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
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
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
Is there anything you would want to change about the books you've
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.