W&H Book of the Month
Alexandra Shulman has been editor of Vogue since 1992. Her debut novel, Can We Still Be Friends is published today (Fig Tree).
I always wanted to write a book but thought it would have to wait until I left Vogue. But then I didn't leave Vogue and I did feel that I'd been editing Vogue for a long time and that it would be good to do something different. So when I lost my newspaper column and had some time, I thought ‘now is the time'.
I wrote 30,000 words without knowing what the story was, and sent it to an agent who said ‘It's nicely written but what's the story?' I just thought ‘Oh well, obviously I'm not going to be able to do this'. Then I decided that was a bit pathetic and I should give it another go.
I've always had very good friends, particularly good girlfriends and so I wanted it to be about friendship. It's set in the 80s and follows three friends who leave university and embark on adult life together. Bits of the book resemble experiences I've had. Like one of the friends is a journalist and I did work at the Telegraph for a year. But none are actually based on me, or indeed any of my friends. It's also about young women and their parents although I didn't draw on my own relationship with my parents - other than general irritation that one has with one's parents at that age.
Writing a book is one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me. But it's also terrifying; I'm terrified of people hating it and I'm not very cool about people's reactions: I will mind! At one point I said, ‘I'd better not read any reviews' but I'm far too egotistical and will be Googling away the minute any come out.
Read the full interview in the May issue of w&h, out now.
w&h books editor, Fanny Blake says of Can We Still Be Friends:
1983. Three friends leave university - Salome, would-be journalist and wild-child; Kendra, seeking her own identity; Annie, for whom marriage is the answer. Their interleaved lives are the stuff of this lively novel of family and friendship, love and work.
Watch Alexandra's interview on her new book Can We Still Be Friends below: