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Stephanie Danler Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Sweetbitter (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Author Stephanie Danler always knew that she wanted to write stories. It was reading all those Edgar Allen Poe stories that she had when she was only eight. Loving them, she wrote a bunch of ghost stories. Teachers would read these dark stories and make her go see the school therapist, due to thinking she was a disturbed child.

She was a waitress before getting published as an author. Stephanie is based in Brooklyn, New York, and she has her MFA in the subject of creative writing that she got from New School.

It took her seven years to write “Sweetbitter”, her first novel, and is based on some experiences during her time as a waitress while in New York City. She wrote the book while still waitressing at Union Square Cafe and still a student at The New School.

The title of the book was present in the very first draft that she wrote, and it comes from someone saying the word is not bittersweet, but sweetbitter. The metaphor kept holding up as she worked on her novel, especially as it relates to things like food, sex, life, and taste. She submitted the first 25 pages of the manuscript, it was the first thing she had submitted in class after going back to graduate school. The story even started with the same first sentence, it starts with now.

She got obsessed with Rachel Cusk’s “Outline” and Ben Lerner’s work while writing the story. She especially liked how the people have little back story, and you only sense a past life, off the page a bit. She liked that in “Outline” there are hints of some damage or pain and the character has ran away but Rachel Cusk just never explains it at all.

She was waitressing at a place called Buvette, which is also in New York City, and met a publisher called Peter Gethers. She told him that she had just got done writing a novel. He recommended the novel to one of his friends. She got a six figure deal for two novels at the publishing house Alfred A. Knopf. Danler is one of a cohort of writers that got big contracts for multiple books. It was released in the year 2016.

When the book sold, she quit her jobs working in restaurants, and was the first time she did not work two jobs, which is something that she always did. It was the first time she did not work a Saturday night in her adult life, something she enjoyed doing. She was, however, able to rest after that.

Tess, the main character of her book, has things in common with Danler. Her sense of New York when Tess first shows up there matches up with Danler’s. However, Tess is her own character, and is both a lot better and a lot worse at life than Danler herself was at her age. Tess is the idea of a new girl that would walk in the door quite a bit while she was working as a waitress. Simone and Jake are both totally fictional characters.

She was told, while writing the book, that Tessa had to be a more likable character, meaning that she could not do certain things by the end. In graduate school, she was told that if Tessa did certain things, people would not like her. For one member of a book club, she had to know why she unravels the way she does. It both titillates and bothers people to see good girls making the wrong choices.

She feels that living is just a messy thing, and that is how Tessa is at the end of the book. Danler finds that readers have come to expect a catharsis to happen by the end, some people will get back together, or some triumphant closure moment to end the book.

Her novel “Sweetbitter” has been adapted for television, and premiered in the year 2018. The character Tess, was played by Ella Purnell. Danler really liked Ella Purnell, during her audition, because most of the actresses that auditioned for the part played Tessa as naive, whereas Ella was able to bring a lot of energy to the part. When there were six actresses for the part, she still stood out for her comedic ability, sarcastic quippiness and quick talking that the other actresses were too afraid to show or believed that they would be straying too far from the novel.

For the writing of the television show, Danler was involved. The first day she was in the writer’s room, the writer’s started questioning every decision she made. Danler would later feel, one week later, that giving up control allowed collaboration. She likes that it shows the uncertainty, which she skips over a lot in the book, of moving to New York City.

She also enjoys writing about sex, and finds that sex and food are something that go hand in hand. There were times while she wrote the book when she was considering writing even more about sex, and had one that she would later cut. However, that was due to it not being true to Tess, not because of it being too sensational.

“Sweetbitter” is the first novel, which was released in the year 2016. Tess (at age 22) has just shown up in New York City, and gets work as a back waiter at a downtown celebrated restaurant in Manhattan. Here is her story of being educated. Of cocaine and champagne. Love, dive bars, lust, and fancy dining rooms. All while she begins to get through the obstacles of the chaotic and pummeling and wonderful life that she has picked out for herself.

Her appetites start to wake up, for wine and food. For experience, belonging, and knowledge. She ends up pulled into a love triangle that darkly attracts her.

Here is a book with quite a bit of bite to it, and stands up to multiple read throughs. Fans of the novel found the writing to have a lot of sentences that invigorate, are thought provoking and delicious. The author simply does a great job of putting words together in her work. The prose here shimmers and sings; it is something that flows like water the whole time. Here is a coming of age story for the ages, and a brilliant gem of a read.

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