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Taking to Twitter on Monday, the actress shared news that she’s “writing a serialized romance novel with Vogue magazine” as a means of helping those who are practicing social distancing in order to stop the spread of the virus. “When I found out this #coronavirus was going to keep us in our homes, I wondered how we could create community – and storytelling has always been a way for me to feel closer to others, when I’m feeling alone,” Dunham wrote.
Having “always been fascinated by serialized publishing,” Dunham shared that she has been a longtime fan of the “hundreds of battered babysitters club novels” and “learning about how #CharlesDickens released his greatest novels as serialized chapters in penny newspapers.”
“A #romance novel is the pulpiest and most distracting fun you can have and a medium I’ve long wanted to work in (probably since I stole Forever by @judyblume out of my babysitter’s backpack; It’s not @daniellesteel , but it was the sexiest thing I’d ever read,” she wrote.
Dunham will be publishing chapters from her work Verified Strangers on Vogue‘s website, with new chapters released Monday through Friday.
“It seemed the perfect time to launch this project. In this unsettling period of isolation and anxiety, the act of communal reading can provide enormous solace. Lena Dunham is one of the most gifted writers we have today, and I am thrilled that she came to Vogue with this idea and thought we were the best partner for this ambitious and inspiring project,” writes Vogue‘s online editor Stuart Emmrich of Dunham’s new series.
Verified Strangers will center on the character Ally, who, as Dunham describes, is “32, single and nursing the kind of heartbreak that has taken years to mend.” After Ally, who is addicted to dating, learns that Los Angeles proves to have a shortage of eligible men, her roommate suggests she limit her search to “verified strangers,” i.e. “a friend of a friend” and “someone new (to you) but who comes with a resounding recommendation.”
To encourage reader engagement, Vogue and Dunham are allowing readers to play a key role in the plot’s development. “Every second chapter will end with a cliffhanger: Ally is faced with two options for her next move. Which will she choose? That’s where the readers will come in,” the magazine stated. After the chapter is published each day, readers will be able to vote on the Vogue Instagram account on where the story should go next, a decision that Dunham will abide by.
“Find out what Ally does when it rains men (and one woman) and vote on where you want this story to go, in a modern choose-your-own-adventure romance novel, written exclusively for quarantined singletons and the people who love them,” said Dunham.
“Dickens wrote serial stories through all sorts of public crises, including the London cholera outbreak of 1854. And while he didn’t adopt a choose-your-own adventure model, he did receive hundreds of letters telling him in no uncertain terms exactly what his audience wanted from him,” she also tweeted.
“Anna and Vogue have always given me the chance to try news things and and push myself as a writer, and Vogue has also been vocal in covering social distancing and self-isolation thoughtfully,” said Dunham. “Plus, I love that this is a little bit of a return to Vogue’s rich history of publishing fiction (did you know Vogue published 19 Kate Chopin stories in the late 1800s?!)”
The first chapter of Verified Strangers is available now. Readers can follow the novel’s progress on social media through the hashtag #VerifiedStrangersonVogue.
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