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10/9/2013 10:45:07 PM
The Essence of Elle-Always Dreaming of You
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In case you haven’t noticed from reading my books, I’m an armchair psychologist. In fact, psychology was my first major in college until I realized I’d either be sitting listening to people’s depressing problems all day or working in a psych ward. So, I switched back to journalism, which I’d sort of “majored” in during high school.
Anyhoo, while the media has been focused on wayward child stars, for decades, I’ve been intrigued by the psychology involved in the unusual situation of being a mega-star’s child.I’m not sure where it started, but over the years, I heard a few celebrities, like Rosie O’Donnell, mention how angry their children got over the paparazzi harassing them every time they tried to have an outing with their famous parent.Years ago, I remember Princess Diana imploring the paparazzi to please leave her kids alone and let them have a family vacation.
Michael Jackson handled the issue of fame by hiding his kids under blankets and masks when they were together. It made the family look even more bizarre, but it allowed the kids to spend time in public with nannies unharassed.
I ran across a documentary about the children of celebrities while channel surfing one day. Sally Taylor, the daughter of James Taylor and Carly Simon was one of the children of celebrities interviewed. She said as an adult she deals with trust issues stemming from a childhood in which people were always befriending her just to get near her famous parents. She also mentioned the fear her parents endured over the possibility of their children being kidnapped or harmed because of their fame.
When I was creating Elle in Always Dreaming of You, I considered these situations and asked myself, “How does a celeb’s kid build a positive self-image in an environment that’s all about the celebrity?”
When my daughter was young and I’d take her on errands, everyone’s attention went to her. No matter how many times my shy three year old ignored the lady who ran the dry cleaners, she always scrambled around for candy when we walked in, desperate to interact with my cute little girl. It’s typical in our society for people to notice and dote on children. They’re cute, especially when they’re someone else’s.
But in writing the character of Elle Lorrence, I asked myself what I would feel as a child if, wherever I went with my mother, people tried to knock me out of the way or trample me to get to her. Would I feel invisible?
This is why Elle tried to ditch the beautiful name she was born with—Liliana Brigitte Lorrence—and replace it with only the letter “L,” which her mother insisted on spelling “Elle.” She doesn’t see how she could possibly be qualified for a 3-syllable name. Her mother is all that has mattered in her world for as long as she can remember.
And what would one of these star’s kids have to achieve in order to feel like they counted in some way? When your mom or dad (or both) are worshipped by people all over the world, will you ever feel like you’ve done enough?
Some celebrity’s kids handle this by seeking the same type of fame the parent had, but most fall short. Some manage to achieve equal or greater stardom, like Michael Douglas or Kate Hudson.What about the others? How strange is real life when you’ve grown up in a world with a completely different set of rules, standards, and priorities? What would you need to learn if kept sequestered behind iron gates for all of your young life?
And how difficult would it be to make others understand you have your own issues when most people would assume you have a dream life?
My final question was actually the hardest to grapple with as an author. A main character needs to be relatable or sympathetic in some way. Many people believe money will solve all their problems, so I was afraid making Elle Lorrence relatable might be too much of a challenge.However, as women, many of us have struggled with mother relationships. Or have yearned for a life we weren’t sure we could create. Or have fallen in love with someone we thought we could never have.
In the end, I think it was Elle’s journal entries that convinced me she could pull off being the heroine of this book. Even though I know, on some level, that I wrote them, when I read them, I still feel like I was channeling her. It was one of those times as an author when I asked myself if I created the characters or if they created themselves.
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