#11

Summer2017

INFocus

Just Being Margaret

As an avid reader and collector of filmstar biographies, I was delighted by Margaret Cardillo’s 2011 biography of Audrey Hepburn, Just Being Audrey. It is written for children and exquisitely illustrated by Julia Denos in images that perfectly capture the elegance and charm of Ms Hepburn.
I interviewed the author to find out more…

Why Audrey?

For my 6th grade character parade I had to choose an historical figure to dress up as and do a biographical report on. My mother suggested Audrey Hepburn. I had never heard of her so we spent the day watching Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffanys. I fell in love with her. I tease my mom that she was so lucky that Audrey had become my role model instead of some, as she liked to call them “flash in the pan.” I wanted to dress and act and even talk like Audrey. Years later I was an associate editor in children’s publishing and I was walking down the street in Manhattan and saw a picture of her in a shop window. I knew enough about her life to know that it was inspiring. And I loved the idea of introducing a new generation of, in particular, girls to Audrey. She really used her fame for all the right reasons. And at a time when that sort of a role model is at a premium, I just saw the book coming together.

Apart from Audrey, who are your role models?

I honestly don’t have room to list all of my role models. I call on all kinds of people at any different moment in a given day.

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People who are always with me are my parents, and my paternal grandmother (who is also my namesake). My mom is one of the strongest women I know. My father is all around one of the greatest people ever on earth. My grandmother was so much of what I aspire to be: lovely, kind, smart, fun, full of life until the very last moment, and an exceptional cook.

As for role models that are strangers to me, honestly too many. I wouldn’t know where to start. I think that is one of the great things about this series is that I am exploring so many amazing women’s lives. Some are very well known to the public, and some have hidden gem stories. But I take a piece of their lives with me after I read about them. And that’s exactly what I hope the books will do for young readers.

Who else are you planning to feature in the series?

The second in the series is Jackie Kennedy, and it will be out in Spring 2018. We are working on revealing the next subject very soon!

The pictures in your book work so perfectly with the words. How did you find the right illustrator for your work? Will Julia Denos be illustrating the rest of the series?

I know. The pictures are just PERFECT. Our incredible editor, Alessandra Balzer at Balzer + Bray found Julia and sent me her website. I knew instantly that she was the perfect person for the manuscript. She just blew me away with her final work- I want to live in her illustrations. She is in the midst of finishing the Jackie Kennedy book right now!

Do you have a favourite era or an era that holds a particular interest or fascination for you?

For some reason, I did a lot of research and study of the late 1950s and 1960s America in high school and college. I was fascinated by that post-war era. The hope and damage and rebirth of it all. I think it was a very interesting time to be a woman in America.

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I am also a sucker for anything 1920s, flapper-esque – the dancing, the music, the costumes, the literature, the glasses – the whole thing. What a fun, wild time that must have been.

Could we find out a bit more about you? Other interests, hobbies, fascinating facts about Margaret Cardillo?!

I’m married with two small children and we have one big dog whom we all adore. We love to go for family walks. I love film and, in fact, teach film and screenwriting. I am originally from Naples in Florida, went north for school and work, and eventually settled back down in Miami. We live surrounded by a lot of trees and wild peacocks. I come from a big Italian family where we all eat and talk too much. I love to watch sports- any kind of sporting event and I love chocolate.

How / why did you become an author?

I’ve known I wanted to be an author since I was in elementary school. I was cleaning out my childhood bedroom a few years ago and came across letters I had sent to American magazines asking if they’d publish my stories. I took a short story writing class during the summer before my senior year in high school and it was electrifying. I gobbled up every single writing class I could take at Boston College. When I graduated I gravitated, not surprisingly, to publishing. I loved being an editor. But the moment I came up with the idea for the Audrey Hepburn biography for children, I knew the only person to write it was me. I loved being an editor so much, that I didn’t have time to do anything else. But I also couldn’t just quit and be a writer. So I applied for a fellowship to get my MFA in Creative Writing and I got accepted. I basically rearranged my life so that I could take a crack at writing. I published my first book while still in the program. And though life has gotten a little in the way of my writing goals (some wonderful- like my children, some not as good…) I still try and write or plot or conceive of ideas and stories every day.

 

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Katrina Simpson is a book obsessive with a passion for vintage gloves and film noir. She has a fascination with the Second World War, particularly the resistance movements and the Special Operations Executive (SOE).