Sharon Gless is a Hollywood legend. From her titular role in Cagney & Lacey to more recent performances in Queer as Folk and Burn Notice, she’s been involved in some of the most memorable TV shows in the last few decades, and stolen scenes in every single one. Now Sharon’s telling her own story in Apparently There Were Complaints, her laugh-out-loud and beautifully honest memoir. The book makes readers feel like this icon of the screen is a lifelong friend.
I recently had the honor of talking to Sharon about why she decided to write a book (it wasn’t in her plans), the process of putting her own life on paper, and the experience of opening up to an audience as herself rather than as any of her classic characters. Learn more about Apparently There Were Complaints in our interview and then do yourself a favor by getting your copy right now at Amazon.
Brittany Frederick: Was writing a book something you always wanted to do, or did something change that put it on your radar?
Sharon Gless: It’s something I never wanted to do. (laughs) I never had an interest in writing a book. I never kept diaries as a kid. The reason I didn’t keep diaries is I was always saying somebody would read them, so I guess I had trust issues. It took me seven years to write this. I was invited by CBS to come in to talk to them. I spent an hour in the president’s office, she had the head of drama and comedy and new shows [there] and so I just sort of regaled them, trying to think how interesting it was and how I should be on their network again. And at the end of the meeting, the president of CBS said “Well, I think you’ve got a book in you.” And I said, “Nina, I’m not a writer.” She said, “But you’re a storyteller,” and I said “Well, that I am.”
The next day, I got a thing from Simon & Schuster. The president of Simon & Schuster texted me saying, “The next time you’re in New York, please come in and see me.” I let a year go by because I would rather be doing a series and I didn’t get the series. So about a year later I was in New York and I said, “Well, I’ll go see this man.” And I took a chapter I’d already written, because I was playing with the idea, and I read it to him and he signed me that day to a book deal.
BF: Where did you even start to get your life and career on paper? Did you find a particular writing process or how did you make that leap from idea to actually writing the book?
SG: I came up with the title, because it was just an expression I used to use to make people laugh, to sort of fend off embarrassing questions. I’d say “Apparently there were complaints,” and then we’d get a laugh. I decided to write about all the complaints the people had about me throughout my life, and the pain of some of it and the humor of some of it and the growth as a result of it.
[My husband] Barney [Rosenzweig] actually challenged me. Barney said “All right, for my birthday, I want 30 pages. That’s what I want for a present.” That seemed overwhelming to me. This is before I wrote the chapter that I read to the president of Simon & Schuster. So I took 30 pages and I made the letters huge and put about six lines per page and put 30 pages in an envelope and wrapped it up. That was his 30 pages. So that’s how I started.
And then when Simon & Schuster was serious and they liked this one chapter I had written, it just took a long, long time. A lot of my ideas were rejected by Simon & Schuster, and that part’s hard because you get very territorial. There’s nothing in the book that isn’t the truth and it’s all complaints about me, against me, about me, for me, around me. And I wrote this book without the diffusion of booze or drugs or anything, which used to be my way. I wrote it without any filters. So I learned a lot about myself as I went. I have no regrets. It’s done. I just hope that the critics will be kind and not have a big complaint. I hope they won’t play off the title.
BF: You also recorded the audiobook version of Apparently There Were Complaints. What was it like to perform your own words?
SG: That was an emotional experience. I’m used to performing and acting, but reading my own life, there were times where I was surprised after all these years. I choked sometimes having to tell the story and I said “I’m sorry, you guys,” to the recording people. They said, “No, keep it in.”
BF: Many people expect celebrity autobiographies to be full of behind-the-scenes anecdotes. As you were writing Apparently There Were Complaints, were you just focused on your thoughts or did you also try to incorporate what people might want to know about you?
SG: I never took the attitude that I wanted to write about what you wanted to read about…If I wrote it with a desire to create a certain thing in you, I would disappoint because I don’t know what that is. Everybody is different. I hope they’ll enjoy the humor. I hope they’ll enjoy the honesty. There’s one person I do go after, God bless his soul, but other than that it’s not one of those dishy books where I tell tales on everybody in Hollywood. That’s not interesting, and usually those stories aren’t true.
BF: Are there certain highlights or anecdotes that you’re particularly excited to get to share with the audience?
SG: It’s things that mean a great deal to me. I had a relationship with my grandmother that was difficult and there’s a story at the end that is very, very wonderful. I spent my life wanting her to be proud of me. There’s a line in the book from a psychic that I had seen. I said, I’ve had this amazing career. I’ve been very fortunate with the money that I’ve made and the parts I’ve been given, do you think my grandmother is proud of me now? And she said, “Let me check.” She came back and she said, “She said to tell you, she’s proud of you still.” When you read it, you’ll get it. She’s a fascinating woman.
BF: Is there anything about Sharon Gless you hope they take away when they finish reading?
SG: I hope they’ll consider it wonderful time spent and I hope they’re glad they donated the time. I hope I made them laugh, I hope I touched them. I hope there’s something to learn in there; I think there is. I learned about myself just writing it, which was very interesting. My last chapter talks about the things I never talked about in the [rest of the] book. I didn’t realize [them] until I went through the experience.
I’m nervous about this. It is my life and I do tell secrets on myself. But I just have to believe that it will be well received. And I learned a lot about myself. I did it this time with no screen of alcohol and it was interesting facing the mirror without the diffusion. But I’m proud of the outcome.
Apparently There Were Complaints is now available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook. You can get your copy now and support TVBrittanyF.com by using my Amazon link.
Article content is (c)2020-2022 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.