The actress did have best sellers, beginning in 1987 with her first novel, Postcards From the Edge, a semi-autobiographical tale that made a big splash and then became a movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. (Fisher wrote the screenplay.) Postcards is the story of a young Hollywood actress named Suzanne Vale who’s in drug rehab and her relationship with her overbearing mother (in real life, Debbie Reynolds).
The New York Times called the novel “at once harrowing and hilarious.” During an interview when the book was published, Fisher, then 30, said she had first been approached about writing a humorous memoir. Instead, her “material” from rehab evolved into fiction.
”It was an extreme situation I made funny to myself while going through it,” she told The Times. ”That’s when I need humor: when there’s nothing funny. I was in the worst place I could be and not be dead.”
Fisher wrote more novels (The Best Awful, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma) and eventually decided sardonic memoirs were OK after all. Her druggie past and electroshock therapy all became game in Wishful Drinking (2008) and Shockaholic(2011).
She acknowledged that shock treatments caused some memory loss. “For all I know, they could have dressed me in a ball gown, surrounded me with dancing dolphins, and married me off to Rush Limbaugh,” she wrote in Shockaholic.
For Fisher, writing openly about her real life, ironically, allowed her more artistic freedom, some critics found.
In a review of Wishful Drinking, Entertainment Weeklysaid: “Fisher’s voice is freer, now that she’s no longer hiding behind the coy scrim of calling her perky howls of pain ‘novels’ (as she did with Postcards From the Edge and The Best Awful).”
Three of Fisher’s books made USA TODAY’s best-seller list, which launched in fall 1993: Delusions of Grandma, which peaked at No. 122; The Best Awful (No. 135); and Wishful Drinking (No. 105).