Traveling by Heart
Gabrielle Stone took double heartbreak on the road and came back with quite a story to tell.
As the daughter of actors Dee Wallace (E.T.: The Extraterrestrial) and Christopher Stone (Cujo), actress and filmmaker Gabrielle Stone is used to living with a little drama.
But even she didn’t expect the real-life heartbreak that would blow up her life in 2017, and end up forming the backbone of her new book, Eat, Pray, #FML.
Let’s start at the beginning. After a bit of sleuthing that would have put Columbo to shame, Stone discovered her husband of fewer than two years had already begun an affair with another woman.
After serving her husband with divorce papers and moving on, she was surprised when she rapidly fell into a passionate love affair with a man named Javier, who invited her on a whirlwind trip to Europe, then told her he needed to go alone just two days before their scheduled departure.
Recovering from two unexpected heartbreaks, Stone decided she’d embark on a solo European trip. Eat, Pray, #FML chronicles the whole story from her irreverent, deadpan perspective — and offers Stone’s personal method for embracing both healing and self-love:
So much of Eat, Pray, #FML centers on your personal journey as it unfolds. At what point in the process of your travel journaling did you decide this could be a book?
You know, I actually decided before I left on my trip that I would write a book. The journal that I kept was the book I wrote on my trip. I wrote about three-fourths on the trip, finished it when I got home, and transferred it to my laptop. The edit process took about a year, but I wrote the majority of it on my trip.
How did the manuscript change from those original journals to the final, published book?
The edit process was vital for me because my editor helped me take out a lot of the fluff. Some of the travelogue material. "We don’t need to know every single thing you saw this day, and every single thing you ate." Once we cut that out, I had room to go back in and dig deeper into the healing stuff I write about.
This is a very intimate, personal story. Were there any parts you were reluctant to tell?
Yes. In ways. There is, of course, fear of judgment for some of the decisions I made. For some of the things that happened, and the way that I chose to handle them. A lot of people in my life who read the first draft said, "Oh my God. Are you sure you wanted to put that in there? Are you sure you don’t want to leave that out?"
But I wanted it to be very real and honest, so I didn’t hold anything back. There’s some really deep, personal stuff about myself in there. Mistakes and ridiculous stories that happened. But I made sure I didn’t embellish anything for dramatic effect. Everything is how it happened.
And I think it was really important for me to tell it exactly how it happened. Every mistake or decision that I made led me to either something that helped me learn, or uncovering a big belief in my life, which helped me heal.
There were parts where I was like, "Oh, God. People are actually going to read this." But I’ve always been — no pun intended — an open book to the people in my life. My friends and family. This, obviously, is on a national level now, so it’s daunting. But I know that this book is going to help so many people, and that outweighs any fear of judgment.
There’s an interesting bit near the end of the book where you and Javier discuss the role he’ll play as a character in your book. What kind of feedback have you gotten from the other real people who appear in the story? As you shared experiences, did they know you’d be writing about them?
I talked a lot about the book while I was on my trip. Everybody that I met, who I had any type of relationship with, I told them I was writing a book and that they were going to be in it. And everyone was really excited and supportive. I’ve kept in touch with a lot of the people that I met, and they’re all waiting for it to come out.
Javier has been really supportive throughout the whole process. He gave me his blessing, and understood what a healing process it was for me. I was really thankful for that, because I do care about him and his family immensely, and I would never want to upset them or put them into a bad situation. That was really important before I moved forward with everything.
I finished writing this a year and a half ago. Since then, different relationships have formed, and old relationships have evolved and changed.
Doing all these interviews, I really have to separate the people in the book from the people in my life. These "characters" in the book are what I experienced back then, and these people in my life are how we’re developing our relationships now. Everybody that’s in the book, more or less, knows they’re in the book, or knows of it. Most people I’ve spoken to directly about it.
And it’ll be fun for those people to read it, I think.
You visited so many different cities and had so many different kinds of encounters. After the trip was over, what was your biggest takeaway from the experience as a whole?
I would definitely recommend that anyone who needs to soul-search should travel by themselves. I would never have done it if it hadn’t happened to me. It’s just not my personality to say, "An adventure all by myself!" That’s something I’ve struggled with since I was a little girl: Being okay by myself.
And the universe literally delivered a way to make me go deal with that. Now, I don’t think I ever want to travel with other people again. It definitely sparked a new travel bug in me.
But the biggest thing I learned was how to love myself. People throughout my life would always tell me that: "You have to love yourself first," and, "learning to love yourself is the thing you have to do before you can love someone else," and blah, blah, blah. And I was sitting here, going, "Okay? I’m ready to do that. I just don’t know how." And nobody could clearly explain the actual instructions to do that.
And that’s what led you to come up with the "Self-Love Cocktail."
That was one thing I really found on my trip, that I will cherish forever. In a Self-Love Cocktail, you sit down, you write out a list of things that make you and your soul happy. For me, that was the gym and meditating and eating healthy and dancing and creating.
And [once you’ve made your cocktail], you commence giving yourself one or two of those things every day, until you can give yourself more and more and more. It’s such a simple concept: To love yourself, you have to give yourself things that you love. And once I realized that, it was like, "Oh, my God. It’s so simple."
You commit to doing it, and after a month goes by, you realize you’ve been loving yourself and you feel like a new person.
The book’s title is obviously a play on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, and you name-check several books that you read during your trip, including Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. Can you tell me about the other books that inspired you as you wrote Eat, Pray, #FML?
I love Andi Dorfman. She was one of the Bachelorettes, and I loved her book It’s Not Okay. It’s written in a very casual manner, like she’s talking to you, and that’s my writing style as well. That definitely inspired me. I’ve heard from my readers that my book is very Amy Schumer-esque, and I’m a big Amy Schumer fan, so that’s great.
As far as the books that I read on the trip: The Alchemist was definitely inspiring, and appropriate for the journey I was on. The Four Agreements I really wrestled with, because that was something Javier had recommended: "I swear by this book!"
And I was in such a state of reaction toward him as I was reading it that I went, "Oh, well this explains so much of this messed-up human!" But once I had come to the end of my trip, I started identifying with some of the principles in that book as well.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Oh, God. It’s probably, "Write what you know." I know that’s probably a typical answer, but it’s true. I never considered myself a writer before this. I loved creative writing in high school, and I’ve written two short films, but I never really identified as a writer.
And it’s really true what they say: If you write what you know, it flows out. I never Googled how to write a book, or proper structure. I literally just said, "I’m going to write this," and it came out of me.
As an actress and filmmaker, have you already considered adapting Eat, Pray, #FML for film or television?
There has been talk. It’s being pitched around right now, with my manager. I, personally, see it as a limited TV series. I think it would be perfect as 10 episodes on Netflix or Hulu. I just think there’s too much that happens to fit into one movie, and there’s nothing you can cut out that readers wouldn’t be pissed about.
We’ll see where it lands, and who gives it a home. I definitely don’t want to play myself. I keep getting asked that. But I do want to direct it, and I think it would be so much fun to cast, because I’d be casting for real people that I know. It’s interesting to think of holding a cast session to play someone who I already know so very well.
Do you have any bits of dream casting?
I’ve asked around to see who other people could see in the lead role. For me personally — if we went with someone that’s not a big name right now — there’s an actress named Summer Spiro who I costarred with in a movie called Swell. I adore her and think she’s so talented and don’t understand why she’s not hugely famous yet.
But if we went with more of a name actress, people have suggested Dakota Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Hayden Panettiere… it’s gotta be someone with the dry, sarcastic humor that I have.
And people have joked about Wilmer Valderrama playing Javier. It’s fun to think about, for sure.
What are you working on next?
I just finished a horror film called Await the Dawn. It’s a really cool kind of sci-fi horror. That should be coming out either late this year or early next year.
I just directed my second short, After Emma, which starred Amy Smart and my mother, Dee Wallace. We just started submitting that to festivals, so we’re waiting to see where we’ll premiere. And after we shot that, and it came out well, my management wanted me to pick a feature.
I signed onto a feature film — I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about the title — but it’s based on a bestselling book, and it’s an incredible story. We’re pitching that around right now to get the funds together, and I’m really excited about it.
Do you think you’ll write another book? Either a followup to this story, or something else entirely?
I definitely have the material for a second book. It’s funny. There are certain people in my life who came into my life after the first book, that joke, "Oh God, I’m going to be in the second one." I’m sure everybody’s going to want to know about the saga of Javier, and what happened once we came home.
My 2018 was definitely not as heartbreaking as my 2017, but it was just as eventful and entertaining. So my answer, I guess, is: Yes. Possibly. But nothing has been decided yet.
Eat, Pray, #FML is available now for purchase at amazon.com.
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