Aussie interview with memoir writer and actor, Bella Vendramini. She joins us during Aussie August month on the Australian Bookshelf to answer my questions about her memoirs: Biting the Big Apple (my review) and Naked in Public (my review).Check out the Giveaway at the end to win one of four copies of Naked in Public.
I’m an actress and author, a Kiwi and an Aussie. Born on Waiheke, a small island off New Zealand, from where my family moved to sunny Brisbane at 12 and onto Sydney at 16. I’ve been living in New York for the last seven years, working as an actress and getting in and out of trouble. I chronicled my adventures in New York in Biting The Big Apple and then the sequel Naked In Public which is out now. I’m 5.9”, have an unhealthy addiction to chocolate and my favourite colour is a kind of cream white (like the filling in a pastry) I’m a hopeless dancer, and I like eating Colombines underwater (random but true.)
What inspired you to write about your life and share it with the world?
I did an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald about my acting work and it mentioned that I’d been accepted into the Strasberg Institute in New York to study acting. A publisher at Hachette Australia, Bernadette Foley read the article and thought I sounded like a bit of a live wire so contacted my agent and asked me to write a memoir about my experiences over there. It was an extraordinary opportunity – and I said ‘yes’ immediately – although what I think I actually said was ‘Oh my god, oh my god, yes, yes, oh my god, yes!’ but not before I entered ‘how to write a memoir’ into Google and pressed return.
You are so lucky to be scouted by a publisher! Have you received any backlash from friends or family who have been mentioned in your memoirs?
My mum Rosie Scott is an author and I remember book shopping when I was a teenager and stumbling across a book calledMother Love, a collection of stories from Australian writers about their children. In it was this blow by blow gruesome account of my birth. Blood, debris – the lot. My adolescent incredulity was resounding to say the least (despite my now looking at it as an adult and seeing it to be a phenomenally good piece) thus my little rule that I won’t write about somebody unless they are forewarned, and if they’d like to have a pseudonym then I’ll do that too. So most people are happy to be in the book. In fact they often ask what they can do to get in the next one. (‘Run down the street naked’ is a favourite of mine)
Sounds like a very smart rule! Your adventures in the U.S are witty, fun and sometimes sad- what was the most fun about writing your memoirs and what was the hardest?
I adored writing the memoir as I was living the US experience. It was like having a non judgemental best friend (who thought I was really funny and interesting) whom I could confide in about my adventures and many, many misadventures. The hardest part was re-living the bad experiences. Often with challenging times in life, I’d sooner scurry them to a back recess of my mind and get over them as quickly as possible and move on (denial being a fabulous technique) but I couldn’t, I had to go back into those painful parts and relive them. I suppose though, it was probably quite cathartic and healing in the long run. And ultimately if exposing my mistakes makes it easier for my readers to avoid them in their own lives, then it’s all worth it I think.
Showing your flaws certainly makes it easier for the reader to connect with you. In Biting the Big Apple, you introduce us to the charming and wealthy James that you quickly fall in love with. This relationship becomes a rollercoaster ride for you characterised by alcoholism and emotional abuse (at its worst) and I wonder how you make sense of that time when you look back on it now?
It’s strange, looking back on it now I almost see myself as another person, a younger sister perhaps, a girl full of love and idealism, probably who rushed into things a little quickly without the experience of foresight. But I guess we’ve all done that sort of thing. James was a wonderful man in many respects but filled with demons, too. I see now that alcoholism is a disease and in some ways he was as much at the mercy of it as I was.
There are plenty of celebrities that you meet and socialise with in New York and L.A, are there any that have had lasting impressions on you or who you still keep in contact with?
Sculling schnapps with Patricia Arquette was pretty fabulous. I was really quite taken with her, a thoroughly kind, intelligent and insightful person. Also Quentin Tarantino is a total favourite (I mean, come on!) He’s exciting, kind, enthusiastic and a lot of fun to be with. Definitely a once in a life time sort of friend.
QT sounds like a lot of fun! What was it like to get a publishing contract in Australia?
I think my first response was to scream, jump on the couch, fist in the air and start hollering “bless Jee-sus! Thank you looooord!” And the fact that I’m not the slightest bit religious didn’t dissuade me at all. Yes, it was a lovely feeling, a real life changing feeling, one that I’m still very grateful for.
What do you miss the most about Australia when you are away?
My family. We’re very close and other than phone calls and little trips to see each other, we miss each other a great deal. Plus Vegemite, beaches and people who know that a thong isn’t an uncomfortable item of underwear.
The U.S lifestyle certainly would have taken some getting used to, especially with all the lingo misinterpretations! What can we expect from Naked in Public?
A lot more mayhem. I went to thirty or so cities in a few months, got married, split up, dug up a concentration camp – it really was a rollercoaster ride.
That’s a pretty good sum up for Naked in Public which I thought was a fun and entertaining read. What’s next for you?
Can’t wait to read it! What advice would you give to a budding writer wanting to break into the memoir genre?
Trust your own voice first and foremost. Secondly, it sounds clichéd – but write from the very cockles of your heart. Take no prisoners – be brave and write with courage. Remember, too, don’t feel you have to subscribe to any traditional style – do what works best for you. My mum gave me some good advice that has stuck ‘trust yourself’ she told me – sometimes hard to do, often hard to do really, but completely worth it in the end.
Acting or writing? (If you could only choose one!)
Noooo, I can’t. Please don’t make me!
Aussie summer or U.S summer?
Both. I’m a summer harlot, I love it anywhere I can get it.
Fold or scrunch? (Ok, i know this one is random!)
Fold for fresh ‘n clean bed sheets and scrunch for bad writing on paper.
Thanks for stopping by Bella and answering my questions!
Please fill out this form to enter: ENTRY FORM THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED
Terms: This giveaway is international. You must complete a form and follow this blog to be entered in the draw (I will be checking if you win!). Entries close on August 31st. The winner will be drawn via random.org and announced on September 1st, 2011. The winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is drawn.
For another chance to win a copy of Naked in Public, enter the Mega Aussie Author GIVEAWAY.