Miranda: Our friendship is, for me at least, a kind of ongoing conversation that we pick up and drop and pick up over and over again. It doesn’t ever end; it only pauses.
Zan: We never stopped being each other’s first call. When I sold my first book, I called my mom, I called my dad, and I called Miranda.
Beck: Was writing, and novel writing specifically, always the plan for both of you, and has it always been part of your friendship?
Miranda: We both write nonfiction and fiction. I tried to avoid being a writer for a really long time. I taught for a year, I worked in publishing for almost five years, and when I finally went to grad school to get my M.F.A., it was almost an admission of defeat. Whereas writing was a bigger and more constant part of Zan’s life that she didn’t try to run away from.
It can be hard to be really close to someone who’s trying to do the same thing that you do. It helped that I got to be completely 100 percent unreservedly thrilled for Zan when she was first starting because I wasn’t trying to do the same thing. I wasn’t even feeling tempted to compare us in that way. It felt like I just got to be on her team without any of my own bullshit getting in the way.
Now I think it helps that Zan has a pretty specific beat. She’s a cultural critic, and I write more about books. Zan’s first four books are young adult, [while mine is for adults]. We are doing slightly different things.
Zan: It’s funny to hear your version of it. In my mind, it was always like, Miranda’s the ambitious one. Miranda’s going to be successful.
Beck: What is your philosophy on sharing writing with friends while you’re working on it?
Miranda: I sent Zan a draft of my novel in a pretty early stage.
Zan: Miranda’s novel is a novel in stories. She sent them and said, “I think I actually wrote something good.” Then, of course—this is very Miranda—that was followed 24 hours later by, like, “Don’t read them. They’re garbage. Never mind.”
Miranda: I’m the kind of person who’s like, If I send someone I care about a piece of writing that is bad, they will realize that all of my writing is bad, and they will become very embarrassed to be friends with me and never contact me again.
Zan: I do remember reading it in a terrified fugue state because I was like, I can’t lie to her about this. She means too much to me; this means too much to both of us. If I think there are problems with this, I have to tell her. And I really didn’t want to. And then I loved it unreservedly, but it was scary.
Beck: I think there’s this idea in the culture that what friends are supposed to be, above all, is supportive. The question of when to support and when to challenge is a tough one.
Zan: We definitely fall on the challenge side of things.
Miranda: Most of the fights that we’ve had have fundamentally started with, “I think that this choice you’re making is hurting you.” Our most recent big fight was about a guy Zan was seeing. My concern about that relationship boiled down to “You’re behaving like a version of yourself I think you don’t actually want to be because you think that is a more appealing version to him.” That made me really sad and worried.