December 14, 2018

‘The Singles Game’: Tennis a perfect match for latest by ‘Prada’ author

Like an Upton Sinclair of women’s fiction, writer Lauren Weisberger has a knack for showing the seedy underbelly of industries that seem glamorous to outsiders who aren’t aware of the stressful sacrifices that stardom requires.

The author made a name for herself with her debut novel, 2003’s “The Devil Wears Prada,” about a young journalist trying to break into New York’s cutthroat media world that was based loosely on her own experiences working under supreme fashionista Anna Wintour at Vogue magazine. This was followed by “Everyone Worth Knowing” (2005), a story about sex, power, fame and the public relations sector, as well as other novels with “lifestyles of the rich and famous” titles like “Chasing Harry Winston” and “Last Night at Chateau Marmont.”

Now Weisberger is exploring it again with her new book, “The Singles Game” (Simon & Schuster). 

This new story, released in July, follows a 20-something rising tennis star named Charlie Silver who, after suffering a major on-court injury, decides to double down in her pursuit of breaking into the sport’s top tier by hiring an A-list men’s coach as well as through promotions and publicity. Along the way, she must make choices that impact her friends and family, herself and her love life. 

 “With tennis specifically, it was a good match with what I’ve done before and the fact that I love it as a sport,” said Weisberger, who, like her heroine, began playing the game at age 4 when her dad put a racket in her hand. “It’s still got that crossover of fashion and celebrity. When you talk about these women, they’re like rock stars. If you say one name — Maria, Serena, Venus — you know who you’re talking about, whether or not you’re interested in tennis, which is remarkable.”

This is a work of fiction and Weisberger admits she has taken “creative license in some areas,” but she said her coverage of the grueling, isolating life of a professional athlete and the “actual training and travel part is very true to reality.” 

This idea of sacrifices and “having it all” at both personal and monetary expense is a theme that carries through much of Weisberger’s writing and is something she, a wife and mother of two, says she discusses often with her friends. And she knows it’s something that also resonates with many of her readers in their everyday lives.

 “Women figuring out their priorities and trying to figure out that ever-elusive balance — it doesn’t matter what stage of their lives they’re in, but specifically in their 20s and 30s and 40s, it’s so much about figuring out their career and family and whatever your romantic situation,” she said. 

 “Whenever one’s working, the other two are falling apart. That’s certainly true for me. It’s a struggle to maintain a balance. It’s something that I talk about with my friends all the time, and it’s something that Charlie is definitely dealing with in the book. It’s probably heightened for a professional athlete.”

This theme that Weisberger introduced in “Prada” and its sequel book, “Revenge Wears Prada” (2013), remains relevant today. And while her first book spawned a successful romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway that now, 10 years later, is still is in regular rotation on female-skewing cable channels, not everything about the publishing world has stayed the same.

“With social media and with the celebrity magazines, we’re all so much more well-versed in what everyone’s doing. That’s part of the language now,” Weisberger said. “I remember back then [when ‘Prada’ came out] we weren’t sure if enough people would know what [fashion label] Prada was. I mean, can you imagine having that conversation now? In those ways, it’s changed, but in the important ways, it hasn’t changed. It’s still stories about women and figuring out their lives and their balances.”