Lauren Graham's Novel Approach

The endearing star of "Parenthood" and "Gilmore Girls" mines her early career for the plot of her first novel, "Someday, Someday, Maybe." Here in the present, she’s forged a unique bond with her half sister and found love with an old friend and costar    

by Margy Rochlin
lauren graham image
Photograph: Peggy Sirota

Graham admits, however, that one reason she sat down and wrote a novel was the jarring difference between her dialogue-heavy, 14-hour-a-day Gilmore Girls starring role and her relatively relaxed position as just one member of the sprawling Parenthood ensemble. Suddenly there was downtime in her schedule, and initially it threw her off. “It was very hard for me to enjoy that; it made me really antsy,” says Graham, adding that the notion of writing a book was first suggested to her by actress and author Diane Keaton, who played her compulsively meddlesome mother in the 2007 romantic comedy Because I Said So and whose advice she claims to follow unquestioningly. (“If she had told me to consider a career in banking, I would have done that.”)

In her free hours, Graham began crafting a 100-page sample of the novel. Once that sold, she says, “I’d finish my scene for the day and then stay in the trailer and work.” Peter Krause, Graham’s Parenthood costar and now her boyfriend, was the first to point out to her another element that fostered a productive writing schedule: the drabness of her trailer. Says Graham: “There’s not a lot of distraction, and there are only ugly pictures of fake flowers on the wall.”

What Graham’s editor, Jennifer Smith, noticed in the early drafts was that the actress, after reading hundreds of scripts over a 17-year career, was able to make each character’s voice distinctive and keep the plot moving. “She had a kind of innate feel for the rise and fall of a story,” says Smith, who was also impressed by Graham’s perfectionism. “I think she would have kept working on it if I hadn’t pulled it out of her hands at a certain point. She’s a really hard worker.”

The constant tinkering may be one reason many of those closest to Graham haven’t yet laid eyes on the novel. “My father just finished reading a book on the making of Patton, so I’m not sure this is going to be his cup of tea,” she says of Lawrence Graham, for whom she was named and who once also aspired to be a novelist. What about Krause, who shares her Spanish-style Los Angeles home? “I have not allowed him to read one word yet because the revision process was so intense,” she says. “It’s such a girly book. I just want to give it to him once, you know?”

Her “girly book” did make it into the hands of 24-year-old Mae Whitman, who plays Amber, Graham’s kohl-eyed Parenthood daughter. “I’m the exact perfect target audience,” Whitman says. “I loved it. I read it once and then started reading it immediately again.” The young actress, who is so close to Graham that they exchange almost daily texts and frequently belt out show tunes together, considers her a role model: “She’s honest and loving and just so smart. I think she really has a good balance and a good head on her shoulders. She’s definitely someone I look up to.”

Graham also dropped off a bound manuscript of her book with her writer friend and fellow debut novelist Kathy Ebel (Claudia Silver to the Rescue), then quickly took it back to do further revisions. But Ebel, who has known Graham since their Barnard days, says that when she was finally allowed to read Someday, Someday, Maybe, the first thing she thought was, “The way she puts her observations, her turns of phrase, I can really hear her.”

So many in Graham’s circle refer to her as family that it’s hard to believe she grew up in a household of two. Her mother, Donna Grant, moved to London when Graham was only five, leaving other women in the little girl’s world—relatives, teachers, neighbors—to fill the maternal gaps. “I can remember things, like I did some children’s community theater and they sent some costume pieces home to be sewn by your mother,” says Graham, whose stitching was eventually completed by her father’s secretary. “But I don’t remember it being an emotional thing. I just remember thinking that I didn’t know anybody else [in my situation].”

First published in the May 2013 issue

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