February 14, 2012
Two decades ago, Liz Langley ’90 began her illustrious writing career. As a columnist and reporter for SeXis magazine and a contributor to such publications as Salon.com, Jezebel, Details, Glamour, and Bust, Langley has made a name for herself through the years as a sex and relationship writer who isn’t afraid to take on some fairly controversial topics.
Relationships, especially dramatic and problematic ones, intrigued her and often became the basis of many published stories. So, it’s no surprise that she ventured down another conflict-ridden path when she began writing her book, Crazy Little Thing: Why Love and Sex Drive Us Mad, in 2010. “We’ve all had extreme times in love,” shared Langley, who admits to having her own heart broken more than once. “I wanted to explore why some of us go to the dark side and why some of us take the anguish and build something better out of it.” Over the course of the next two years, Langley interviewed scores of people affected by crazy love and discovered that underneath the passion was something pretty primal.
How did you get start as a writer?
I tried going the conventional route at first. I got a job at the Orlando Sentinel as a news librarian but I couldn’t get hired as a writer there. After I graduated from the Hamilton Holt School in 1990, I quit and went freelance and sold one of my first stories as a freelancer to the Sentinel’s Florida magazine.
I got occasional freelance gigs but it wasn’t until I started writing for the Orlando Weekly that things really picked up. I did some features for them, got an offer to contribute to their “Juice” column and ended up doing the whole thing and turning it into something very different than what it started out as. Everything mushroomed from there.
What have been some of your proudest accomplishments thus far?
My book, Crazy Little Thing: Why Love and Sex Drive Us Mad.
Every time someone says “Wow, that was a really good interview,” after I talk to them.
Meeting Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion and making him laugh (I have no idea what I said, I was so starstruck).
When something I’ve written changes someone’s perspective or makes them laugh and they remember it years later.
What is Crazy Little Thing about?
Crazy Little Thing is about people who have gone over the edge in love, which makes us all feel crazy now and then. We do not all actually go crazy, though. Having read so many stories about people committing bizarre crimes over love or going into deep depressions over love—and certainly having been through some tough times in it myself—I wanted to look into why we do those things.
I interviewed 24 people, including biologists, psychologist, psychiatrists, and other experts, plus a lot of people who have experienced intriguing, bizarre, or dreadful things because of love. I think the main take-away is that no one is immune to it—but no one is alone in it, either—and hopefully it can offer different perspectives to people who are suffering because of love as well as some awesome, intriguing stories to enjoy.
What drew you to this subject matter?
I wanted to write something that I would want to read and my favorite books are ones that make me laugh but also tell me something I didn’t know. Bill Bryson, Sarah Vowell, Douglas Adams… I love how those writers make you glad that you weren’t on some of their trips with them but also really glad they’re the ones reporting back.
In looking at story after story about the mad, bad, and dangerous things people do in love, I thought it would be great to go talk to some of these people about why they did the things they did, but also to have expert input on what it is that makes so many of us do counterintuitive things in love. So it’s entertaining. You can read it on a long flight and not be bored. But you can also find things that will be helpful.
What did you study at Holt?
I majored in humanities, which gave me a really broad base of knowledge to draw from. Going to Rollins was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, if not the best. I can’t speak highly enough of my experiences there. I hope to come back for my masters one day.
In this age of changes in traditional media, should would-be writers be wary of pursuing a writing career or do you still see it as a worthwhile profession?
I do, but I’m a romantic and I think if something is in you to do, you have to at least attempt it or you’ll suffer a kind of spiritual malnutrition and never be happy.
That said, you have to do something to keep the lights on and I do think it’s harder now than it once was, but it’s not impossible. I’d advise anyone starting out to look at all the kinds of writing there are to do. It’s not just magazines that need content, there’s in-house writing for businesses, technical writing, PR, speech writing, copy writing, and I think ebooks might make it easier to get published in the future because publishing houses won’t have to spend money on print books. So, while some opportunities ebb I think others will open up.
Also writing is great because you can do it while you're doing other things (I've had plenty of side jobs, including tarot reader and dance teacher) or after you do other things. You can take it up at any age and drop it when you're done. Look at Harper Lee—she wrote just one novel. But that one novel was enough.