You talk about learning to write screenplays by reading manuals at Barnes & Noble. In what ways is writing a book a different animal?
I was terrified of writing a book because you put authors on a pedestal. I mean, you see busts of those people in libraries and museums. You don’t really see busts of TV comedy writers. So for me, I thought, ”Wow, the process is so sacred.” The hardest part is that an Office script is 30 pages long. A screenplay is 90 pages. But a book is, like, 240 pages. When they told me it was 60 to 70,000 words, it was just incredibly daunting.
How did you adjust to the solitary act of writing a book?
When you’re writing a script for The Office, you write a draft, and then you meet 15 other writers who are just smart alecks, and you get to hang out with them for hours, and it’s very social. I was worried about solitude. I’ll be honest: It kind of drove me crazy. I’m not like Flannery O’Connor or whatever, but after I’d been writing for a while, I was like, ”I’m going to go nuts.” I can totally get how those Stephen King characters go crazy and murder a town.
You have a funny photo of what you look like when you’re writing episodes of The Office — I believe you say you look like you’re recovering from tuberculosis. Did you look the same when you were writing the book?
I was wearing comfortable workout clothes. And I don’t wear Eva Longoria workout clothes where it’s some tiny bra and a little pair of hot pants. I wear workout clothes from Costco.
You and Tina Fey cover some of the same topics in your books.
We’re both in a very small group of writer-performers on NBC. We both went to an East Coast college and were raised by strict but loving parents. Looking at our experiences on paper, aliens wouldn’t be able to tell us apart.
I really liked the part of the book about all the little things guys need to do to be great, like have a signature cologne that’s not from a drugstore. Do you think the world would be a better place if men just followed those rules?
I don’t know if the world would be a better place, but I think there would be more superficially awesome guys. Those are just, to me, very no-brainer things, but you know, they’re supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. I barely have my s— together, so for me to be telling guys how to be…
You really resonate with twentysomethings. Are they your main audience?
It’s funny, I’m 32. I’m worried about being out of touch, like making some Hannah Montana reference and instantly losing any cred I have with young people. I think that in general my audience is women from age 11 up. I was tweeting with Judy Blume yesterday, and I was thinking, ”I wonder if she would enjoy my book, or if she would be like, ‘I don’t think so. I think I’d rather read Nora Ephron or something.”’ But I think my book’s funny. I think anyone who loves funny stuff will like it. I’m hoping dudes will like it. You seem to.