Today we speak to Nancy Jo Sales. She is an award-winning journalist and author who has written for Vanity Fair, New York, Harper’s Bazaar and many other publications. She has done profiles of many famous pop culture icons including Damien Hirst, Hugh Hefner, Russell Simmons, Taylor Swift, Tyra Banks, Angelina Jolie, Kimora Lee Simmons, Brett Ratner and Paris Hilton. Her book ‘The Bling Ring: How A Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World’ tells the true story behind the Sofia Coppola film The Bling Ring, which was based on Sales’ 2010 Vanity Fair piece, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.”
Q) Tell us something about yourself.
I am a single mom by choice. I do most of my writing in the middle of the night. I read about a book a week. I love to cook. My daughter is 13 and I love to make her laugh, and vice versa.
Q) You are the Author of ‘The Bling Ring’ where you revealed so many details about the crime ring dubbed ‘The Burglar Bunch’ and ‘The Bling Ring’. Tell us a little about the book and how it came to be?
Last summer, 2012, an editor at Harper Collins asked me if I would like to do a book on the Bling Ring. She had read my Vanity Fair article, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” (2010), and seen that Sofia Coppola had just finished shooting a movie based on the piece.
Q) What got you interested in the topic?
It was such an outrageous story. It seemed like a culmination of things I had been reporting on for years—kids, youth culture, celebrity culture, starlets—all wrapped up in one crazy package.
Q) After all the interviews and communication that you had with the members of ‘The Bling Ring’ do you believe that they now realize the gravity of the situation and realize what they did was wrong?
I think Nick Prugo did feel bad, which is partially why he confessed. Alexis Neiers still denies she was involved in the crimes, which is strange considering she plead guilty to burglary and went to jail for it. As for the others, I don’t know. I tend to doubt it.
Q) While reading your book I saw you question the reason behind ‘The Bling Ring’ burglaries. Have you been able to come up an answer to that?
The real question is why. The answer is not so simple; there were personal reasons—drugs, family problems, self-esteem issues—but also a lot of social and cultural influences, all of which I explore in my book.
Q) Of the main characters in the book what do you think motivated each of them and why?
I think Nick Prugo was motivated mainly by his platonic love for Rachel Lee; he wanted a friend. In my book Alexis Neiers talks about her feelings of inferiority when she compared herself to the wealthier kids in her neighbourhood. She also talks about the influence of the starlets and celebrity culture. As for Courtney Ames, her stepfather told me that when she joined up with this group and started going out clubbing with them it was the first time she felt glamorous. Each had their own reasons.
Q) After talking to the members of ‘The Bling Ring’ and seeing the movie by Sofia Cappola, how well do you think the characters have been represented in the movie? (In interviews some of the members of the ring say that the characters in the movie are nothing like them)
While the movie stays close to the facts of the case, it’s also a fictionalization. Nick Prugo actually said he felt the movie was very accurate. The only other character I know of who has reacted to the film was Alexis Neiers, but, again, she also denies being involved in the crimes, so I don’t know what we are supposed to make of her opinion. I don’t think the point of the movie is to be factual as much as to be true to the spirit of the story, and I think it is very true in that way.
Q) There was a mixed reaction to the actions of ‘The Bling Ring’. Some people looked at them as burglars and some looked at them as brave heroes. What do you think is the reason that we as people have in a way glamorised them and their actions?
I don’t think my book or the movie glamorizes the kids. But in my book I do talk about how some people have looked upon what they did as sort of great. I think it has a lot to do with resentment against the one percent, the super rich, and their unattainable lifestyle. It also has to do with resentment against celebrities. America has a love-hate relationship with money and fame.
Q) What are some of the lessons you think parents and kids can learn for the situation and the book?
I think parents should read my book! And be aware of the weird values their kids are getting through pop culture—i.e., that money and fame are the best things in the world, that girls should act like sex objects, that it’s cool to be violent. They should talk to their kids about what their own values are, ask them questions about what they think is important. It sounds simple, but I’m not sure a lot of parents feel the need to talk to their kids about what they watch and read and listen to; I think they should.
Q) Every Author has a distinct writing style. Personally I loved the way ‘The Bling Ring’ was written, like a longer version of a news article. How would you describe your style of writing and how do you think you came to form it?
Thank you. I think trying to explain your style is like trying to explain your face. It’s just something that happens to you! Having said that, I try and keep it simple. I don’t like fancy words or fancy language, and I do try and keep a sense of humour.
Q) How long have you been working on this book and what inspired you to write it?
Harper Collins gave me a very short deadline, six months, two of which were spent doing follow-up reporting. I was inspired by the chance to say something about the culture through the story of the Bling Ring.
Q) If you got a chance to go back and re-write ‘The Bling Ring’ would you change anything? If ‘yes’ then what and why?
I give myself more time. And if I could I’d make Rachel Lee, the alleged ringleader, give me an interview. Her lawyer wouldn’t let her talk to anyone. However the statements she made at her arrest said a lot about her, i.e., “What did Lindsay say?”
Q) Who are some of the Authors you like and how do you think their work inspired you?
I love so many writers but the ones I keep going back to over and over are Truman Capote, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Patricia Highsmith, James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler—all great American stylists.
Q) Tell us something about what you are working on or about some of your future projects.
I always like to write stories about kids. They have great voices and their stories provide a window into the culture.
Q) From amongst all the novels ever published if you had to write any one, which one would it be and why?
I’d like to be known for writing something great. In the meantime the book of journalism I most admire is In Cold Blood; which is pretty much perfect. Capote invented what we are all still trying to do.
Website : www.nancyjosales.com