Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writing Muse: Victor Garber

I made this new rule for myself.  I should write 1,000 words of my novel every day.
If I keep up with this, I should be finished with my first draft by April.

Now, because this might affect the frequency of my blog posts, I figured I'd tell you just a little about my book.  Starting with my current muse.

As a child, I was in the musical Godspell.  Among all the musicals I did, Godspell was probably my favorite.  Not for any religious reasons, but just because it was so much fun to put on.  The music is great and the costumes were wacky and it was just a good production.  

Now, a lot of the kids in the show rented and watched the movie before auditions, but after the HAIR debacle that occurred in my house (we rented the musical HAIR.  The VHS case said it was rated PG.  We put it in the VCR only to be greeted by a man on a horse singing about masturbation.  VCR was turned off immediately) my parents were reluctant to trust a vintage musical that claimed to be PG.

Needless to say, I didn't get a chance to see the movie until it appeared on my Netflix queue about three/four years ago.  

And imagine my shock when I realize this:

...and this are the same person!

Anyhow.  24 year old Alison was pretty smitten with 1970's 24 year-old Victor Garber.  Something about his smile, I think.  So I got to Googling, like you do, and learned a little bit about him.

The one thing that really stuck out to me was that both his parents died from complications of Alzheimer's, and he had cared for both of them.  Although I didn't know much about Alzheimer's at that time, I did think, Isn't that genetic? and Wow, that must be scary for him.  I wonder if he worries he's going to develop it, too.
After more googling (both about VG and Alzheimer's) I learned that Victor has diabetes--and having diabetes increases your risk of developing Alzheimer's.  Even scarier.
The very thought of someone living with that fear and battling those odds prompted me to write a short story about what the life of someone in a similar situation might be like.  This short story (entitled V, as in Victor.  I couldn't bare to change the first name...it's too strong.) then proceeded to be rejected for publication, and in one of the rejection letters an editor said to me, "This is more of a first chapter than a short story."
Those were the magic words, causing me to take a step back and look at my work.  There was a much larger story here.  So I started to tell it.

I wrote Victor a letter last March, after speaking directly with his agent.  I sent him the first chapter of the novel and a letter explaining what I hoped to accomplish with it (I'm looking to increase awareness of Alzheimer's, clear up common misconceptions and donate some of the books proceeds to the Alzheimer's Association) , and thanking him for inspiring me.  He never wrote back, and while I know actors are extraordinarily busy and probably don't have time to answer the mail of strangers, I did kinda expect some kind of response, even if it was only a form letter.  

Sometimes I still cross my fingers as I go to the mailbox.

I just want to know that he read it.  Even if he thinks it's crap.  Even if it was offensive to him and he's angry that I've taken liberties with his life.

In the time since then, I have been doing extensive research and even interviewing Alzheimer's care givers, family members and patients.  I'm learning so much about this tragic disease, but let me tell you--constructing an accurate portrayal of an Alzheimer's patient is very difficult work.  I just hope I can capture everything in a way that will help people.

So, in case you all were wondering, THAT is why I seem so obsessed with Victor Garber at times.  (I've always based my own characters off of actors to a point, and sometimes watching their movies can help me to visualize how they may act in a certain situation.)

And it's also why I look so bummed when I return from my mailbox.


elenamarija said...

That's a very cool reason to be obsessed with a celebrity.

Little Mel said...

My aunt has Dementia. Alzheimers is a form of Dementia. If you ever want to ask me anything, please do.