By Barry Hertz
The U.S. election doesn’t concern Kristen Gore as much as the disappearance of talking robots and one-eyed mutants.
“Futurama was a fun, smart television show to write for. I was so sad when it got cancelled,” Gore says with a sigh. “FOX messed up with the show’s timeslot and their lack of promotion.”
Gore, 27, could have followed her father, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, into politics or law. Instead, the Harvard graduate chose a career in comedy writing.
In the five years since university, where she was the only female writer for the infamous Harvard Lampoon, Gore wrote for Saturday Night Live, Charlie Lawrence, and Futurama.
She was in Toronto this past week, attending the 25th International Festival of Authors to promote her first novel, Sammy’s Hill. Sammy has been well received and hailed as a smart, political romantic comedy in the vein of Bridget Jones’s Diary.
The story details the life of neurotic, witty Sammy Joyce as she works for an Ohio senator, spearheads his campaign for vice presidency and attempts to find love. Gore wanted to write a humorous political piece for a while, but feared the stigma attached to her surname would turn readers off.
“This is the first time I’d let myself write about politics, since before it always felt off limits and too obvious. But, I was getting tired of the volatility of television,” says Gore, bemoaning the abrupt cancellations of both Futurama and the Nathan Lane sitcom Charlie Lawrence. “Rather than getting a job on a show I hate, I wanted to give a shot at something else.”
Gore took time off television writing and worked on the idea for Sammy and her world of political partisanship and failed romance. Coincidentally, Miramax Books’ Harvey Weinstein was seeking to publish a romantic comedy set in Washington.
“It was a serendipi-tous thing. Harvey happened to be looking for a D.C.-based book. I didn’t set out to write a Bridget Jones in Washington, but it’s easier for people to have that label. People can decide for themselves,” Gore says.
Gore’s bubbly, self-deprecating humor shines through in the Sammy character. One particularly amusing scene finds Sammy accidentally emailing over 200 congressional staffers a memo Monica Lewinsky might consider tame.
“I’m not completely like [Sammy], but I like her a lot. I wanted her to be relatable to everyone who have these things going on in their head, but don’t say them aloud,” Gore says, taking a moment to adjust her purple scarf, wrapped delicately around her neck.
The book never mentions any specific political party, but is peppered with subtle references to Capitol Hill personalities. For instance, the president in the novel is a conservative named Pile, and his brother is an equally inept governor.
“I think people could guess Sammy is a Democrat, based where she and her boss stand on issues. I purposely didn’t use labels because it would be distracting,” Gore says, adding that the biggest villains in the novel belong to Sammy’s boss’s party.
“No character is based on other characters; it’s all such a blender.” Exhausted from six straight weeks of book touring, Gore is looking forward to taking a break to watch the election results.
“I didn’t support George W. Bush four years ago, and I’m not going to start,” Gore says, smiling coyly. “Hopefully we’ll have a big voter turnout. It’s always sad when people don’t vote their conscience.”
Gore is also working on the screenplay adaptation for Sammy’s Hill, which had its film rights recently acquired by Columbia Pictures. “It’s a fun challenge, going from television, to a novel, back to a screenplay,” Gore says. She says she should have a final draft by December.
“I’ve had all these different experiences before, and they’re coming into play with what I have to do now.”