Candace Bushnell: The Q interview

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The Independent Culture

The woman who created Sex and the City is now 44 and, following a whirlwind romance last summer, married to the ballet dancer Charles Askegard. Candace came to New York aged 19 to be an actress. She changed her mind and made a living as a journalist until, in her mid-thirties, her dating column in The New York Observer became immortalised as a TV series. Her first novel, Trading Up, is published this month. She lives in Manhattan.

What have you been up to?

I was actually just looking at my face in a magnifying mirror. I nearly passed out in horror.

Do you squeeze your spots?

You know what, I'm so old I don't even get spots any more. But if I saw one I'd be tempted. At my age, it's wrinkles. Kind of, where the hell did that come from?

Have you ever had a facelift?

Have I? Oh my lord, no. But it's not something I would rule out. I think I'm still, actually, too young to get a facelift.

Though they say you should start in your thirties ...

Yeah, but y'know, this is what I've always been told: that if you go under the knife in your thirties, you end up looking like someone who's in their fifties who went under the knife and looks really good. The philosophy that people have in New York is leave it as long as possible.

You once said marriage is a male invention. How's yours bearing up?

Very well. But you know, when I said that, I was thinking about traditional marriage and I don't have that. My husband is younger. We're more like playmates.

What do you miss about being single?

I don't feel my life has changed that much. I was single for a very long time and I'd hear lots of women saying, "I really want to get married, if I could just find a man." I wanted to say, don't put so much emphasis on the idea that you need to be married to be happy.

Are you happier being married?

I had become happier anyway. And I think then it's easier to recognise a good relationship.

What made you so happy? Is it life begins at 40?

I think so: I hate to say it. You have a bigger perspective. Things that happen can be just things that happen - everything does not have something to do with you. It's like the freedom of "Yes, you know what? That's life."

Mr Big was based on a boyfriend of yours who married someone else six months after dumping you. How did you cope with that?

It was hard. That was very, very sad for me. Those kinds of things do knock one's self-esteem, but just knowing that is what enables you to get through it. Usually, the pain is about ego, thinking, gosh, maybe I've done something wrong, when what it usually ends up being is that the other person is looking for different things than you.

So what's your recipe for getting over a broken heart?

A lot of people wouldn't agree, but I've always found that acceptance helps a lot. It's making that phone call and saying, "Hi, how are you? I just wanted to say, Hi, no hard feelings". Some people say, ooh, he was my lover and he let me down and I'll never speak to him again. My feeling is, try to become friends as quickly as possible because it's funny how those sour feelings fall away. You can regain your equilibrium.

What's your worst habit?

Smoking.

You're still smoking?

Don't tell my mother.

Have you got plans to quit?

Uh ... well, I definitely should. I've quit a couple of times and then something happens and you say, OK, I'm just going to smoke one cigarette and smoke a pack. It would be good to quit. I probably will, I'm sure.

Would you like children now?

You know, it's quite funny how these things happen but it seems like all of a sudden ... My husband and I just had five days together and we saw three friends with babies and, you know, I think I wouldn't know what to do with a baby. And then you see people managing them and you think, it's not so bad. But I'm quite old, so I don't really know.

What exemplifies stylishness for you?

I think the people we remember for their style always have a very specific look, like Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn. The hair doesn't change, they always wear the same style of clothes, but it's something that suits them so well. With style, it's as important to know what to say no to as to say yes to.

What are you reading?

The new Jilly Cooper. We don't have Jilly Cooper in the United States. Riders - I love that book. Maybe I'd like to try to be Jilly Cooper because she's quite wonderful. I'm also reading Flaubert's Sentimental Education - it's my husband's favourite. These kinds of books - they're soapy.

Do you watch soaps on telly?

No, I tend to watch things like The Jerry Springer Show. And then the other day I got caught into watching Pop Idol for three hours.

What did you think?

Well, it's so interesting, the way all these people want to be rich and famous. Sometimes people are, like, "all your characters want to be rich and famous, there's something wrong with that", but if you look around, people are obsessed with it.

Have you ever stolen anything?

Absolutely not. I was one of those kids who, even though my friends would steal a pack of gum, I never did.

Were you a good girl?

Well, the best way to be a bad girl is to make everyone think you are a good girl, right? No, it's just not me. Sometimes people are like, oh, you've got to go for a discount or get things for free and I'm, like, no, I really don't. It just makes everything so much easier in the long run. Everybody works, and they deserve to get paid for it.

'Trading Up' is published by Abacus, £6.99

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