Amanda Wakes Up, the timely new novel from newswoman and Connecticut resident Alisyn Camerota, chronicles life in the cable TV news trenches. The book has been described as a newsroom take on The Devil Wears Prada. (The author of that iconic book, Lauren Weisberger, called the main character, Amanda Gallo, “my kind of girl: funny, self-aware, and unable to resist a makeover.”) At her recent book party at The Atlantic Grill in Manhattan, colleagues from Camerota’s current workplace CNN (she co-anchors New Day) as well as her former one (Fox News, where she spent 16 years), came together to celebrate—a somewhat newsworthy occasion in itself. Fairfield County fans can meet Camerota this Thursday, July 27, where she’ll be doing a reading and signing books, at Barnes & Noble in Westport at 7 p.m. Serendipity sat down with the journalist to discuss her career as well as her literary debut.
You’ve worked on this book for years, but it’s so timely. How did that happen? Well, I started noodling around with it in during the 2012 presidential race. You had Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, and there was a lot of colorful stuff that happened. I was frustrated with the coverage because I felt that sometimes the candidates weren’t being forthcoming. Somewhere around 2013 I realized I had a lot of the vignettes and little stories, and maybe there was a book about the struggles of a young woman trying to navigate her way up the career ladder in TV news.
What do you make of the comparisons of your book to The Devil Wears Prada? I’m honored by that comparison. [My book] is ultimately a delicious behind-the-scenes [look] at what happens backstage when the cameras are off. People do think of being on television as glamorous, and there is a heavy dose of the hair and make-up routine in the book, and the funny characters who are stylists and wardrobe designers.
Throughout the book your character Amanda is always on call. Is this accurate? That’s right—the news never sleeps! Whenever I was planning for a new exciting first date or later, after I was married, Christmas with my family, it never failed—the beeper would go off or the cell phone would ring, and there would be breaking news.
How did you find a life work balance? It was a challenge. I somehow did manage to get married, so I was able to go on a few important dates with my future husband! But shortly after that I realized that if I wanted to have a family (or even get pregnant, to be honest), I had to be on a more regular schedule. I was lucky enough to be able to transition into anchor mode because you know where you’ll be every morning. I tell young women that in your twenties you’re going to bounce around from market to market. You’re not going to make any money and you really have to have it in your blood. You really have to love it because otherwise it will feel like sacrifices that were just too costly.
Given the current administration’s attitude towards the media, are you finding that some networks are competitive but there is a building camaraderie? Well, in the book…Amanda’s best friend Laurie works at a competitor yet Amanda and Lori help each other and are still best friends. That is true in real life. I’m happy to report with very few exceptions the current climate has not yet ruined the personal relationships between all of us. I’m not saying we’re not fierce competitors, but there is definitely a camaraderie.
SUMMER SPEED ROUND
What’s your favorite summer…
I am a Jersey girl. I grew up on the Jersey Shore and the summer to me is synonymous with going to the beach. I also love going to Cape Cod. And because of the book I went to the Aspen Ideas Festival this year. I’ve been skiing in the winter in Aspen, but I’ve never been there in the summer—it is spectacular.
Restaurant to Eat Outdoors
In Connecticut, I love L’Escale. It’s so gorgeous; it’s great to have a glass of champagne there, or a glass of wine. I love the margaritas at Bar Taco in Westport.
Margaritas are great. And sometimes I just need to have an old-school Tanqueray and tonic with lime, because that really reminds me of summers at the beach.
Place to Take the Family
I just took my daughters, who are twelve, to “Being Evan Hansen” on Broadway and it was spectacular. But my kids’ favorite day of the summer is going to Quassy in Middlebury. Starting on Memorial Day the kids pepper me every day with “When we’re going to Quassy, when are we going to Quassy?” It’s probably going to happen in August.
Click here to purchase Amanda Wakes Up.
Photograph by Mike Cohen