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Skin Deep

NEW YORK — Rare is the 25-year-old journalist who’s already been in the business for 10 years. Rarer still is one who’s published two novels, sold a screenplay to Brad Pitt, and is in the throes of developing a British TV pilot and...

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NEW YORK — Rare is the 25-year-old journalist who’s already been in the business for 10 years. Rarer still is one who’s published two novels, sold a screenplay to Brad Pitt, and is in the throes of developing a British TV pilot and putting the finishing touches on her third novel.

Sizing up Emma Forrest’s accomplishments is enough to make any mere mortal tired, or green with envy. Dubbed the "literary Lolita" by Vanity Fair at 16 when she left school in London to pen a regular column for the Evening Standard, the writing wunderkind — the equivalent of her generation’s Cameron Crowe — moved to a cozy apartment in the West Village five years ago and in her words, "finally started acting like a young person." Freelancing celebrity interviews for such rags as the Sunday Times and Esquire, her delayed adolescence kicked in. "I’ve read about people having quarter-life crises," the tiny writer says in her British clipped accent, looking a bit like Alice in Wonderland as she rocks back and forth in a chair that engulfs her in her Bleecker Street walk-up. "I think there’s something to it."

Forrest’s own downward spiral included bouts with bulimia, depression and self-mutilation — all afflictions that surface in Ruby, the desperate child-actress on the brink of self-destruction, who is the heroine of her second novel "Thin Skin" (MTV/Pocket Books), published in February in the U.S. (It received mixed reviews when it was published last year in London.)

But the chronicle of Ruby’s descent isn’t a memoir, Forrest insists. "My mother didn’t kill herself, my parents weren’t art dealers," she says, ticking off the discrepancies. Though her actor pals include the likes of Rachel Weisz, Minnie Driver, Chloë Sevigny and Rose McGowan, "Thin Skin" isn’t about any of them, either. "I saw so many of those f****d-up rich girls who live on the Lower East Side with their dad’s credit card when I first moved here," she sighs, adding that her own middle-class upbringing emphasized books, not money.

For 3 1/2 years, she has been clean from her own "cutting" habit and is currently adapting the screenplay of "Thin Skin" for British director Carine Adler, though emotionally, she’s moved on to sunnier topics. Forrest describes her new novel, "Cherries in the Snow," whose heroine names new beauty products for a living, as a modern day "Breakfast at Tiffany’s." Tacked up on the wall behind her computer are pages torn from magazines of scruffy young men, including Jake Gyllenhaal, whom she placed there to inspire her male characters. Forrest was also recently linked with a man who fits the type, actor Elijah Wood, whom she profiled in December, though she declines to comment on the relationship.
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Although she’s been immersed in personal projects recently, she isn’t prepared to leave journalism behind. "Journalism is such a noble profession," says Forrest, who claims to worship Truman Capote and his interviews with such stars as Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando. "Until I match ‘The Duke in his Domain’ by Truman Capote, I’m not through. There’s truth in there, that’s what I’m chasing."
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