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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 04/11/2007

It Book: 'Hollywood Car Wash'

By Liz Kelly

(ASJA Press)

Lori Culwell's new book, "Hollywood Car Wash" -- a novel about a young actress who finds herself thrust into the Hollywood industry machine, reshaped, renamed and dating a star with a big secret -- hit Los Angeles where it hurts. Katie Holmes is reportedly beside herself about the situations in the book which eerily mirror her own life and, although Culwell doesn't specifically name Holmes as an inspiration, she does say that the book is based on real events.

Culwell says the title is a term coined to describe the transformation imposed on women in Hollywood and cites Brittany Murphy (seen here in "Clueless" and more recently) as an example of the metamorphosis. ("Not that I'm saying she HAD the Hollywood Car Wash," says Culwell. But... you know what I mean.")

Yesterday, Culwell and I exchanged e-mails and talked about her new book, her advice for Katie Holmes and what's on her daily must list.

Liz: Give us a little background on Lori Culwell. As far as I can tell this is your first novel. What have you been doing up till now?

Lori: I've been a writer for 10 years -- magazines, Web sites, a non-fiction book... a couple of years ago, I moved back to Los Angeles from New York, got back in touch with some of my old friends in the industry, and decided that enough of the situations I heard were absurd and hilarious enough to warrant a whole novel. Thus, "Hollywood Car Wash" was born.

Liz: "Hollywood Car Wash" is the book of the moment. What -- or rather who -- was the inspiration for the book?

Lori: Yikes! All I can say is that the book is based on real stories, but that it's fiction. I know a lot of people in the business, my husband is in the business and I went to high school with some people who are now in the business. Frankly, if I had to guess, I would say there are MANY well-known people in the book who are going to think they recognize themselves and never talk to me again. In L.A., we call this the "friend divorce."

Liz: One blog quotes Holmes as saying that she feels her private life has been violated by the book. First, how much -- if any -- of the main character was modeled after Holmes and did you use any specific events from Holmes's bio to flesh out the book?

Lori: I really can't discuss my relationship to anyone who might think they are portrayed in the book. If I did that, no one would ever tell me anything again! The book is fiction, and I'm sorry if she's upset by it.

Much more after the jump...

Liz: If the book doesn't intentionally mirror the TomKat relationship, you have to concede that there are some pretty striking similarities...

Lori: I would say that this couple might easily be any of a dozen Hollywood couples. Although again, I have been pretty strongly warned that I can't comment on a relationship (if any) with Katie. There are a few discussions going on my MySpace page regarding who is who.

Liz: What would you say to Katie Holmes given the opportunity?

Lori: "Run away!"

Liz: Are you a celeb news junkie?

Lori: I won't deny a penchant for the gossip. But, knowing some of the people and inside stories makes it that much more entertaining.

Liz: The book description says "Hollywood Car Wash" is the first in a series. What comes next?

Lori: I'm working on a novel called "Reality Check," which will give readers the inside story on how reality TV shows work. One of my friends works on "The Apprentice" and another owns a production company that's done some popular shows, so I've got a lot of great raw material to work with. Who knows? It might be even more scandalous than "Hollywood Car Wash!"

Liz: Has "Hollywood Car Wash" been optioned for the big screen yet?

Lori: Not yet, but there are currently three production companies looking at it. Maybe Katie Holmes can play the lead. :)

Liz: What are you reading right now?

I am knee-deep in a backlog of articles I'm writing for L.A. Fashion Week right now, so sadly I'm not reading much. Usually, though, I read whatever I can get my hands on. I just started "The Diviners," by Rick Moody, who is a friend of a friend. I will also admit that I read the fourth "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" book the day it came out.

Liz: What are your favorite reads -- about Hollywood or otherwise?

Lori: "Valley of the Dolls" is good stuff. I loved "Catcher in the Rye." "The Nanny Diaries" made me laugh out loud more than once. David Sedaris is one of my idols for humorous writing.

Liz: What sites do you check daily?

Lori: I love DListed (Warning: Not work or kid-friendly.)... there's a site called the "Celebrity Baby Blog" that always seems to have the latest. And of course, there's Perez (Warning: Not work or kid-friendly.). McSweeney's is also consistently hilarious, and I love the writing of the girl who does that blog Dooce.

By Liz Kelly  | April 11, 2007; 10:43 AM ET
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