show the world the best book I can write and rely on family and friends to support me when I tell myself a million times a day, “Oh God, what if I can’t?”
As somebody who has interviewed a lot of celebrities – who was your most interesting interview?
The first interview I ever conducted was with the most famous man in the world — Muhammad Ali. It was also the easiest because he did all the talking. I was 20 years old and scared to death! I was also paid the “ridiculously high fee” of $25 for for writing the story for my local newspaper. How I got the interview and why Ali said yes is a story of persistence, fear, and the generosity of an incredible boxer.
What do you want readers to take away from your book?
I want them to relate to my characters. I want them to see themselves or someone they know in them. I want them to know that we–as humans–have inner strength to get us through the worst. I hope they see that humor, love and support can help us through the good times and bad.
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