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This blog was featured on 05/10/2018
Stephanie Danler on Her 6-Figure Debut, a Starz Show and What’s Next
Written by
She Writes
May 2018
Written by
She Writes
May 2018

It has been hard to miss the premiere of Sweetbitter, the new show on Starz based off Stephanie Danler’s hit debut of the same name. 

The waitress turned novelist has had a whirlwind experience in the past two years, but she started in the same place as so many authors/aspiring authors begin. Her trajectory, while rare, can still motivate any writer to sit down at their desk and start working. Who knows, you could be the next Stephanie Danler.

Stephanie Danler on Going From a Waitress to a Highly Paid Novelist

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

“I've worked in restaurants since I was 15 years old, but I always wanted to be a writer. Growing up, I would mimic Edgar Allen Poe and write incredibly gothic, gory ghost stories that got me sent to the school psychiatrist. I remember reading my grandmother one about a girl who goes to a slumber party, gets taken over by an evil spirit, and kills herself. Afterward, she looked at me and said, ‘You’re a writer. Never stop writing.’”

How did you go from being in the restaurant industry to becoming a writer?

“I worked at Union Square Cafe for a year and a half before I left to go to wine school. I wanted to own businesses and learn how to manage restaurants. By the time I was 25, I was running a beverage program for a small restaurant group. At 26, I became general manager. Then, right after my 29th birthday, my ex-husband and I were gearing up to open a wine bar, and I started to feel despair and longing. I thought my whole life would unfold and 10 years would pass before I could ever write a book. So I applied to graduate school. My marriage ended, I cut all ties with the businesses I helped build, and I risked everything. People thought I was crazy.”

How did you balance writing with work and living in New York?

“I worked as a server at Buvette to pay for school, and I would take notes all week, listening to people at the bar. Tuesdays were my creative days. I wrote for hours in my terrible, shitty sublet in Brooklyn. I didn't go for a run, I didn't go to the market, I didn’t do my laundry—I ordered takeout for every single meal and never left my house. I finished the book in two years.”

How did your six-figure deal come about?

“When meetings with publishers started to pile up, I was shocked. I had never published before, and I knew no one. I thought they were out of their minds. But culturally, there was a hunger for women-driven material.”

What has changed since the book deal?

“The book advance was life-changing because it allowed me to stop waiting tables. That was a huge gift. But I still write all the time. I hustle like every other artist. After the book came out, I toured for a year and visited every city, small and large. I said "yes" to absolutely every opportunity. I couldn't believe that so many people wanted to speak to me. Then, Hollywood approached me about a TV show, and I decided to take a stab at it.”

[The above interview was first featured on InStyle. Read the full interview here.]

Stephanie Gives Advice to Aspiring Authors during #AskSweetbitter

A Twitter thread gave fans and writers an opportunity to ask Stephanie questions about her career, her characters and her inspiration.

Surprising Sources of Inspiration

To MFA or Not?

Where to Start

When is Stephanie Danler’s Next Book Coming Out?

In an interview with Vogue, Stephanie talks about her personal life. Her father was a meth addict and her mother an alcoholic. This troubled upbringing is the foundation for her next book.

“When I wrote an Upfront for Vogue about my father’s drug addiction, it opened the potential of telling a story about being raised by addicts and the inheritance of damage. How we inherit these things from our parents and either transcend them or manifest them over and over again. My second book will be personal essays that relate to that.

Vogue: It’s memoir this time, not fiction?

It is. Memoir is hard for me to say, but that is what it probably will be called. We’re hoping it will be published in fall 2019.”

Make sure to check out new episodes of Sweetbitter on Starz and keep writing!

(Photo by Nick Vorderman)

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