I'm so excited guys! One of my closest writing friends is taking over the blog today. Kristen's working on a historical fiction about Judy Garland, and she's got some great insights to share.
What first inspired you to write about Judy?
I started my historical fiction novel based on Judy Garland during my last semester of college. It was for an Advanced Writer’s Studio class. I was inspired to write about her due to the fact that most people only know two things about her; one that she was in The Wizard of Oz, and two that she died from a drug overdose. I feel that these two things overshadow the rest of her life and her true talents as a singer and an actress.
This seems to be especially true of those in my generation. Many people don’t appreciate the golden era of movies and the stars of that time and are missing out on a lot of great movies. There are so many fun facts and circumstances surrounding her movies that I feel should be shared with the public.
For instance, there were a lot of issues surrounding The Wizard of Oz. Knowing the behind-the-scenes troubles and triumphs help appreciate the movie even more. She is often misunderstood, and I wanted to show another side to her that many don’t know. She was an amazing talent and, despite her demons, produced marvelous works of art in her movies.
Since Judy Garland is a very well-known person, how do you blend your own fictional voice with historical fact? What sources do you use to do your research?
As I write her, I find myself reflected in certain aspects of her personality. All writers know that it’s almost impossible to keep flecks of themselves completely out of their characters. I wonder sometimes if she sounds too much like me, and that I am exposing pieces of myself that I wouldn’t want others to see.
Being that it’s written in first person, it takes a lot to put myself into her head. It can get exhausting to both understand her and put myself in her place. Research tells me what happened to her, but it’s up to me to figure out how that affects her so I can make her thoughts believable.
I pull my research from many different sources. There are three books that have been especially helpful which are Get Happy; The Life of Judy Garland by Gerald Clarke, Judy Garland; The Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Legend by Scott Schechter and Life is Too Short by Mickey Rooney. Both Clarke’s and Rooney’s books tell great stories of what happened to Judy.
Schechter’s book gives literally a day by day account of what happened in her life. It is invaluable for figuring out when filming began and ended for what movies. This helps to match up her personal and professional lives.
I also take inspiration from her movies themselves, as well as the movie adaptation of the book Me and My Shadows, by her daughter Lorna Luft. IMDB.com is great for finding additional movie trivia.
What's your advice to other aspiring writers?
Know that you’re going to feel like you’re failing. I have been struggling to finish my book about Judy for years now. It doesn’t get any easier, but you need to just keep pushing through it or take a break or two and work on something else. Writing is by no means easy. It’s hard work and sometimes I don’t want to do it, but the pride I get over knowing that it’s something I created is amazing.
Also, don’t be afraid to send out stories. I just had my first short story called “Wishful Thinking” published. It’s hard to start sending stuff out, but you have to do it. Once you do, it doesn’t seem so scary anymore. When I got the acceptance, I had the thought, “Wow, I guess I really can write!”
What's your favorite part of writing? Most challenging?
My favorite part about writing is creating something that I want to share with others. I want to make it the best I can, which is a huge driving force behind finishing something. At the same time, that is also the most challenging: calling something “finished.” I tend to come up with a lot of ideas, which pulls me back and forth between projects so I have a hard time finishing one thing. I’ve also noticed that half the battle is just simply opening the file on my computer, because once it’s open, I want to work on it.
Since I've known her, Kristen has always loved the old classics, whether it's movies or books. Her short story on Frank Sinatra, called Wishful Thinking, was just published at Allegory. You can read it in its entirety here.