Judy Blume: Bloom
An interview with Judy Blume
Let's start by talking about Forever. It's a book that has
meant a lot to many people. Did you ever harbor the fear that no one would care
No. Actually, it's the only book I ever wrote because someone asked me. My fourteen-year-old daughter was reading a lot of books that equated sex with punishment. She said, "Couldn't there ever be a book about two nice, smart kids who do it, and nobody has to die?" I thought, yeah, we're not doing anybody any favor by all of this sex linked with punishment. That's really why I wrote it. The best books never grow from an outside influence. They come from deep inside you, and you're telling this story because you have to tell this story. It's always been strange to me that Forever is the book that everyone of a certain age grew up with, and has a story to tell about it.
It certainly was a rite of passage. I believe that Forever was many peoples' first experience with sex.
Well, I guess it's better to have your first sexual experience between the covers of a book, then between the covers of a bed. It's better to read about it first, then do it. I think a lot of people read about sex and satisfy their curiosity, so when the time comes, they know to be more responsible. They understand what's happening.
Do you see any difference between your original audience and kids today?
No. I don't think people change. Everything around us changes, but the human condition doesn't change. What's important to us remains the same, and that's what links everyone together. It's that inside stuff: the need for love and acceptance, and getting to know yourself and your place in the world.
Well, kids today have Beverly Hills, 90210 to help them out with that stuff. Do you watch TV?
I watch some TV. I watch Seinfeld.
Are there any TV shows that you feel are an honest and fair portrayal of kids?
I have not seen Dawson's Creek, which I know is a hot show. I don't know if we've seen a TV show yet that portrays kids as real people, but I could be wrong because I don't watch that much TV. I think there's still room for it. My So-Called Life tried.
This adult view of teenage life is always a little bit weird. It's like lumping all teenagers together, when they're so different. They're as individual as any group of adults. The same thing with younger children too.
Is it a different experience writing for various age groups?
No, I don't find any difference in the writing process, or the thinking process. The only thing is, as characters grow older they have more experiences, and they bring them to your story. It's really a question of whose mind I'm in. After all, I'm not a kid. I have a lot of experience. So, it isn't any harder for me to tell a story from a grown woman's point of view.
In Summer Sisters, I identify with Abby as much as I do with Caitlin and Vix. My husband doesn't like Abby, because he says she's the good girl in me, and he likes the bad girl in me. Vix is the good girl in all of us, and I'm happy she strays sometimes. Caitlin is that bad girl. She's a temptress. She's irresistible, and she plays off that.
Summer Sisters fills that space between your teen and adult writing. For those of us who grew up reading your books, it gives us the sense that we're still growing up with you.
I hope it appeals to various ages. I think teenage girls will like it, but I also see it as much for women my age. After all, we grew up with best friends too. It's as much about mothers and daughters, as well as friends and different kinds of mothers. Tawny is a really tough mother. I wouldn't want to have her. I wouldn't want to have Phoebe either. You don't get to choose who your parents are.
I just re-read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? Margaret's snips of talking to God are similar to the internal monologues of Caitlin and Vix in Summer Sisters.
I have always liked to do that. I love to get inside characters' heads, because what we think is not necessarily what we say or do. Discovering those voices is when the book started to come together. Last summer, on my very last re-write of twenty re-writes, the men's voices came into it for the first time. I let Sharkey, Daniel, Gus and Bru talk. I realized that we were getting a whole other view of Caitlin. Summer Sisters is really her story, but we can't know anything about her, because she doesn't let us, except through other characters. That's when it started to happen. I can't wait to do it again. I don't know what took me so long to realize that these guys had to have their say.
You've been known for your work against censorship. How can your readers help you carry that torch?
Take a firm stance. If you give in to one person's demand, you will find yourself giving into many peoples' demands, and we will be left with nothing. You can join the National Coalition Against Censorship. They publish a wonderful newsletter, and the dues are very inexpensive. They're a small, wonderful organization, that is out there helping the little guys--the teachers, librarians, students and parents who are under siege--and doing a brilliant job of it. Be aware. Don't look the other way. It can happen in your community. It only takes one censor to frighten a community, but also, it only takes one really committed person to make a huge difference.
Has there been an alleviation of censorship through the years?
No, it's worse. Definitely worse. In the '70s when I started to write, there was very little of it. Maybe an individual here and there. Now we have politicians who run for office so they can get control, and frighten people. Censors work off fear, and fear is contagious.
Is there anything you'd like to do, that you haven't done yet?
I've pretty much lived out my fantasies. I don't know what that leaves. I'd like more of the same, I'd like to be able to keep writing. I know one thing: I get bored writing the same book, so I always look for challenges. That could get me into trouble, but it's what I like to do.
I would love to see you write a screen play.
Screen plays are really different. I would love to see Summer Sisters filmed. My son Larry is in the film business, and he says, "We'll do it together." I don't know. We've tried working together, and it doesn't always work. Although we adore each other, I'm not sure we should combine our work. My daughter just wrote a book that will be published next spring. I'm very excited about that.
Is there anything you would want to change about the books you've written?
I tend to live in the present. Except for yesterday's interview on Good Morning America, I'd like to change that. About the books that I've written...Iggy's House. It was a very early experience. I like to think I can do a better job than that now. However, I try to be easy on myself. Otherwise, you're always saying, "Only if, only if...." I pick up the books sometimes and I'm very pleased. It's as if a stranger wrote them and I think, how did I do that? For the most part, I'm very happy. I'm very happy with my wonderful readers too.
First published in Bold Type 1998. Reproduced by permission of Random House publishing.
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.
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