Lisa Taddeo knows how to accomplish her career bucket list. From being published in Playboy magazine, Esquire, and McSweeney’s, Taddeo’s managed to tick off pretty much everything on her wishlist.
Taddeo’s debut novel Three Women, hit the ground running with its fortuitous early following and praise from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Drew Barrymore, which sent it straight to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. Fast forward a couple of years, and Taddeo is currently spending her time in executive production mode bringing the adaptation of Three Women to Television.
Taddeo’s work is refreshingly honest – albeit a little brutal – exploring sexuality with vivid intimacy, that strives for the truth to the point that it becomes quite painful, choosing to face head-on the complexities of modern-day love, and sex. To put it plainly, she is not afraid to say the uncomfortable stuff out loud.
Based in the beautiful distraction-free hills of Southern New England, Taddeo spends her time juggling a work/life balance with her school-aged daughter, all the while, zooming in and out of production meetings for her upcoming TV show.
Hot off the campaign trail of her new book, Ghost Lover (Bloomsbury) an eye-popping short story collection that delves straight into sexuality, womanhood, and what it means to love in 2022, we caught up with her to ask what else she’s been up to (and what she reads) in rare moments of respite from her busy schedule.
Happy: What are you up to today?
Lisa: I am doing press for Ghost Lover, and finishing some post-production work for my adaptation of Three Women which will be coming this fall.
Happy: My first introduction to your work was Yeast (first published in playboy). I thought it was one of the most visceral and poignant stories I’ve ever read.
Lisa: I always wanted to have fiction in playboy, and now I have fiction and nonfiction that I have written for playboy and I feel very fortunate because it was always the cornerstone of that, and Esquire magazine, in the U.S – yes they are both men’s magazines – but they had the best reputations for publishing the best literary fiction in the business, so I was really happy about that.
Happy: Tell us about your neighbourhood, what do you love/not love about where you live?
Lisa: I live in rural Connecticut, I love that there’s no traffic, and I love that there’s not a lot of people, and I love that I can look outside my window and see forest and grass and trees.
I do not love that there are often mice in our house, I do not love that there are not that many restaurants and not too many amazing cultural opportunities, though there are quite a lot. But I prefer to be in nature, and I prefer to be away from distraction because distraction, when I’m in a writing period, is my biggest enemy and going out to a nice dinner is a distraction that I love to have, but sometimes its better that I don’t.
Happy: Describe your average workday?
Lisa: I wake up, I take my daughter to school, I come back, I have a series of meetings and I try to squeeze in whatever writing assignments I can do in between them, but often meetings are back to back lately with post-production in three women, so it’s been difficult, but I’m trying my best. And then my daughter comes home around 4 or 5, we have dinner, we play, we read stories and go to bed, and I go back to work until about 2 or 3, 4 in the morning sometimes.
Happy: What about your ultimate day?
Lisa: My ultimate day is a day where I dont have any meetings. And that I can just write until my kid comes home.
Happy: Which book are you currently reading?
Lisa: I’m re-reading earth and sea, by Ursula LeGuin, who I absolutely love, I also always have William Trevors collected stories next to me and I recently re-read The Right To Sex by Amia Srinivasan, because I was moderating a talk with her and it was illuminating and wonderful and I recommend it to everyone.
Happy: What did you read or watch growing up that fuelled your passion for storytelling?
Lisa: Stephen King, Flowers in the Attic, V C Andrews, John Saul, lots of murder, horror, and paranormal stuff. The Stand was a seminal book in my life, I read it over a summer in Italy, I was this little depressed child wearing all black in the corner of the beach, under an umbrella reading The Stand, while all of the other kids were playing being happy, I mean I played too, I’m not trying to be whatever, but I remember that summer distinctly. And that sort of storytelling made me want to tell the same sorts of stories, that had a mystery to them. While I dont traffic too much in that, it’s something that I do write to, and return to often, and my dream is to make a Game of Thrones that is kind of very female-centric, which it also was in many ways, but something like that.
Happy: What did you read or watch last that opened your eyes and mind to a new perspective?
Lisa: The right to Sex, taught me so much about incell culture, things I didn’t know and other things about the way that our justice system does not, is a real work in progress for the way that it, the intersectionality of who we are comfortable accusing and who we are not comfortable of accusing things, it was a really great learning tool for me while also being beautifully written.
Happy: Which is the sexiest book you’ve read?
Lisa: I think Barry Hannah is very sexy, also love reading House of Holes by Nicholson Baker, I wouldn’t call it sexy, it’s not sexy, it’s more funny than sexy. But I would say that I really do love The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, she’s brilliant at the way she describes sexuality, female sexuality. Hannah’s great in his own right, and I think that his book Airships had alot of great moments of sensuality in them.
Happy: Which book did you last read that opened your eyes and mind to a new perspective?
Lisa: Natalia Ginsberg, The Little Virtues, I think that everybody should read it.
Happy: if you had a first date book list, what would it be?
Lisa: Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior, The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, Barry Hannah’s Airships, William Goldman, The Princess Bride, and Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin.
Ghost Lover is out now via Bloomsbury.