I talk with Cheryl Della Pietra, the author of Gonzo Girl, a novel based on her real-life experience serving as Hunter S. Thompson's research assistant. The book is as loud and bawdy as you imagine but the real joy of it—and the focus of this interview—is when Cheryl discusses her protagonist, Alley Russo, who has a a drive that is greater than the giant in her midst.
That's what I love about Gonzo Girl: For all the quite literal pyrotechnics, the book works because of the quiet inner voice of Russo, a voice that tells her to have the confidence to do work that's even better than the slightly fictionalized Thompson.
Cheryl and I delve into how much she stuck to real-life to tell this story. When she accentuated the facts, Cheryl's answers are just as fascinating. This is a book that's better because of its novelization.
Cheryl and I discuss Thompson's love of The Great Gatsby, which he typed out to better feel how to tell a great story. (The book was on his mind when he wrote his own masterpiece, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.)
Fitzgerald's words should have been in his head more often. Cheryl and I talk about Thompson turning to drugs and booze to uphold his reputation even as the drugs and booze squandered his gift behind the typewriter. Wasting his calling was of course something Fitzgerald wrote about in The Crack Up and in letters to his daughter.
I've known Cheryl for years; she's the wife of a friend and colleague, Ty Wenger. The story behind Gonzo Girl and the years it took Cheryl to bring it to the public is as awesome as the book itself. There's a Hollywood ending here, too: It's looking like the novel will be a movie soon.