"Free and inexpensive."
Those are two of my favorite words, and they are also how author Jeryl Brunner describes most of the activities in her popular books.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Brunner as she continues promoting her latest.
Her first book was called "My City, My New York," and she recently published a sequel called "My City, My Los Angeles."
When I asked her what she hoped readers would pick up if they put a copy of the book under the Christmas tree, she said, "What I really hope is that the people are inspired to make their own discoveries - that they find new treasures."
Both books use tidbits, quotes and stories from famous folks from coast to coast. Everyone from Woody Allen to Dustin Hoffman to Spike Lee chimes in on their favorite spots and activities in two of the nation's cultural capitals. From hiking in Nicholas or Bronson Canyon in Southern California to Katz's Deli in Manhattan, there's a little of everything.
Brunner even suggested using the books as tourist guides, "There's an index, and let's say you're going to Central Park, you might get a new idea of a place you want to explore in the park, or a place you want to go back to."
Brunner has a fascinating story.
She said, "I was always interested in Entertainment and Theater, and went to New York University for drama. I was obsessed with theater, talking to actors, learning from actors."
But Brunner got scared. She said she worried "I was going to be a starving actress, so ended up in law school."
In fact, she was on track to be a lawyer when she interned at Miramax Pictures.
Brunner said, "The boss's wife hired me to do research, and because of her recommendation I ended up working at a magazine no one had ever heard of.. a new magazine from People. It was 1994, and that magazine was "InStyle," which has gone on to be a major publication. Brunner spent nine years there as a correspondent. Brunner said, "Most of my career has been interviewing famous people."
Among the celebrities she's talked to?
Madonna, George Clooney, Denzel Washington, and Nicole Kidman.
I asked her what it was like talking to celebs, "I find that they're incredibly human at the end of the day. They're human beings. When you realize that, it's really just a conversation."
That's how she came to the entertainment world.
Brunner has written for O, the Oprah Magazine, People, US Weekly.. the list goes on, but on one of those assignments she found the idea for her books.
It was an assignment for Nat Geo Traveler in 2003.. It was called ‘In a New York minute,' and asked famous people from Nora Ephron to Bobby Short, ‘what is your favorite thing to do?
Had to be something they could do in a ‘New York minute.' Brunner said, "I loved doing this story. I got to talk to all kinds of people - everyone from the fire commissioner to Actress Molly Shannon. All kinds of people told me about their favorite things. I just love the concept. "
She said to herself, ‘Why can't I turn this into a book?'. So she did.
She told me it was a long road, but has been an exciting ride. If you want to hear more, you can buy her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or check out her website: www.JerylBrunner.com
Great stocking stuffer.