Carrie Fisher's friend of three decades and “book whisperer” Paul Slansky tells PEOPLE exclusively how the actress launched her career as a writer

By People Staff
January 13, 2017 09:00 AM
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Carrie Fisher and Fisher Stevens Photocall - The 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty

In an excerpt from PEOPLE’s new commemorative issue, Carrie Fisher: Hollywood Princess, her friend of three decades and “book whisperer” Paul Slansky tells PEOPLE exclusively how the actress launched her career as a writer.

It was impossible to spend five minutes with Carrie Fisher without knowing that you would never meet anyone else like her. She was as intimate and honest with a total stranger as with an old friend, and while false intimacy is something that often comes easily to celebrities, what set Carrie apart was that she also listened to the other person, elicited a mutual intimacy and cared about it.

We became instant friends, and even though we lived on separate coasts, we would get together whenever we were both in the same place. As someone who loved nothing more than to laugh — and ideally to the point that I feared I literally couldn’t catch my breath — I spent as much time as I could with her.

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PEOPLE’s commemorative issue, Carrie Fisher: Hollywood Princess, including a tribute to Debbie Reynolds, is on sale now.

At some point, Esquire decided it wanted to run a monthly interview with a funny, famous beautiful woman. I said I knew one. The series started with Carrie talking about everything from what being her is like (“I feel like I’m the doctor and the patient, but a lot of times the doctor isn’t in”) to frank thoughts on Eddie Fisher: “David Letterman said he’d heard that my father sang everywhere, and I said, ‘Yes, the world is his shower. And often he likes to use women for soap.’ “)

Before long there was a book deal for a series of humorous essays on Hollywood with the working title Money Dearest, and because it was so effortless for me to get the brilliance out of her head and onto the page, she hired me to do that with the book.

Newly sober and crystal clear, she began writing in early 1986. Carrie’s great gifts were a stunning facility and playfulness with the language, an otherworldly sense of humor and a fundamental wisdom of the human condition. She would write — in longhand, on yellow legal pads in large loopy letters — or tape a stream-of-consciousness monologue, and I would edit the typed pages. Before long it was clear to her that, at that point in her life, nonfiction was too constricting. The result of the decision to make the book a novel is Postcards from the Edge, a modern classic.

Carrie and I remained friends, but it wasn’t until 2011’s Shockaholic and last year’s The Princess Diarist that I resumed my book-whisperer role with her. Beyond the tragedy of her loss is that, as with any of our greatest talents who are taken too soon, she had so much more to give.

And on a personal level, I dread going through the next four years without hearing her say something like, “Trump speaking his mind isn’t refreshing. It’s appalling. Coca-Cola is refreshing.”