Before "365 Days" was the ultimate guilty pleasure movie trilogy on Netflix, and before it was a series of bestselling books in Poland translated in languages around the world, it was a fantasy that lived in Blanka Lipinska's head.
Speaking to TODAY, Lipinska is quick to admit that she identifies with Laura, the series' main character. "Laura is me," she said.
The third book in Lipinska’s series will be released in English in September, with an e-book version arriving on Aug. 9 in time for “The Next 365 Days,” the trilogy’s conclusion, dropping on Netflix on Aug. 19.
Like the character Laura in the popular series, which became an international sensation when it dropped on Netflix in 2020, Lipinska was stuck in a stale relationship. And like Laura, she went on life-changing vacation with that boyfriend and another couple to Sicily.
Laura met a man in Sicily; Lipinska met a story.
At the time of the trip nine years ago, Lipinska was disillusioned with work and feeling aimless. "I was in a black hole. I didn't see a future," she said. She remembers the moment when the story popped into her head — the clothes she was wearing, the weather, "It was the perfect antidepressant for me," she said.
Here's where Lipinska's fantasy kicks in. In the book, Laura ends up catching the eye of a Sicilian gangster who, believing her to be the woman from a vision he had long ago, kidnaps her. Don Massimo Torricelli then gives Laura “365 days” to fall in love with him, before he frees her.
As for how much Lipinska is in Laura, beyond the Sicilian vacation? Lipinska said much of the novels are based on real events in her and her friends' lives, but is reticent to identify which parts. "There's one part that I'm totally sure that 100 percent of people say is bulls---, and it's really not," she said.
Indeed, it's difficult to believe any of the plot is based on a person's life. The novels and movie adaptations are marked soap opera-worthy twists: Massimo has a twin brother! Laura is kidnapped by another gangster! And there's sex — lots of it, on various surfaces in all manner of locations (look up the "yacht scene").
"You have to know that in that moment in my life, I really needed sex — the books show how pathetic I was," Lipinska said, laughing.
Though the film and book series have been criticized for their premise, Lipinska sees them as an outlet for fantasies — one in conversation with other famous stories.
"There is a cartoon. This cartoon is 'Beauty and the Beast.' And this is the cartoon for children. My books and my movies, they're for adults, and they're not a cartoon. But I don't see a lot of difference between those two stories," she said, pointing out kidnapping and a gruff man.
"Why aren't they shouting about Beauty and the Beast, a cartoon for children? Probably I am who I am because a f---ing cartoon I saw when I'm 5," she said.
Four years after first book's publication in 2018, Lipinska has distance from the character she once wrote as her cipher.
“When I see Laura, I think, ‘Oh my f---ing gosh, she’s so stupid. And I was so stupid in that moment of my life. Right now, I’m proud of myself, that I’m not in that moment. I think right now I’m smart,” she said.
By "smart," Lipinska said, she means she "makes better decisions about guys." She said, "Let's be honest, in my life, all my huge changes were because someone broke my heart and I'm totally sure that in your life was the same."
So it's more accurate to say that she was Laura, rather than is Laura.
Today, Lipinska is calling from her home in Poland, decked out with lush granite counters (she jokes she is the "princess of darkness"). She's so famous she can't buy toilet paper in her home country without the paparazzi. She wrote her way into a new reality.
And she can't say she's surprised by where she landed.
"I am a great seller," she said, laughing. She recalled the meeting with her publishing house. "I told them everything what’s happened right now, like I will publish my book in Poland; it will be the bestseller; then I will make a movie," she said.
"They looked at me like I was crazy. It shows how big power of affirmation when you believe in yourself and you believe in your plan. You know even sky’s the limit," she said.
As she predicted, Lipinska is very involved with her the movie adaptations. She remembered the search for Massimo, the alluring (and, some would say, unhinged) figure at the center of the films. Two weeks away from shooting, and they still hadn't found an actor.
Lipinska was struck by a headshot of Michele Morrone, an Italian actor without any major credits. After perusing his Instagram for more intel, she invited him out to lunch. At the end of the meal, Morrone asked Lipinska to look at him.
"He took off the glasses and he asked me, 'Are you lost baby girl?'" she said, echoing Massimo's lines in the movie. "I'm so lost. That's how I met. I was in love from the first second."
Massimo is the man of Lipinska’s fantasies turned into a reality. Not quite ready to say goodbye to her leading man, Lipinska also plans to revisit the story from Massimo’s point of view.
“This is the story from the beginning. But this time from the perspective of Massimo,” she said.
Now, Lipinska is thinking of how to use her past to fuel the next project — and this one is a revenge plot.
Lipinska was linked to Aleksander Milwiw-Baron, a Polish rock star, starting in February 2020. They split up, she said, due to the pressures of fame. "We were like power couple here in Poland, and this destroyed my relationship," she said.
Following this experience, Lipinska plans to keep her relationships private, but will still look to past ones for inspiration.
"Revenge is a b----. When you're a movie maker, or when you're a writer, you have a bigger opportunity for revenge. I just finished the script for my new movie, an erotic movie as well," she said.
The main character, she said, is a writer. Her boyfriend? A guitar player. "My ex-boyfriend, he's a little frustrated about it. A little scared. What to do?" Lipinska said, shrugging.
"It was fun for me to create something like that and go back to my memories — and then change them a little," she said. Certainly, it wouldn't be the first time.