It’s funny: the usual Hollywood portrayal is overly cynical, I think, which is kind of boring in the end and only half of the story.What I loved about Claire and Michael Deane is that she is the cynic and he, for all his cruel machinations, is endlessly hopeful.His relationship to his art (acting) and fame really hovered over the entire novel, over all the characters and their attempts to express themselves through novels and stories and music and plays and acting and painting.

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That said, I think most Hollywood meetings are silly and I truly despise pitching.

It’s insane to expect someone to come in and tell you the story before they’ve written it, and buying an idea from someone who can explain it rather than write it is like choosing a mechanic based on his ability to draw a picture of your car’s problem.

Hollywood legend Michael Deane, who rises from PR guy extraordinaire to the aging producer of an odious web-cast dating program called Hookbook, rises to prominence by suggesting that the marketing of the film Cleopatra, which was hemorrhaging money, focus on the real-life Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor drama, rather than the movie itself.

You seem to suggest that the Cleopatra PR was the starting point of today’s reality-TV-based culture. The series of decisions that leads to something like that is so random.

I’d started thinking about Fellini’s 1950s/60s Italy and the idea of fame, so she became an actress and the next question was What’s going on in Italy at that time that could involve an actress?

That led me to Cleopatra being filmed in Rome, and my research fell into one this great hole: Cleopatra/Burton/Taylor, and the amazing discovery for me was that this film that was called the biggest boondoggle in Hollywood history had actually broken even or made a little money.

By this time, I’d had three or four Italian chapters of what I called ‘The Hotel Adequate View’, and it was maybe about 2004 or so, and the story really opened up at that point.

Richard Burton appears in the book, to great effect. How many of his films had you seen, and did you watch after you decided to include him as a character?

And it was clear, to me anyway, why: this modern idea of fame/infamy.