If you've ever wondered just how closely art imitates life, you need only turn to one of the world's superstars of fiction: Judith Krantz. The author of Scruples, Mistral's Daughter, Princess Daisy, and many more, has written a memoir, Sex and Shopping: The Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl. In the telling of her own colorful life, Krantz out-glitzes her heroines.

We caught up with the author for a question-and-answer session as frank as the memoir itself, drawn right from her descriptive book title.

BookPage: Just what IS a nice Jewish girl like you doing telling all ? Judith Krantz: Where is it written that a person writing an autobiography, Jewish or Gentile, shouldn't tell all ? Surely the whole point of writing your own life story is to be as honest as you possibly can, revealing everything about yourself that is most private and probably most interesting for that very reason.

Isn't it a mistaken idea that a nice Jewish girl would never be enough at home with herself to be open and intimate about her life? Heaven knows, I've exposed myself in my novels through the use of fantasy and imagination . . . now my new book is about what really happened to me . . . not my heroines.

BP: So, which is better, sex or shopping? JK: I'd hate to think of a world in which a person had to give up one to have the other! On the one hand, shopping is dependable: You can do it alone, if you lose your heart to something that is wrong for you, you can return it; it's instant gratification and yet something you buy may well last for years. You can browse to your heart's content but it's hard work and not easy on the feet unless you do it through catalogs or the Internet, and I like to touch and try on the things I buy.

Sex generally certainly at its best requires a willing partner; it's not particularly dependable because it's always different. Once you've done it with the wrong person you can't take it back, it's become your personal history. It can't possibly last for years and browsing has its limits. Only a certain amount is healthy or wise.

I guess I'd have to say that shopping would win your horrible question. However I'd choose LOVE over shopping any day.

BP: What advice would you give your 20-something self if you were starting out today? JK: Knowing what I do now, I certainly wouldn't decide to write a first novel because I wouldn't have anything like the necessary life experience. I got that experience through dating dozens of men for six years after college, getting an entry level magazine job at 21, working in the fiction department at Good Housekeeping and then working as a fashion editor there as well as writing many articles for the magazine. After I married at 26 and had my first son at 29, I continued to write part-time from home, but I always had a deadline.

My work caused me to interview hundreds of women about their lives and their problems. I think that getting to know so much about women was crucial before I started to write fiction to be read mainly by women. I would, however, start writing fiction about 10 years before I actually did, because it's such great fun to do, many times more creative than nonfiction.

Otherwise I wouldn't change a thing, and I'd advise a young, would-be novelist to do as many jobs and talk to as many people about their lives as possible. There's nothing worse than the 25-year-old novelist regarding her own misspent youth. Live first! BP: And what's still to come for your readers to look forward to? JK: It's a secret.

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