Wife and mother to a precocious toddler, author Pam Carpenter knows a thing or two about love. A new bride herself, she recently burst onto the literary scene with a darling, arrow-through-your-heart novel that explores the travails of finding love in thoroughly modern times. But Carpenter has done more than join the oft-bantered conversation about both defying gender roles and finding love without losing yourself. She's a living example of it, routinely bending the restrictive expectations and restrictions in her favor.
A native New Yorker who now calls Los Angeles home, Carpenter holds both an MBA and a Juris Doctorate. With ease she tackled the corporate world before trying her hand at acting. This, as she morphed from an about-town socialite, to a sweet, hopeful bride and ultimately a stroller-pushing supermom. Now, having entered the next phase of her life, she can add author to her dizzying list of accomplishments.
The Last Bridesmaid was published late last year to widespread acclaim. It follows Jules, the main character, who, fearing she will be the last of her friends to marry, sets out on a series of hilarious exploits before finally realizing that there is infinitely more to life than becoming a Mrs to someone's Mr.
I recently spoke with Carpenter about her literary debut, and what today's multi-hyphenated women can learn from Jules' amorous, and often humorous, misadventures.
1.) What inspired you to write The Last Bridesmaid?
The Last Bridesmaid was actually a screenplay that I wrote about 12 years ago that I recently adapted into a book. I was in my mid-30's at the time, and I'd just gotten back from a wedding in Chicago, where I had been a bridesmaid for the umpteenth time. I'd moved to Los Angeles a couple of years before to pursue an acting career, and I was taking a screenwriting class where I needed a topic to write about. So I started writing about what was heavy on my mind at the time... being single in my 30's and the humor behind some of the dating experiences that I or my friends had had.
2.) Are you planning a sequel?
Yes, absolutely! I already have most of the story line plotted out in my head, but I haven't found time yet to sit at my computer and type. New ideas for the sequel are building up fast, so I'm going to have to block off time to write them out before my brain bursts! LOL!
3.) What was the writing experience like? How long did it take to take to come to fruition?
Well it's been a bit of winding road. For the screenplay, I wrote the first 30 pages for my screenwriting class in about 4 weeks. But when the class was over, I didn't touch the script until new inspiration hit me about 6 months later. I fell into a writing zone where I typed all day and into the night, and I finished the rest of the 106-page script in about 2 weeks. I showed the script around Hollywood off and on for a few years, but even though everyone that read it said that they liked it, nothing ever came of it. So into a cabinet it went. Then last summer, 12 years after I'd written the screenplay, I felt inspired to write a book, and I was searching for new ideas. It dawned on me that The Last Bridesmaid would probably make a great book. So I pulled the script back out of the cabinet, and I spent about 2 months updating and adding to the story to adapt it into a book format.
4.) What has the reception been like? Was it what you expected?
The reception has been incredible! The book has been getting great reviews, which has been such a relief since it's a bit scary to put your ideas out there.
5.) The topic of black women trying to find suitable partners is a hot topic that has often been addressed in Hollywood. Bravo TV just premiered a reality show featuring black women who are looking for love in Italy! Why do you think it’s hard for successful black women to find suitable partners? What are some of the obstacles you faced while you were single in LA?
This was a question that I asked myself for years before I met my husband at 40 years old. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 32, and I couldn't figure out why I was having such a hard time finding my life partner. I was educated, confident, well-traveled, great personality, and an overall good person. In my mind, I was a catch! (:(:
But in my dating experiences, or in the experiences that some of my closest girlfriends had, we heard our dates tell us crazy things like "I don't want a girl who's smarter than me" or "I don't want to date a woman who makes more money than me" or "I don't want to have to live in your shadow." What I thought were assets that we women were bringing to the table, were being thought of as drawbacks by some members of the opposite sex. It baffled me! Of course I knew that the guys who felt this way weren't a good fit for me, but that didn't make it sting any less.
Intellectually, I knew that I just had to wait for God to send me the right guy, but after watching so many of my friends find their Mr. Rights over the years, I started to feel like I'd been left behind. I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky person, and I've been extremely blessed with incredible friends that I've had a lot of fun times with, but there was still this void. I had all of this love in my heart, and so much that I wanted to experience in life, but no partner to share it with. Thank God my husband finally made it into my life, and I'm so gratefully that I stuck to my guns and didn't settle for some guy that was all wrong for me.
6.) What advice would you give single women who are looking for lifelong partners?
Wait for the right person! That person may take longer than you'd hoped to come into your life, but it'll be worth it. And don't stop being your amazing self to make someone else feel comfortable. The right person should love to watch you shine.
7.) In your novel Jules panics when she realizes that she is the last of her friends to get married. Why do you think some women impose unrealistic expectations when it comes to marriage? Does society bare some of the blame?
That is such a great question! I was definitely guilty of this for years. My mother married my father when she was 24 years old, so growing up, I always thought that I'd get married by 24. Then 24 came and went, and guess what, the sky didn't fall! Looking back on it now, I realize how ridiculous I was being back then.
I think that my unrealistic expectations were based on society's formula of GET MARRIED + HAVE KIDS = HAPPILY EVER AFTER. I watched this formula play out around me my whole life with my family and friends, and then in the countless romance novels that I read from high school on, and from the larger than life weddings that I watched on TV and in movies.
It didn't help that in my 30's, I came across a few married women along my journey who treated me as "less than" because I wasn't married by a certain age. I even had a family member tell me once "Don't worry, someone will marry you one day!" I felt so insulted. I remember feeling sorry for those women for thinking that a woman's value was diminished if she wasn't married. A couple of those women ended up divorced a few years later, so I hope that they've updated their opinions on single women.
8.) What was the writing experience like? Many writers have rituals. What were yours?
Well, I have learned that I'm a deadline writer. For years, I said that I was going to move from writing screenplays to writing books, but I would never get around to it. But once I decided that I was going to write a book and publish it by a certain date, I had a concrete deadline to work towards, and the creative flood gates opened. I also found that I wrote best in a room by myself with R&B music playing in the background.
9.) What advice would you give to aspiring novelists?
In the words of Nike, "Just do it!" I have friends that have said that they wanted to write a book that have never gotten around to actually doing it. I use to fall into this category. Turn it into a project with deadlines for you to meet just like you would for any job. You'll be amazed at how much you've accomplished when you're all done.
10.) Finding love is so important but loving oneself is vital. Jules learns this in The Last Bridesmaid. What life lessons do you want your readers to take away from your novel?
I wrote my book to provide a little romance, a little drama, and lots of laughter. But if there are any life lessons to take away from it, I'd hope that it reinforces the idea that one should never drive themselves crazy comparing their life path to those of their friends. Everyone has their own journey that they're meant to experience and learn from. I think that if we embrace that, and enjoy every day as it comes, whether it be with a partner or without one, then hopefully we won't miss out on the blessings that we have in our lives.
You can buy The Last Bridesmaid at Amazon! And don't forget to follow Pam Carpenter on Twitter @LastBridesmaid and on Facebook!