Exclusive interview with author Piper Kerman
Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 16:11
Piper Kerman is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison,” which has been adapted into an original series for Netfix by “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan. Kerman will be speaking at the Student Center on Nov. 18 and was kind enough to agree to a phone interview with the Sonoma State STAR.
STAR: When people tell you they loved your memoir or the Netflix adaptation, do you ever have conflicting thoughts, or have you given us the audience permission to laugh at what sometimes were painful experiences for you?
Kerman: I think that for those who read the book and also watch the show will find that there are some significant differences and not just the literal differences in the storyline or plot. But also they’ll find the book, which I don’t think is comedic at all, it’s not intended to be, so of course there are funny moments and humor in the book. That’s a reflection of humor as a survival skill or a survival tool, that people draw down on in some of the most difficult situations imaginable. One of the ways we cope with that is by relying on our humor on some level. And what I think is really interesting and impressive about the show and what Jenji Kohan has accomplished is she really rides that razor’s edge of very serious themes that are drawn from the book, and she also brings humor in her examination of them. And I think that’s hard to pull off, and I also think it’s really great because it’s some really difficult material and so it’s hard for folks to come to it without sorta the release of the humor.
STAR: How did you first meet Jenji Kohan?
Kerman: I met Jenji shortly after the book came out. I was on my book tour, and I was in Los Angeles, and a mutual friend had given her the book and said, “I think you’ll really like this.” She did, and that was a happy meeting.
STAR: When you heard that she loved the book, or she told you she loved the book and thought something should come out of it, did you just think “Oh yeah, sure sure,” or were you actually really intrigued by hearing it from her personally?
Kerman: I was very intrigued, because I think she brings great creativity and obviously a really stellar track record, and a very unique perspective to the material that she picks up. And so it was very interesting to imagine that she might sort of turn that creative eye towards this.
STAR: Do you have a favorite scene or moment that was brought to life on the show, whether it happened in the book or not?
Kerman: I think it would be impossible to choose just one moment. I really think it’s fascinating to watch how they adapted the book, some of the choices they make. There’s some moments in the show that are drawn directly from the book and there are other moments that are wild, wild departures, total departures from the book, and so that makes it fascinating for me to watch as well. There are lovely, lovely moments in the book that I think are so true to life, like these incredible moments of human kindness and also some suffering, which I think really rings true to folks. I really like that episodes three, four, and five present a really interesting sort of arc of the overall narrative. Episode nine is the Thanksgiving episode—that one is pretty heartbreaking on a lot of levels, but I just think they did a great job.
STAR: Did Taylor Schilling reach out or request to shadow you when she got the role of Piper Chapman?