An Interview with Michelle Cove


Seeking Happily Ever After
Michelle Cove

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background and writing career?

I am one of those weird creatures who knew she wanted to be a writer by the age of 10, after I got over my dream to be “Annie” on Broadway. I set up “an office” with a pretend typewriter in my bedroom closet and would go there and write stories. I published a few stories for the literary journal in high school (sappy, bad stories), and did an internship at a magazine publisher while in college. The moment I graduated college, I moved to New York City and took a job at a magazine publisher answering phones and helping to edit whenever they let me. It was such a small staff that every time someone left I got an editorial promotion and got to learn feature writing/editing by the seat of my pants.


What genre do you write?

I write non-fiction and, most commonly, self-help.

What work(s) are you best known for? Could you please tell us about them?

In 1999, I co-authored a self-help book called I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You: a New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict (Viking, 1999) and wrote my next book 10 years later called Seeking Happily Ever After: How to Navigate the Ups and Downs of Being Single Without Losing Your Mind (Tarcher/Penguin, 2010). This self-help book is based on the research I did for my documentary “Seeking Happily Ever After,” which explores why there are more single 30-something women in the U.S. than ever and whether women of all ages are redefining happily-ever-after.

Can you tell us if you are working on a new project and what your goals for the future?

I am currently working on another self-help book, a parenting book for moms who often feel a tug-of-war between the work they enjoy and their children. The book will be filled with strategies for helping these moms stay centered.

How did you start writing?

I always gravitated to it and felt true joy when I got to take a creative-writing class for the first time in Junior High. I blocked out just about all of Junior High for the same reason most of us did (it’s hell on earth), but I do remember the excitement of writing in that classroom and getting heaps of encouragement from my teacher. She told me I would write a book someday–and even wrote that in my yearbook. Getting praise for doing something that felt so good made it inevitable that I’d keep at it.

How do you write? (That is, where do you get your ideas, do you write in an office at home, do you write full time or do you have a fulltime job other than writing?)

I often get my ideas through conversations I have with friends. We’ll be discussing a concern or issue, and I’ll think: “Wow, someone should write about that!” That’s always my first thought before thinking, “Oh, *I* should write about that!” And if I start getting a humming excitement about it, I know I have to write it. I write at home in an office; luckily, I work in a flexible job that allows me to do my work from home so I can write during my most productive hours: late morning until about three o’clock or so if I’m on a good streak.

Are there any particular authors who have inspired you in your own writing career?

Life coach and O, the Oprah Magazine columnist Martha Beck is a great influence because she is so warm and funny in addition to offering helpful wisdom. She never feels preachy and I always have the desire to sit and have coffee with her while reading her books.

Do you attend workshops and seminars to hone your writing skills?

No. For me, the way to get better at writing is just to do it consistently and try to be brave about putting it out there. I have taught writing workshops and I know they are really helpful for writers who crave support and feedback on a regular basis; for whatever reason, I prefer to go “solo” on my writing journey.

What themes do you pursue in your writing? What are your concerns?

I write about issues that encourage women to explore their life choices, typically their relationships.

What is the goal of your writing?

My ultimate goal is to make women feel inspired to change their lives for the better in some way.

Do you have any useful tips you might offer other up-and-coming writers?

Just know that it is work. There is no writer, no matter how famous, who sits downs and spews beautiful work in a sitting. It is about honing and polishing and deleting and pulling your hair out and jumping for joy and honing and deleting…

Have you chosen to e-publish any of your work? Was there any particular reason for this and would you recommend e-publishing to other writers?

Yes! I edit an online magazine called “614,” which looks at relevant hot topics for young Jewish women. For writers, it’s great because they can include links to work they want to promote and easily forward their pieces to others.

Have you won any awards for your work? If so, which ones?

I won a “Best Fiction” contest from my college (I haven’t written any fiction since) and recently won “Best Documentary” at the NY United Film Festival for my documentary Seeking Happily Ever After.

Have you had literary failures? What did you learn from them?

Of course! Here’s one: Back in my 20s, I worked so hard on a book proposal about why today’s women are marrying later. I got a reputable agent and spent months on this proposal before she sent it out to the major publishers. Every one of them rejected it, saying it was well-written, but just didn’t feel “revolutionary” enough. I was absolutely crushed and balled my eyes out for days. I ended up making Seeking Happily Ever After–the documentary and book about this exact topic–a decade later. What was different is that I was much wiser in my late 30s and had the life experience to call upon that I didn’t have in my late 20s. It also helped that the increase of single 30-somethings was finally becoming media headlines. Sometimes it’s about timing.

What do you read?

I love fiction and read it every single day. My latest favorites are Solomon’s Oak by Joann Mapson and Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

Below is an excerpt from Seeking Happily Ever After: How to navigate the ups and downs of being single without losing your mind (and finding lasting love along the way):

What single woman hasn’t been made to feel like she is a social screw-up? According to a 2007 New York Times article, 51 percent of women are single-and yet somehow being unmarried is still considered an oddball lifestyle. If you’re like most singles, you’ve been bombarded with questions like, “How long have you been alone?” and “Are you doing that online dating?” and “Why is someone as great as you still not married?” The message is clear: there is something wrong with you, and you’d better fix it.

On vulnerable days, it’s easy to buy into the idea that you have a major defect. After all, it sure seems easy for billions of other women around the world to get hitched and have babies. You’re a bright, lovely person. Why not you? On other days, the commentary seems ridiculous and you feel secure knowing you didn’t settle for the wrong guy. “Sure, I’d like to find someone,” you think, “but there is nothing wrong with me.” Heck, maybe you don’t even want to marry.

How confident you feel may depend on the day. There are times when you appreciate the upsides of being single: You get to choose how you want to live without major compromise; you don’t have to check in with anyone if you’re enjoying yourself and want to stay out longer; you don’t need permission before making vacation plans or spending money however you see fit. There is the thrill and endorphin rush of that first kiss that most married people will never experience again. Oh, and there’s the joy of walking past screaming babies in strollers and knowing you don’t have to deal with that.

Then there are days when you wonder if you will ever find the right person, or whether the guy you’re currently with is him. If you’re not dating, there are moments of loneliness, cravings for intimacy (or flat-out sex), maybe fear of what a life without marriage looks like, and an urge to feel more settled. If you are dating, or even committed, you may have doubts about whether you picked the right guy and/or what kind of relationship you want with him. You know from listening to your married friends that it’s not perfect on their side of the fence (they tell you routinely how lucky you are that you get to focus on yourself). But what’s clear is that married folks, content or not, are on the right side of the fence, the one that proves they are “normal.” We live in a culture where the wedding is the finish line. If that’s true, you’re falling behind.

Everybody’s favorite pet project

Having married in my thirties, I’ve lived on both sides of the fence. As a single woman, I found my life was frequently considered a puzzle for others to solve. Strangers sitting next to me on the plane or at a dinner party would ask, “Are you married?” When I’d say no, the onslaught would begin: “My closest friend was single for the longest time but then she met someone on and she couldn’t be happier!” or “I have a second cousin in Kentucky who I think is single and I’m going to tell him about you” or “My mother’s sister waited too long to think about marriage and now she’s alone; it’s so sad.”

Well, that is extremely helpful, thank you.

I remember being told by a colleague that the online dating sites I picked “sucked” and that was why I couldn’t find anyone. Huh? What does that even mean? There were friends and relatives who would hug me hello while asking, “Are you dating anyone?” My relationship status was endlessly fascinating, whether I was dating or not. It was like being transported back to seventh grade again where the topic of boys reigns supreme. Because of this obsessive focus, I didn’t know who to talk to about my mixed feelings around being single: Who should I have called when I was feeling lonely? Or when I was feeling deflated from the stack of wedding invites from friends that kept arriving in my mailbox? Or when I needed someone to remind me there was more to life than whether I checked “single” or “relationship” on official forms?

I was nervous about voicing my concerns to single friends, especially since my status was often in flux. Those in the same boat would reply, “At least you’re dating someone” or “Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll get back together” or “What do you mean, you’re not sure if he’s the one?” Turning to the married people I knew wasn’t the answer, either. If I mentioned the downsides of being single, they would roll their eyes and say, “You don’t know how good you have it!” or offer pat reassurances: “When the right one comes along, you’ll know” and “You’ll find him when and where you least expect it.”


I craved someone who could understand and validate what I was going through- a wise soul to assure me my feelings were normal and transitory. Better yet, I wanted someone to give me realistic ways of handling the numerous buttinskies who kept pressuring me to meet a guy; I yearned for ideas that would make me feel good during my single years and not just endure the experience. Where was this wise soul? If she didn’t exist, maybe there was a book that could help? […]

You can watch the Seeking Happily Ever After documentary at



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