Taylor Jenkins Reid is a bestselling novelist and essayist based in Los Angeles. The author of six novels, her latest, Daisy Jones & The Six, tells the story of a fictional 70s rock band recording a hit album loosely based on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Publishers Weekly has described it as a “stunning story of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll in the 1960s and 70s… The prose is propulsive, original and often raw”. Amazon has commissioned a 13-part series based on the book, which will be co-produced with Reese Witherspoon.
What drew you to this story?
I’m fascinated by the people we make famous, and I’m drawn to the difference between what something looks like on the outside versus what it was like to live. So I wanted to write about the conflict between characters who have this amazing ability to create things together, but personal relationships that are much more fraught. We’ve seen many examples of that in rock, the most obvious being Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Fleetwood Mac are a band and a soap opera.
What is it about musicians that speaks to us so strongly?
They’re easy to project ourselves, and our fantasies, on to. I worked in Hollywood for a long time, and so I’m relatively aware of my reaction to celebrities and the fact that I don’t actually have a relationship with them. But I remember in the depths of my research, listening to Rumours over and over. It got to the point where I was driving in my car, and I thought: “I just want to know if Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham slept together after Rumours.” I heard myself think that – and that’s insane. I feel so close to them, but that’s because they’re writing about universal things in a specific way that I have a connection to. It’s the same with actors, musicians, writers: we feel seen by them, and that’s a very strong thing.
You also wrote the song lyrics. Was writing the fictional equivalent of Rumours intimidating?
Very intimidating. But I removed any attempt to be as good as a musician would be: I can’t hold myself to that standard. These are lyrics written by an author, with the intention of signalling to the reader that there are things going on between the lines. So that freed me up a little bit. Hopefully readers will feel like that’s another lens into what happened. It’s what I do with bands I like – I’m looking through Taylor Swift’s lyrics and thinking: “Wait – you said this, so doesn’t that mean this?” I don’t have any right to do that, I don’t know what she’s trying to say, but it’s really fun to do.
I’m going to hazard a guess that the song Regret Me in the book is an equivalent to Silver Springs?
You’ve caught me. It’s not lyrically based on Silver Springs at all, and it wouldn’t sound anything like it, but that concept of a woman’s right to be angry is absolutely based on Stevie Nicks singing Silver Springs at Lindsey Buckingham during their reunion [album and] show, The Dance [in 1997]. The couple of clips from that show I saw as a teenager were why I started listening to Fleetwood Mac. They were always, for me, more than just music. I have always been very moved by Stevie Nicks singing that song the way she did then.
The 70s LA rock scene is much mythologised, although often the women are either groupies or “muses”… What was your approach?
Seventies rock is a fun space to tell a story in, but it is dominated by white males. I wanted to tell a story that felt authentic, but focused on the people I’m interested in writing about: women and women of colour. Daisy, the keyboardist Karen, Billy’s wife Camila, Daisy’s best friend Simone, a disco star very loosely based on Donna Summer – those were the most important characters for me. Making sure their experiences were the ones being centred was something I worked on draft after draft.
How’s the TV adaptation coming along?
TV is a slow process, but I could not be happier about the hands that the project is in – it’s being written by two of my favourite screenwriters, Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber [The Disaster Artist, 500 Days of Summer]. I’ll be really interested to hear what they come up with in terms of the music.
What kind of book genres do you usually enjoy reading? And are there any you avoid?
I predominantly read stories about women, by women. One of my favourites in recent years was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which was an exceptional read; also Cecelia Ahern’s Roar – a series of short stories about women. [Though] one of my favourite books coming out this year is written by a man, Steven Rowley. His new book, The Editor, will be published in little over a month – I found it so beautiful and moving.
What kind of a reader were you as a child?
Horrible, horrible! I would go to English class having read only the CliffsNotes. Anything I could do to get out of reading a book, I would do. I think it was just because I hadn’t learned that it was something to love yet… it just felt like homework. I had a lot of making up to do at that point.
Which book changed your mind?
When I was about 13 I got a copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. Page one and I was in! I could not get enough of it. It’s hard to remember now what a breath of fresh air it was when it first came out. I finished it and said, “Mom, take me to the bookstore.” A bit later I really got into Nick Hornby – High Fidelity, About a Boy, I loved them.
Who is your literary hero or heroine?
Jay Gatsby is the one I’m drawn to, that I keep forming different opinions of, and who lives in my head the most. I’m fascinated by the idea that he tries to exert so much control over things that just simply cannot be controlled. Yet there’s such an innocence to him, even though there’s also a high level of corruption. He’s just a complicated character I keep coming back to and seeing different ways in which his naivety relates to my own life. I have to remind myself not to be a Jay Gatsby.
What books are on your bedside table at the moment?
I am reading Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem… I have never read it before and I’m really enjoying it. And a book called The Mirage Factory by Gary Krist, which is about the formation of Los Angeles. I’m really into nonfiction about Los Angeles, especially in the first half of the 1900s. It’s such a new city, and was formed in such a specific and interesting way. It’s my home and I’ve lived here for, I guess, 14 years now and there are always new things that I want to learn about it.
Do you know if anyone in Fleetwood Mac has been sent a copy of the book?
Oh God, I hope so, but I have no idea. But here’s the thing: almost nothing in the book actually happened with Fleetwood Mac – it’s a Fleetwood Mac vibe but it’s not their story. I haven’t actually ripped off their lives; I just wanted to spend more time listening to Rumours and needed a good reason to do it.
• Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is published by Hutchinson (£12.99). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £15, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99
Source: The Guardian