We caught up with the pathbreaking former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor, who championed the idea of popular "buzz," to ask her about all the attention this critical and commercial success is getting.
1. Why do you think the story of a divorced British princess remains so
captivating to Americans?
Diana's story is really as a mythic as a Grimm's fairy story. It is far more than simply being a divorced princess. She was young, beautiful and innocent and found that life behind palace walls was a mesh of lies, intrigue and sexual cynicism. But she refused to let those palace walls contain her and sublimated her pain to become a global force for good.
2. One theme of the book seems to be your own ambivalence toward the British aristocracy. Did Diana cause any change in the way they operate?
Diana was really a revolutionary but the amazing thing about it was that she was born and bred inside the aristocratic system she ultimately rejected. Prince Philip used to call her a fifth columnist because the Royal Family could never understand how a girl from her impeccable noble background could be so disruptive. She changed the Royal Family forever. Today they understand they have to be more accessible, more modern, more communicative in the way they do things, thanks to her. William and Harry's communications secretary Paddy Harverson was formerly in charge of the image of David Beckham. That says it all.
3. Diana's traumatic childhood-including her mother's departure when she was 6-seems to have left her looking desperately for love. Do you think she ever found it?
Only perhaps with Dr. Hasnat Khan, in the last two years of her life. That was a genuinely fulfilling relationship in which the doctor had no desire to exploit her. Diana's trouble was that she was a hopeless romantic. She always went for good-looking, narcissistic men rather than men who could support her and nurture her. Even Khan was an unrealistic passion. As a strict Muslim he could never have married her and he was too serious about his medical career to want all the celebrity craziness.
4. You write that, to win Charles, Diana had to win not only his affections but also win his family and the press. How did a teenager know how to do that?
Diana always had an instinct for the camera from the time she was a child. I ascribe it to the fact that her father, an uncommunicative man, expressed his affection for her by taking her picture constantly. She was his favorite model for his home movies. She always associated the camera with love.
5. Diana famously said there were three people in her marriage-a reference, of course, to Charles' current wife, Camilla. How did the Charles and Camilla relationship evolve over the course of the Charles and Diana marriage?
It was always there and that was Diana's grief. Not that she had lost Charles but that she felt she had never really had him. Camilla was one of the people who urged him to marry Diana in the first place. She believed that Diana was the perfect, docile, pretty airhead who would give her no trouble, produce the heir, and allow her to maintain her hold on Charles. Of course, Diana was the Mouse that Roared. She became very different from the wallflower Camilla had in mind. Camilla maintained her hold on Charles all through his marriage to Diana with her expert sense of his sexual needs and all their shared country pursuits.
6. Now that Camilla succeeded in marrying Charles, is it inevitable that she will become queen?
In my view, yes. Camilla has always got what she wanted.
7. Is it fair to say the book leaves us with a pretty positive impression of Charles? How do you think he will use his platform as king?
I happen to like Charles myself. In his own way he was as misunderstood as Diana and is at heart a very decent man. He was simply obliged to marry someone he would not have chosen if he had not been the Prince of Wales. Many of the things he was ridiculed for in the 80s and 90s turned out to be visionary and ahead of his times – the environment, organic farming, interfaith initiative. So he's now in his Al Gore moment and I think will be an interesting and respected King.
8. There is already a pretty extensive collection of Diana biographies out
there. What did those books leave unwritten?
The context and the portrait of the era in which Diana evolved, and the emotional understanding of how it felt to be her behind those palace walls. The Diana Chronicles seeks to be more than just a biography of Diana, it also is a picture of the class mores, the media and the monarchy.
9. Besides the great jobs at Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, was there
something else about this country that caused you to leave Britain-and
ultimately become an American citizen? And was Diana ever serious, as people
gossiped, about doing the same?
I always wanted to live in America. I love its freedoms and opportunities so when I was offered Vanity Fair it took me exactly five seconds to say yes. Diana did love America for the same reason. She felt stifled by class and the Establishment in London and in America felt she could be seen much more clearly for who she was.
10. Tina, is there a secret to writing so well? Or is it a talent that people
either have or they don't? To write well, you have to notice the details that other people don't see. It's hard to teach that if you don't have it, though there is no doubt that writers can improve hugely by reading other good writers.