'Orange Is the New Black'

Actress Taylor Schilling, left, and author Piper Kerman. "Orange is the New Black," based on Kerman's bestselling memoir, premieres Thursday on Netflix. (Brian Bowen Smith for Netflix / March 23, 2013)

Did you have any anxiety about writing about your experience, given your relative privilege compared with most of your fellow inmates?

I think one of the things that made the book possible was the fact that it was a fish-out-of-water story. I thought it was important to address that in the book really clearly and directly. The most important thing about the experience was recognizing that what I had in common with other women. Then when you step back and you ask, “I got treated this way, they got treated that way. What’s that about?"

Are you working on another book?

I have a book idea I’m very interested in. It’s nonfiction about the criminal justice system, and I’m trying to figure out how to pull it off. It’s not a memoir. I don’t have any memoirs in me at this point. Someone asked me if I was interested in writing about motherhood because I’m a mother now. And I said, “No, there are plenty of books about that.”

You’ve said elsewhere that the correctional system is about missed opportunities and lost potential, yet your experience has been a positive one in some ways. Would you do it over?

I would do anything to be able to go back in time and not be able to do it. What it put my family through alone is not worth it, and any contribution that my own actions had to other people’s drug addictions is not something I take lightly any longer. When I was 22 years old, I was not thinking about that at all. When I was in prison, I was living with women whose lives had been devastated by their drug addiction.

What are you hoping viewers will get out of the show?

I wrote the book very intentionally because I believed that telling my own story would potentially reach people who would not be inclined to pick up a book about prison. It was just that simple. I think that if the show is incredibly compelling and people want to spend a good chunk of time with these characters, they will think more about the real people who are in prison. People tend to disappear into our prison system, and I would like for them not to be disappearing.


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