1. What inspired you to write about Jean Harlow?
I actually knew very little about her in the beginning other than the highly stylized photos with arched eyebrows and platinum hair that made her appear far older than her years. When I realized that, in the beginning of her fame, she was really just a pretty and idealistic teenager from the Midwest, with a young husband who adored her and an overbearing stage mother who resented him, I knew I had to delve a little more deeply into the details of how she made such a startling transition to the iconic beauty she became, and as I did, bam, I was hooked!
2. I didn't realize how young she was when she died (26!). Why did she have such a big impact?
Mainly I think because she was the first of her kind. Remember, Jean Harlow was famous long before Marilyn Monroe who, in fact, idolized Harlow—and intended to play Harlow in a film that didn’t pan out. A long line of platinum blondes came later but Harlow was the original.
3. So many people know about Jean Harlow. She's fascinating! Do you think it's harder or easier to write about a figure that readers already know rather than one that is brand new to them?
I find it much more difficult—and more daunting—writing about characters that readers already ‘think’ they know. Although I go to great pains and great lengths to do my research, it is far more likely with those books to have people tell me where they think I’ve gone wrong. But after 25 years, and 15 published novels, most of them about real characters from history (the others are under my real name, Diane Haeger) I take very seriously the task, and the privilege, of telling these wonderful stories. If I don’t have a sound basis for including a fact, detail or storyline, I don’t do it.
4. What was your favorite scene to write in the book?
Because I like a challenge, it was probably the scene that takes place between them in San Francisco where she and her husband are trying to keep their fragile marriage together. It was a little haunting for me, honestly, since it really happened, but I thought it was important to include it to show the complexity of their relationship.
5. I've interviewed you before for "Madame Picasso" so let me put a new spin on my usual fifth question: If you could bring three Hollywood stars (from any era) with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
Oh, very nice question, I love it! Hmm… First would have to be Katharine Hepburn. She was such an amazing actress, with a vast and wonderful body of work. I loved her no-nonsense spirit and I so admired the independent life she led privately. How cool would it be to just pick her brain about a million different subjects from navigating the early film industry as a woman to loving a man she could never fully have? Second would be Elizabeth Taylor. With 8 husbands, a fabulously long career and all that drama, that girl could entertain us all on the island! Last would of course be Jean Harlow. She packed quite a lot of living into her very short years here: 3 husbands, an enduring career as the first real Platinum Blonde, and an epic last love. It would be fascinating, I think, to hear some of the stories that biographers don’t know about living life as a young actress in early Hollywood!