INTERVIEW: Augusten Burroughs, Author of ‘Running With Scissors’

I had a chance to sit down with one of the foremost writers of our generation, Augusten Burroughs. Augusten is the best selling author of “Dry,” “Magical Thinking” and of course Running with Scissors. He’s also got another book being adapted, Sellevision. Here’s the interview!

Enjoying the tour?

Augusten Burroughs: Yeah, I love being here, I love Seattle. Have some coffee, it’s in that silver pitcher.

Nice thanks! (I then started guzzling caffeine)

So I read on your website that you loved the film?

Augusten: I think they did a great job. I never cared that every scene from the book make the film. But I think it’s got the same spirit as the book.

Kind of a quirky offbeat deal?

Augusten: Well you don’t know what to feel, which is what I felt. We’re so used as an audience to being trained to see a genre film. I think it does a great job. Anyone who’s lived with mental illness knows that Hollywood takes it way over the top.

Or they have the mentally ill person figure it out, like in A Beautiful Mind.

Augusten: Yeah.

Talk about the screenplay vs. the book.

Augusten: Ryan Murphy adapted it. I wasn’t going to originally option it but our mother’s were similar first of all, but beyond that the way that we dealt with it was similar. I think he probably walked into our meeting knowing how the film was going to look. He worked on the script and read it to me over the phone and I’d tell him no, that’s not how my mother would talk. That’s how it happened.

How strange was it to watch your life?

Augusten: It’s outside the range of your normal experience, having a movie of your life while you’re still alive is really odd. There’s a lot of my in Annette’s performance which is kind of weird.

And you’re estranged from your mother?

Augusten: Yeah I am. I haven’t seen her for years, I don’t have anything to do with her.

Will you after this?

Augusten: No, absolutely not, I can’t stand her. She keeps calling but I don’t want anything. You know how sometimes parents will have a second kid because the first one needs bone marrow? I feel like my mother raised me because she needed an audience member. I just finally decided I’m going to walk out of this show and I’m not coming back.

Is there anything you wish would’ve made the movie?

Augusten: I haven’t really thought about it, but more developed relationships, maybe with Natalie. I guess it could be a good thing though because it drives you to the book if you want to read more. In the best world that’s how the movie / book relationship is.

Are you going to go back to that time in your life?

Augusten: I’ve closed the book on it. Writing the memoir was the final stage. I spent a long time trying to runaway from my childhood but I couldn’t do it. Childhood is what ended me up in the hospital and teetering on the edge of deathly alcoholism. It was really good for me to accept it. To accept all the embarrassment and the shame so I don’t feel like I used to. To me the movie is a nice bon voyage.

With your other book to movie project, Sellevision, where are you at?

Augusten: They are getting financing for it now. All of a sudden that stepped up. That was another odd decision; I make my choices by gut feeling. Ryan hadn’t done “Nip/Tuck” when I optioned “Running with Scissors.” My gut instinct was to give him Running even though my head said no way. It was the same kind of thing with Sellevision. The first draft of the script was very funny.

Were you on set at all for Running with Scissors?

Augusten: For a few days but I didn’t want to give the actors the stress of me being there. You have to trust in the actors and hope for the best.

Do you feel your childhood equipped you in a different manner?

Augusten: That’s exactly what it did. I’ve become a great judge of people and I have a lot of strength. My reaction to my childhood turned out to be positive.

So as a writer who do you personally read?

Augusten: I read a lot of fiction. I just read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I loved that. I thought that was one of the freshest book in ages. I loved Little Children too.

Will you get involved with writing more cinematic books or tackle adapting some of your own going forward?

Augusten: Maybe. I may write some screenplays. I feel like they are two different things, and when I write books, they’re just books. If they can be movies that’s okay. But I would write a novel that couldn’t be a film.


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