If you’ve ever wanted to work in the TV industry, 25 Sense is the book for you. Lisa Henthorn’s debut novel will be out on 24th May, and it gives a great insight into what it’s like working as a TV writer. I caught up with Lisa while she was taking time off with her newborn (yay!) and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about her process.
How different did you find writing a book to script writing—and which did you enjoy more?
I enjoy them both equally, but for different reasons. There is a great deal of structure in television writing. There are production issues to consider. Not every story lends itself to being dramatized. Television is also inherently collaborative, so you have to be prepared to discuss and defend your ideas to someone else almost every step in the process. It’s challenging, but I love finding ways to tell a story and be creative despite those challenges. Writing a book is a much more solitary experience, and there are no limits in terms of storytelling. I can get into a character’s head and explore their deepest thoughts and insecurities without having to rely on dialogue.
Will you be writing another book? What have you got up your sleeve?
I am. It’s going to be set in Silicon Valley and revolve around the tech industry. My sister works in the field and I think people might be surprised about what that’s actually like to be a woman working in that environment on a day-to-day basis.
To what extent is 25 Sense based on your real experiences in the TV writing world?
A great deal of the book is my experiences. I’ve worked on seven different television shows, starting as an assistant, and I combined many different elements of those shows for 25 Sense. More significantly, and really the impetus to write the book, was because I was involved in an affair with a married man and was left with a great deal of residual emotions when it ended, both on a romantic level and on an ethical level. I wasn’t proud of my behavior, and also wasn’t mature enough at the time to make better decisions when confronted with the temptation. I used the book to work through a lot of that.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to break into script writing today?
Nowadays, especially with young writers right out of college, be prepared to pay some dues. You’re probably going to have to fetch some coffee and make some copies before you get a writing opportunity, no matter how great your samples are. If you can, move to Los Angeles and apply for internships or assistant jobs on television shows. This not only introduces you to fellow writers and television executives, it also introduces you to the culture of working on a television show and what it takes to produce a series. The more people you grow friendly with, the more likely someone will give you a shot at a writing opportunity. Come in with a good attitude, work hard, and learn to handle rejection, because it’s a constant part of the business.
25 Sense also reads like a love letter to New York. What do you think it is about the city that’s so enchanting for 20-somethings?
I hate to be cliché, but I think the old saying “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” still rings true. New York feels full of possibilities and life… it’s fast paced and sexy and you never know how your day will play out. I think 20-somethings want to feel like they are actively living life to its fullest, and there’s no better place than New York to do that.
If you could go back in time and give your 25-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself not to stress out about the future so much. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and you’ll find a way to deal with adversity if/when it presents itself. Enjoy the present!