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5 Minutes with Delia Ephron

Photo credit: Elena Seibert

We speak to much-loved author, screenwriter and playwright Delia Ephron about her latest book, Sister Mother Husband Dog (Etc.)

5 Minutes with Delia Ephron

Author, screenwriter and playwright Delia Ephron has been responsible for some of the most loved romantic comedies of recent times (You’ve Got Mail, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). We caught up with Delia recently to chat about her latest book and remembering her late sister, the famous Nora Ephron.

You come from a strong family of writers. What was that difficult or competitive for you, growing up?

All sisters are competitive.  It’s basically an uncivilized relationship.  My first memory of Nora was of her biting into a tomato in such a perfect way as to squirt juice in my eye.  We all loved being sisters – there were four of us – in spite of the competition.  In my book I explored all of that – how complicated the love is. 

What were you inspirations for this book and what did you set out to ‘achieve’ so to speak with it?

I started writing the book in the months after Nora died.  I would just go into my office and write about us.  It was a way to be together.  Then the next thing I knew I was writing about all my major food groups: sister, mother, husband, dog.  The etc. (my subtitle) includes a lot about friendship, religion, bakeries.  I love bakeries.

Who have been your mentors over your career?

So many.  I had a great boss in my first job at the NYC Parks Department.  We put on special events in the parks. She loved work, and every day she would have a million ideas, and she made the office crackle with excitement.  She taught me how much fun work could be. Edward Koren, a New Yorker cartoonist, illustrated my first big success, How to Eat Like a Child, and three of my subsequent books.  And my sister, Nora, who advised me often, and who directed the movies we wrote together.  She gave me one of my first magazine assignments:  How to Cut off Your Blue Jeans.  50 words for Esquire Magazine.

How did you tackle the process of remembering your sister, Nora, in this book? Was this difficult?

The most difficult part of the book was writing about my mother – she was an alcoholic and I really wanted to write about her and what it was like for me to be her child.  Writing about Nora was easier, because the love was so much less complicated.  And because I was grieving, I found a lot of solace in writing.

What are some of your most vivid memories of Nora?

Oh my gosh, so so many.  That’s why I wrote all about collaboration in the book.  To remember all those moments in detail.  I suppose one that stands out is when she helped me find an apartment after my divorce and, when we found the perfect apartment and the landlord had promised it to someone else, she convinced him I would be a better tenant and then she actually typed up the lease for him to sign.  He called someone on the phone and said, “I’ve been kidnapped.”

 As well as your family, you also cover some of the absurdities of modern life in this book. Is this something that you plan to touch more on in the future?

I’ve been lucky enough to write now and then for The New York Times where I get to vent all my frustrations about life.

What are you currently working on?

I have started a novel, and a script that I wrote has a director now. Australian too: Ben Lewin.  I’m hoping it will be made soon.

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