July 14, 1997 12:00 PM

CARMEN RENEE BERRY AND Tamara Traeder were flying, and so was the fur. On a plane to promote their bestseller, girlfriends: Invisible Bonds, Enduring Ties, Berry recalls, “I got fed up with all the stuff she was putting in my space, so I took my shoes off and threw them at her. She said, ‘Get your stuff out of my space,’ and threw them back at me. Then the flight attendant came over and said, ‘Girls, girls, girls, now stop fighting.’ I turned to the guys next to me and said, ‘We’re on a book tour celebrating friendships between women.’ Everybody started laughing.”

Now it’s their book that is doing the flying, with nonstop departures from bookstores ever since Oprah Winfrey plugged it on her Valentine’s Day show. Despite its female-bonding theme, the authors, neither of whom has ever married, met through a man each dated at different times. They won’t identify him, but he remains a “real friend,” says Traeder. “For many years I really felt that men and women couldn’t be friends [because] there was always some agenda there.”

In 1995, Traeder, 36, a Berkeley, Calif., lawyer who is president of the company that owns Wildcat Canyon Press, the book’s publisher, and Berry, 44, a Pasadena, Calif., massage therapist, compiled tales from women about their best girlfriends. “It’s like the ’90s manifestation of the feminist movement,” says Berry, adding that the authors’ purpose was not to create or change any laws. “It’s us looking at each other and saying, ‘You are really important to me.’ ” (A sequel, girlfriends Talk About Men, is in the works.) The authors have learned as much as they have taught. “Touring on the road is very stressful,” says Berry. “We’re closer than ever now because of what we’ve been through.”

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