Interview with Judi
My Dad used to despair that I'd never "settle down" and have a real job.
I have to admit my experiences in the work force are somewhat "checkered" - and that's putting it mildly. One constant, however, was that I always sought after adventure. It was one of the reasons why I enlisted in Her Majesty's Royal Navy, only to discover that women sailors (known then as "wrens") never went to sea.
I hoped the local newspaper might offer some excitement-at the very least, the odd murder or two. So spent two years tucked away in beautiful Devon writing obituaries.
This was followed by a wonderful job in an antique shop specializing in seventeenth century oak furniture, a spell as a secretary to a Formula One World Champion, a hostess in a nightclub, and then nearly a decade as a flight attendant for both commercial airlines and private jet charters.
With lots of free time down-route, I started to keep extensive diaries that-alarmingly-began to take on a life of their own, straying so far from the truth I wondered if I was suffering from schizophrenia. It slowly dawned on me that writing kept my insatiable need for both personal and professional drama in check. I started to study screenwriting, devouring books on plot, structure and character. I read every script I could get my hands on. Somewhere along the way, I discovered I was much happier when writing. Even content! Besides, my characters were far better equipped to deal with broken hearts and the ups and downs of life than I!
While working onboard a private overseas flight, I was lucky enough to speak with Steven Spielberg about what it takes to follow one's dream. Aside from dedication, sacrifice and passion, he also said that if I was really serious about writing, then I must act on it and not just talk about it. This was echoed by another film director friend who insisted I move to Los Angeles immediately if I was serious about breaking through as a writer.
In all my travels, there was one city I was adamant I never wanted to visit, let alone live. Yes. You've guessed. Los Angeles. I was born in the English countryside and grew up with a passion for horses. But suddenly, events began to unfold in a way I never could have predicted. The aircraft I worked on was sold, the owner of the sixteenth century cottage I rented decided she wanted it back, and by then, I was a single mother-and broke. I hate to sound trite, but it was as if the universe was holding up a huge sign, and it was unmistakable: Go for it.
Before making a hasty decision, I decided to test the waters. My daughter and I flew out to visit her godparents in Manhattan Beach, California. While there, oddly enough, I was offered a job as a receptionist at New Line Cinema in L.A. ... and, "Could I start on Monday?" Back at home, my parents were horrified. In their minds, I was moving to the land of guns, earthquakes, fires and mudslides. My father was exasperated: "Just to answer the bloody telephone?"
Moving quickly was, in hindsight, the best thing I could have done. If I'd really thought about it, I'd never have taken that leap of faith. There were so many things I hadn't considered. I had no idea I'd need good credit to rent a house, or how to get my ten-year old into an American school. I was even told that people ate cats in certain parts of the city. My poor kitties were so traumatized by the journey, and I was racked with guilt on all fronts. There was also the question of a green card. Ironically, I eventually got one because of my knowledge of the now defunct Pitman Shorthand I had to learn from my days as a cub reporter.
For the next few years I worked for several film companies in a variety of positions-international sales, editor of the Warner Brothers in-house newsletter, and eventually, I became a story analyst. I was still writing screenplays, but none of my own work got produced. I got close a few times, but I finally decided movies were not for me. I figured it was time to go home.
It's strange how life gives you what you want when you've really let go. The British quarantine laws for animals were horrendous: any pets returning to the UK had to stay in small wire cages for six months; however, those laws were soon to be lifted. I loved my cats so much that I could not even consider torturing them with such unkind treatment. I decided that I would move once the laws changed and they could come home with me off the plane. I knew it wouldn't be long, and while I waited, I found a great job as an executive assistant for the chairman of a busy advertising company where-thirteen years later--I still work to this day. I also enrolled in the UCLA Writer's Program and switched to long-form narrative, just to keep my imagination in check!
It's also strange that when you aren't looking for love, it finds you. The quarantine laws were lifted, but in the process of waiting, I met my future husband in Los Angeles. Shortly afterwards, I landed an agent and a three-book deal for Vicky Hill-and the rest, as they say, is history.
One thing I've learned through it all is that "overnight success" actually takes about ten to fifteen years of consistent hard work. There are no short cuts to achieving your dreams.
So, Dad, I suppose you could say I've finally settled down ... though whether he'd define writing, as a "real" job will always remain a one of life's great mysteries.