Kristen Buckley is a writer: a screenwriter, a novelist, and now, the proud mother of a memoir, TRAMPS LIKE US: A New Jersey Tale. The title is a nod to the Bruce Springsteen song Born to Run, and it suits both the Kristen's home state as well as the unexpected move the family had to make when she was young. The memoir is true Jersey, and it's enjoyable, and it's all true.
While some kids and teens are itching to get out of the house, Kristen and her siblings seemed to thrive on the chaos that was (somewhat) contained within their four walls. Their quirks and experiences make for good anecdotes, and even when they rib each other, it is good-naturedly. Come to think of it, there are very few arguments detailed in this memoir. Despite their differences, the family members seemed genuinely tolerant - if not accepting - of one another, even when times were tough. Or when one of the kids got a boa constrictor as a pet. Or when two of the kids became black belts while the third lay on the mat listlessly. Or when their classmates had ties to the mob.
Please note that this memoir is for adults and mature teens.
Kristen's in England at the moment, so consider this interview transatlantic.
What is the hardest part of writing a memoir? The easiest?
I suppose the hardest part would be deciding what to leave out. There's a fine line between telling a funny story and finding the stories that apply to the overall theme of your memoir. For me, this memoir was really about my never ending search to find home. In that sense it's really a journey story and everything in it either has to connect to the search for home or to the feelings of alienation that caused me to feel like something of a nomad.
The easiest part... hmm... I don't really think there is an easy part. Though I will say that once I had a rough pass of it, I found the initial edit to go fairly smoothly.
My mom and stepdad have read the whole book and have both been very pleased with it. My sisters have read their chapters and found them to be funny. My brothers haven't read yet, I don't think they want to know what I said about them!
What are your brothers and sisters doing now?
Stacie is a teacher. Jenny works at a university, as does Lee. Nak is just Nak -- he wheels and deals and plays lots of golf!
TRAMPS LIKE US boasts a striking illustration at the start of each chapter. Who provided the internal artwork? Who created the cover art?
Both the illustrations and the cover art were done by an amazing artist named Jamie Pike. He's from England and he works for my publisher.
You speak lovingly of Womrath's bookstore and books that sparked your interest in reading. If you ran a bookstore, which genres would dominate the shelves?
I would say narrative non-fiction and history -- I love history. Historical fiction -- nothing better than a good story set against an epic real life backdrop. And then tons of fiction, but mostly in the vein of magical realism -- that's probably my favorite genre in terms of fiction.
As a teen, you loved The Police. Are you going to see the reunion tour?
I debated [about] going to see them, but then I thought I'd better not, as I'm afraid I'll be disappointed somehow. (Though I wouldn't mind grabbing a cup of coffee with Sting.)
Your memoir covers your entire childhood. Do you plan on writing a memoir about your college years or your early work in the industry?
I will probably write another one about the music scene in New York, but I'm in the middle of another book (fiction) and my brain won't really allow me to go there.
TRAMPS LIKE US ends shortly after you were accepted to the Manhattan School of Music. Do you continue to pursue musical endeavors?
I went to music school and eventually dropped out and then I played guitar for about five or six years before burning out.
How did you land the book deal for your first novel, The Parker Grey Show?
I sold the film rights to The Parker Grey Show before I sold the book rights. Once that deal closed, my film agent sent the book to a number of NY literary agents. That's how I came to be with Richard Pine, the best agent ever. He then put the book on submission and it sold to Penguin shortly thereafter.
You wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for two vastly different comedies: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and 102 Dalmatians. How did you come to be involved with each of those projects?
102 Dalmatians was an odd project for me, but that was the case of a blind deal. Basically, I had written a draft of Carmen Sandiego for Disney and they really loved it, so they decided to tie me up by offering me a deal to write something else, though they didn't say what the other job was. I had to agree to the deal without knowing what it would be. To be honest, I was sort of scared it was going to be Winnie the Pooh! Anyway, it ended up being Dalmatians and it was really great to work with Glenn Close.
How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days was definitely more up my alley. That was a little stick figure of a book that they wanted to turn into a movie. They went out to a lot of writers, but my writing partner (Brian Regan) and I came up with the take that they liked the best, so we got the job.
You also worked on the screenplay for the upcoming film The Accidental Husband. How goes post-production?
Accidental Husband was a script doctoring job for me. It was all about getting the script to a place where Uma felt comfortable moving ahead. After that, it was all about getting a director on board. We worked on it for about a year, then Griffin signed on based on our work. In terms of the finished movie, I haven't seen any of it yet, but I've heard from Jennifer Todd (the producer) that it's turned out great.
What makes a true Jersey Girl?
I'd say a true Jersey Girl has a restless spirit, a burning desire to succeed, and a deep abiding love for water parks.
Last but not least, what are your favorite books?
Lord, there are so many, I wouldn't know where to begin! Well, actually, that's not true -- I love Ignazio Silone's Bread & Wine, Anything and Everything by Salinger (of course). Calvino is also amazing -- and then of course there's Don DeLillo. I think Underworld is a complete and total masterpiece. I'm in awe of that book. Even the first sentence takes my breath away!
We'll close with the Springsteen lyrics:
We gotta get out while we're young
'Cause tramps like us
Baby, we were born to run