Writer Delia Ephron gave a funny and honest lecture about her life, career and new novel, “The Lion Is In,” in front of an audience Sunday, March 3, at Marina Jack. The event was part of The Jewish Federation’s Jewish Book Festival.
She’s known for works such as the screenplays she co-wrote with her sister, Nora Ephron, including “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Michael” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”; her book, “How to Eat Like a Child”; and the play she co-wrote with her sister, “Love, Loss and What I Wore.”
She’s published children’s books, essays, novels and screenplays with her sister. But, as she says, “Novels are where my heart is. It’s the purest expression of your own life.”
“The Lion Is In” was an idea that came to her in a dream. She describes it as a “Thelma and Louise” story crossed with “Born Free.”
When did you get into town and what’s your impression of Sarasota?
Saturday at 4 p.m. I had the feeling I just liked it here. I like the dive-bombing pelicans. This is one of the best places I’ve been because everyone has been so nice and (the Hyatt) was so nice.
What’s it like growing up in a family of four sisters who are all writers? Is there any sibiling rivalry?
There’s always some sibiling rivalry because it would be dishonest to say there isn’t. But, the fact is, we have always felt important. It’s almost like we know we have to be supportive of each other because we love each other ... There’s a lot of things about writing that we all understand and we all get along, so we make it work. And, besides, nobody has the same parents, even if we are writing about our parents. (We all have diffferent relationships with our parents).
Did you and Nora have anything in the works before she died this past June that you plan to carry out?
We collaborated on something, and I realized I didn’t want to do anything with it. It’s too difficult. But Nora’s play (“Lucky Guy” with Tom Hanks) is opening, and we’re all excited about that and happy and we wished she were here for it.
Will you ever direct?
... There comes a point in a screenwriter’s life when you either become angry or you become a director, and I took a different route as a novelist. Because you want your own stories told your way, you either become a director or, in my case, a novelist.
You wrote a draft of ‘The Lion Is In’ based on a dream without having visited North Carolina. After writing, you visitied and found everything you wrote about was real, such as coming across the exact lone tree you envisioned. Explain how things lined up.
It was really strange because having written that tree, (the driving to) that meadow and finding it — why did I find it? It’s a pretty big state. Why was I driving by, and why when I was driving by, did I scream and then stop and get out of the car to look at it? And why did this man pull up and say, ‘Why are you looking?’ and then tell me all about the tree? And everything matched up with what I had written. And then I thought, ‘Oh my god, am I having a religious experience?’... There was a strange destiny to the story. I just woke up with an imperative, like this is (my) story to write.
What was the most difficlut part about writing ‘The Lion Is In’?
That was the happiest writing experience I’ve ever had ... Every day I would think, ‘Oh, I get to be with Rita, Tracy, Lana and Marcel — most importantly, Marcel — every day.’ It just really made me happy. I miss it, actually.
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