Author Interview: Tara Schuster

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies is a brutally honest, often hilarious, hard-won book of lessons in learning to love and care for yourself from Tara Schuster, a young vice president at Comedy Central who was called “ahead of her time” by Jordan Peele. We spoke with author Tara Schuster about her inspiration, her favorite audiobooks, and what she hopes her book can be for readers.

Compelling, persuasive, and useful no matter where you are in your life.

Chelsea Handler, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Life Will Be the Death of Me

By the time she was in her late twenties, Tara Schuster was a rising TV executive who had worked for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and helped launch Key & Peele to viral superstardom. By all appearances, she had mastered being a grown-up. But beneath that veneer of success, she was a chronically anxious, self-medicating mess. No one knew that her road to adulthood had been paved with depression, anxiety, and shame, owing in large part to her minimally parented upbringing. She realized she’d hit rock bottom when she drunk-dialed her therapist pleading for help.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies is the story of Tara’s path to re-parenting herself and becoming a “ninja of self-love.” Through simple, daily rituals, Tara transformed her mind, body, and relationships.

This is the book Tara wished someone had given her and it is the book many of us desperately need: a candid, hysterical, addictively readable, practical guide to growing up (no matter where you are in life) and learning to love yourself in a non-throw-up-in-your-mouth-it’s-so-cheesy way.

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

Originally, I didn’t set out to write a book. I set out to save my life. I grew up in a neglected house where no one ever taught me how to take care of myself. So by the time I was 25, I was this mess-wreck-disaster of a person suffering from chronic anxiety and depression due to my traumatic early life. It was just as fun as it sounds! On a good day, you would find me openly weeping on the subway. I hit rock bottom when I drunk dialed my therapist threatening to hurt myself on my 25th birthday. After the drunk dial of shame, I realized I needed a way forward. I desperately wanted a life I could live, and maybe even, enjoy. But how?! I didn’t even know how to change a vacuum cleaner filter! It seemed hard to impossible to take responsibility for my life.

So, because I was always a good student and voracious reader, I turned to the memoirs of people I admired to learn how they took care of themselves. I read Cheryl Strayed, Nora Ephron, and Steve Martin like they were my parents. Tina Fey, Julia Cameron, and Joan Didion. I took notes on what I learned in a Google doc and added advice from my friends, their parents, from anyone, anyone at all, who had tips on how to grow myself up. After five years of this process, and while feeling like a stable, happy, adult, I realized that I had a story to write that could help others—that could hopefully make them feel less alone. That is what inspired me to write the book.

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

Audiobooks have directors! It never occurred to me before recording my own but there is someone else there giving you notes and making sure you don’t garble your own words—thank goodness!

Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?

I’ve only listened to the first few sentences because, well, who wants to listen to themselves speak?! Not me. But when I was reading it, I tried to visualize every single memory, every detail in the present. I tried to bring the listener with me on my journey so I hope the audiobook feels really alive. I hope it feels like you are sitting down with a friend. Otherwise, I did an embarrassing amount of emoting and hand gestures.

Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?

Yes! I loved I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou because you get to listen to Maya Friggin’ Angelou! Her voice is so incredible and it feels like an honor to have her read the book to you. I recently listened to A. J. Jacobs’s Thanks a Thousand which I loved. He figures out a way to thank everyone who helped make his morning cup of coffee, from the barista in New York City to the coffee farmers in Colombia. It’s a pleasure to get to hear him tell such an epic story based on something seemingly so small.

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

Independent bookstores have always been my safe place, almost like a temple, or hallowed ground. The best habit I have from my dad is a love of reading. As a kid, he would take me to our local bookstore and set me loose to find a new friend to take home. Those are some of my happiest memories. I now make it a habit to visit the local bookstore of any city I visit. Usually there is some awesome café situation, so I’ll buy a new book and have a cappuccino. What is more lovely than that?

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

In such an isolated and dark time we are living through, I hope my book can be a friend, a warm hug, a nice little kick in the pants of optimism and hope for the listener. This is my offering to you, and I hope to share some practical ways we can better take care of ourselves and our communities, especially right now. I hope I can give you a few laughs too. When I wrote it, I hoped you would laugh with me, not at me. But, honestly, given how bleak things are, just go ahead and laugh at some of my less dignified moments. It’s A-OK.

Header photo by Diana Ragland

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