The Beatrice Interview

Galaxy Craze

"I didn't like the image of the writer; nothing appeals to me about it."

interviewed by Ron Hogan

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You might have spotted Galaxy Craze--and, yes, that is her real name --at various points in the 1990s, in supporting roles in films like Husbands and Wives and Nadja. But in her debut novel, By the Shore, she gets to stand front and center and display her remarkable talent more fully than ever before. The novel is told from the perspective of May, a twelve year-old girl in an English seaside town whose mother, Lucy, runs a not-so-busy guesthouse when she's not busy living the single life. May bravely juggles the pressures of school, her classmates, and family life, and Craze tells her story with keen insight into the emotional tenor of a child's life, and a sympathy that allows for the possibility of joy even in the midst of so much turmoil. Many of the novel's turning points come up very subtly within seemingly quiet moments. You can't point to any particular scene in By the Shore and say, "This is where the bomb goes off." It's just something you have to watch for, in scenes that seem everyday and ordinary, but end up carrying a great deal of emotional weight.

RH: I've read in a few articles that even when you were working in the movies, you really wanted to be a writer.

GC: It wasn't like I said, "I want to be a writer." You know how you want to be someone because you like the way they live, or you read about actors and you think, "Oh, that sounds like fun"? Acting is more appealing because it's more fun; you get to meet people and you get a lot of attention. I never see writers in magazines, and when I do they're always dumpy and depressing looking. I didn't like the image of the writer; nothing appeals to me about it. But I did like to write short stories, and I knew that was what I was good at. Do you understand the difference? I didn't say I wanted to be a writer, I just knew that's what I like to do.

RH: And you were writing all that time.

GC: I just started writing short stories in college, and then I didn't know what I was going to do, so I applied to graduate school. I wouldn't have gone if I hadn't gotten a full scholarship, because it's just too expensive and not worth it. It's not like law school where you'll make that money back.

RH: You mention in the back of the book that you took Mary Gordon's class several times. Why did you keep going back?

GC: She loves to read; she would read us passages in class and start crying, she's so moved by really good writing. And she was the only good writing teacher at Barnard, so I just kept taking her class over and over. She taught me so much.

RH: You moved out of your New York apartment, moved back in with your mom, and just holed up in your room and wrote the novel. What prompted that?

GC: I had been writing for a long time, but only sometimes, around doing other jobs and auditioning for movies. It had been fun, but I was beginning to hate auditioning and didn't want to do it, but I felt like I had this opportunity, and I kept thinking, what if the next script is good? That kept me going; that and I knew that I was lucky to even be doing it.

But then I found out that my agency had a New York office and an LA office and the man who owned the office in LA was embezzling money, so the whole agency closed. My agent sounded really upset, but I knew right away what I was going to do. When you have too many choices, you get kind of scattered, but now I had no choice. Except I knew that I wouldn't be able to afford my apartment if I wasn't in New York working. So I rented it out, moved back in with my mom in Elmhurst, and wrote from nine to nine every day.

RH: But you had the basic material at that point?

GC: I had written already about a hundred pages, and it took me like 8 months to finish it.

RH: Where did this story begin for you?

GC: It was the image of a house, a bed and breakfast that used to be an all-girls school house. And it was just so big, so much could happen in it. All these different passageways and different rooms, and it was a hotel where anyone could come to stay.

RH: Is the story based on your childhood?

GC: No, it's not. I wasn't even in England. I moved here when I was seven or eight. We definitely didn't live in a bed and breakfast. If I had done anything interesting to write about, I might have done that, but there was nothing that I could think of that had happened in my own life that's a good story.

I told someone once it's the life story I would have liked to had led had we stayed in England. You know when you move around a lot, you sometimes think, what would it have been like if I had stayed in this place? But my life was nothing like that, even though people started saying, "Well, you have a younger brother and you don't see your father that much, so this must be an autobiography." It's not autobiography in that way, it's just writing about that kind of experience. A lot of people don't see their fathers that much. So the story is emotionally true, but not physically true.

RH: How hard was it for you to write from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl?

GC: It didn't seem very hard. I feel like I'm really immature. I feel really different in a lot of ways from when I was twelve, but my basic perceptions of things don't seem that different, except now I'm used to things in life. I know and understand things; they aren't such a surprise. So it's more fun for me to write from the point of view of a kid because things can be more dramatic. And I hate when I'm reading a book and I have to look up a word in the dictionary, or when I can't figure out who's saying what. So I don't write like that. I write pretty simply.

RH: Has your experience as an actress helped you adjust to all the attention that's being played to you as a published writer?

GC: I don't really know that there's attention. No one would ever recognize a writer on the street. It's totally different. My friends keep comparing this publicity tour to a movie junket. But it's more like work, and you don't want to take advantage of your publishing company; you don't want to fuss about your hotel room or not flying first class. I want people to pay attention to the book, but at the same time, I don't want to know how it's doing. I never look at Amazon. I don't want to look because I know the sales rank's not that high.

Sometimes I feel the pressure of needing to make this book sell really well. I get really depressed because I don't know if certain magazines or newspapers that are really important are going to review the book But that's only sometimes. Most of the time I'm like, I don't care. Then again, I really like my publisher so I want it to do well for them. But I know it will be fine because I know it's a good book.

RH: I was struck by the comment you made in another interview, that you would pretty much be happy with a day job, stuffing envelopes at your publisher's office or something like that.

GC: I found a better job, organizing someone's photographs. She takes tons of pictures of her children and she doesn't put them in albums. I've already been doing it for two months and it's an ongoing job because she's always taking pictures. I do that when I'm in New York, and it's really fun. It clears my mind and no one can get in touch with me except for my publicist.

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BEATRICE Suggested further reading
Joy Nicholson | Complete Interview Index | Elizabeth Gilbert

All materials copyright © Ron Hogan