Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Call Me Zelda: A Novel In Progress

For the last few months I've been developing an idea I had for a novel. Before we dive into the details, it's important to note the following facts which my loved ones will attest to:

1. I was born in the wrong age
2. I am obsessed with biographies
3. I am a writer, through and through.

There are many periods of time, in different locations, that always pique my interest: Ireland's fight for Independence, The French Revolution, Churchill's political comeback during WWII, The Civil Rights Movement of the US, The collapse if the 20th century studio system in Hollywood... I could ramble on indefinitely.

But ever since I picked up my first F Scott Fitzgerald book, the world he mirrored in his literature took charge of a special place in my heart; The Jazz Age. A time of social revolution, disenchanted young men and women and a world I immersed myself in with Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Pound, Stein and all my other friends from another life.

The release of Baz Lurhmann's The Great Gatsby, based on Fitzgerald's most popular work, brought the 1920s to a new generation; music, fashion and themed parties abounded throughout 2013 as we collectively fell in love with the high-glamour low-moral depicted.

But one person, above any of the others mentioned, not only defined the age, she was the original Jazz baby: Zelda Fitzgerald (nee Sayre).

                                                                  Photo: Wikipedia 

Not nearly as much work has been devoted to this luminary and of the work that does exist, none of it correctly captures her essence. For those of you that have heard of Mrs Fitzgerald, you probably only know her as Scott Fitzgerald's crazy wife. History has been undeservedly unkind to Zelda.

She is a woman who has always fascinated me, inspired me and following any publication that claimed to be a definitive look at this undervalued genius, left me with more questions than answered.

If I were a religious gal who believed in reincarnation, I would venture that the intense connection I feel to Zelda Fitzgerald might be more than coincidence. As it is, the only reason I can give for my relationship to a complicated woman I've never met is because in many ways, Zelda is me and I am her. How we view the world, our reactions to different situations, a yearning to scorch the world with our presence, a difficult battle against the demons in our minds... She blends into my now while I thirst to learn more about her then.

It is with this connection and disappointment at previous publications that the idea for my novel came into my head: the story of the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, written in her voice, using facts and verified events mixed with a deeper emotional expression of the woman who made it - Scott's success, the beginning steps in the liberation of women - possible. Who was both muse and mother, the life and soul of parties stretching across decades. A woman who was prone to fits of depression and despair but was also tremendously strong and creative. A woman who has been largely undervalued and misunderstood.

My novel defies classic genre, the best way to describe it would be faction. The closest any other writer has come to my plot is Therese Anne Fowler's book on Zelda; which I just finished and was left saddened by how wrong she got it, despite years of research devoted to it. So with a steady confidence, I know I can do better. I will do better. Zelda deserves it, and I have yet to find a page that refuses ink. Hopefully, my ink-sodden pages will do more justice to this jazz age heroine of excess.

Mucho Love, 

Vicky xoxo


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