A note from Headbuzzer: Kerry Winfrey from HelloGiggles reviewed Starstruck by Rachel Shukert! We've crossposted Kerry's review below, or you can visit the original post here! After reading her review, why not chat with Rachel about it on her board?
Starstruck and an Interview with Rachel Shukert!
by Kerry Winfrey
You might know writer Rachel Shukert from her autobiographical essay collection, Have You No Shame?:And Other Regrettable Stories. Or you might know her from her memoir, Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour. Or you could also know her from her hilarious Smash recaps on Vulture. As of March 12th, you can also know her as a YA author. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Starstruck and I completely fell in love with it. If you’re a fan of old Hollywood, glamour, drama or just good writing, chances are you’ll love it, too.
Starstruck follows 3 girls trying to make it in Hollywood in the late 1930s. Margaret Frobisher is just a regular girl in Pasadena until she’s discovered by an agent, turned into Margo, and thrust into the Hollywood life. Gabby Preston is desperate to be a star, and she’ll do anything (and take any pills) necessary to make it happen. Amanda Farraday is a sexy and glamorous actress who’s running from her dicey past. As all three girls attempt to catch their big breaks, Hollywood is consumed with the mystery surrounding its biggest star, Diana Chesterfield. Where is she? And does Margo’s leading man (and huge crush) Dane Forrest know more than he’s letting on?
In a lot of ways, Starstruck reminded me of Valley of the Dolls, but without a scene where Neely O’Hara strolls down the street while saying, “Boobies, boobies, boobies! Nothin’ but boobies!” (that’s actually a line from the film version of Valley of the Dolls, but whatever. It’s still my favorite scene from anything ever and I can’t pass up an opportunity to mention it).
Starstruck is an insanely compelling read, and not just because it’s fun and exciting and glamorous (although it is all of those things). I’m not a huge old Hollywood buff, but Rachel Shukert includes so many details about the culture and time period that it’s impossible not to get sucked in. Not only are there mentions of real-life films, actresses and directors, but there are historical details, too. For example, you can tell who the real jerks in the book are because they don’t think that Hitler guy sounds so bad.
We can only hope Starstruck is the next YA series to be made into a movie, because if there’s one thing all the current vampire/post-apocalyptic/zombie movies and television shows are missing, it’s glamour. Yes, Edward Cullen is sparkly, but that’s not exactly the same thing.
Note from Headbuzzer: We've crossposted two of our favorite questions from kerry's interview, but not all of them - you can read the full interview here!
Kerry: You’ve already conquered several other genres of writing (memoir, plays, amazing Smash recaps), so what prompted the move into YA?
RS: You know, I have always really wanted to write fiction. Novels were always something I had in my head. And with Starstruck, it wasn’t so much something I thought about in terms of genre as that I had this idea that I really, really thought would make a great YA series. I remember thinking about the old studio system, and how it was sort of this monolithic thing where everyone was supposed to know their place, and were sort of looked after/controlled by these paternalistic executives, and structurally, it seemed so much like high school. So YA felt like a natural fit that way; also, because in this era, the actresses were so young. They don’t seem it, but then you watch one of those movies and you’re shocked to realize that, say, Judy Garland or Lana Turner or whoever made it when she was only, like, nineteen. They were just girls, navigating this incredibly adult, incredibly glamorous, but incredibly dark world. And I liked the idea of these girls kind of defining themselves as women and artists, when Hollywood was also kind of building itself and finding its way. The characters and their world are going through the same growing pains.
Kerry: I loved all the historical details in Starstruck. Did you have to do a lot of research to make sure everything was historically accurate?
RS: Well, I knew a lot about the big things, like the way Hollywood was run, and the historical context and things like that. What I wound up really having to research was all these funny little things, like: hmmm, if Margo was buying a hamburger, how much would it cost? Where would Amanda shop for a dress? What song would Gabby be listening to on the radio in this month in 1938? And you can’t research those in advance, you just have to track them down as they come up. Because you don’t always know you need to know them until you do! I remember literally stopping work for about three days until I could figure out exactly how someone would take the train from Hollywood to New York City, which stations it would stop at, how long it would take. And I got really obsessive about getting things right, because I wanted the world to feel lived in, but not ostentatious. Not like, look at all this stuff I researched, but something that would make you feel like you were really there and you didn’t even think twice about it. Kind of like that Japanese ideal of making the architecture of a building so beautiful that it disappears.
As far as research goes, what were really really helpful were novels with the same setting that were written contemporaneously to the period. Like “What Makes Sammy Run?” by Budd Schulberg–that book was a godsend. Because they’re just there. They go to the right restaurants and they live on the right streets…it’s just totally accurate, because it was written in 1941 and that’s just how things were. And that’s how I wanted my book to feel too
What did you think, Buzzers? You can check out the rest of Kerry's interview here! Stop by Rachel's board and chat with her about what you thought about her interview here!
This post was originally published on HelloGiggles.com on March 11, 2013.