Bringing Audrey Hepburn to life – Lucy Holliday
By Lucy Holliday
When people ask me the very best thing about being a writer, there are several answers that spring to mind. The short commute (kitchen to desk, with brief diversion via biscuit tin); the relaxed dress code (well-worn tracksuit bottoms and the World’s Most Comfortable cardigan); the refreshing lack of office politics (though I do, frequently, submit complaints to myself about the ancient-cardigan wearer who keeps getting biscuit crumbs all over my desk).♥
But the best thing of all is this: I get to just make stuff up all day long. It’s fabulous. Like being a toddler who knows how to work a word-processor.
It was a brand new challenge for me, then, to start my new book, A Night In With Audrey Hepburn. Because, as the title suggests, the legendary Audrey herself is part of the plot: the one person, in my fictional universe, that I couldn’t just make up.
And though I’ve always adored Audrey Hepburn’s movies, I didn’t, in all honesty, know very much about her. Much, that is, beyond the iconic images: wearing her Givenchy LBD and diamond tiara, or riding a Vespa with Gregory Peck. The book I had in mind might have been light-as-a-feather romantic comedy, but that didn’t mean I could write a convincing Audrey without a fair bit of not-so-light-as-a-feather research.
So I sort of swan-dived, for weeks, into an Audrey Hepburn-ified (technical term) world. I read, I think, pretty much every decent biography ever written, and quite a few terrible ones. I splurged on books of glossy photos, and turned the pages while staying up to the small hours with my sleep-avoiding baby. (Thank God I had Audrey for company.) I read behind-the-scenes books about the movies she made, and then I re-watched the movies themselves, and then I re-watched them again.
And then I had to start writing about her.
Actually, not just writing about her, but making her a living, breathing character, come to ‘life’ to interact with the heroine, Libby. I won’t lie: it was a struggle. Putting fictional words into the mouth of a real person was the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a writer. Finding Audrey’s ‘voice’, if you want to sound a bit pretentious about it (and I’m sure, with apologies to my long-suffering husband that I frequently did).
I wish I could say that I know how it suddenly clicked into place. Frankly, I’ve no idea. All I know is that once it did, it was like turning on a tap. I could ‘hear’ the voice in my head (don’t tell any passing psychiatrists) and – rightly or wrongly – to me, it sounded like Audrey. Or at least, my fictionalized version of Audrey. Not the real Audrey from all those biographies, nor the actress Audrey playing a part in all those films, but something in between: a sort of Iconic Audrey, a mish-mash of all those gorgeous glossy images, come to life.
And now I’m starting all over again, with Marilyn Monroe, and waiting for that moment when it clicks again…
It’s wonderful, but it’s nerve-wracking. And bloody hell, has it really made me appreciate the parts where all I have to do is make stuff up.
Lucy Holliday’s first major work, a four-line poem called The Postman is Very Good, was completed shortly before her fifth birthday. It was such an enjoyable experience that she has wanted to be a writer ever since. She is married with a daughter and lives in Wimbledon.