When you think of Julie Andrews, you may think of her starring roles on Broadway and in movies. You might recall her in classics like “My Fair Lady,” “The Sound of Music,” “Mary Poppins,” and maybe even “The Princess Diaries.”
What might not be so well-known about Andrews is that she is also the author of over 30 children’s books. Andrews — who turned 84 on Oct. 1 — and her 56-year-old daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, co-wrote these. And most recently, the duo wrote the second volume of Andrews’s memoir, “Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years,” released last week.
The two women discussed their collaboration on the memoir by phone from Andrews’s home on Long Island, N.Y., where they both live, though Andrews travels often for what she calls her “day job.”
Walton Hamilton also co-wrote, without formal credit, the first volume of Andrews’s memoir, “Home: A Memoir of My Early Years,” which was published in 2008 and went on to become a New York Times bestseller.
“It was her first memoir and it was not yet clear how collaborative the process was going to be, or what my role would be. It wasn’t until we completed it and began contemplating a second one that we realized my role was significant enough,” said Walton Hamilton.
“Also, this one includes you — you were born within the second one,” Andrews said.
For the first memoir, Walton Hamilton created what she described as a “very comprehensive timeline” about her mother’s life, interviewing her “for hours and hours and hours” on tape, then transcribing the interviews, which they edited and revised together.
The process was similar for the second volume of the memoir, with one major difference.
“We had the additional bonus of having a number of diaries, journals, datebooks that mom began keeping [in the 1960s],” said Walton Hamilton.
The two also re-watched all of Andrews’s movies together and read other memoirs and biographies from the period of the book, which covers the years 1963 to 1986. In addition, they reviewed Andrews’s correspondence, photo albums, interviews and memorabilia.
“My house is now a mess,” Andrews noted.
They also relied on the Internet for some information, Andrews said, adding, “Thank God for the Internet — when we didn’t know something or couldn’t find something we usually could find it on the Internet.”
Still, the most important source of information were Andrews’s diaries and datebooks.
She began keeping a diary in 1965, when, she said, “things were coming at me so fast and furiously that I needed to write to sort my head out.”
This writing, Walton Hamilton noted, also coincided with Andrews beginning “a process of self-reflection” that included starting therapy.
To write the second volume of the memoir, Hamilton read every diary her mother wrote “cover to cover,” flagging pages with possibly important information with Post-it notes.
They sorted through dozens of photographs in albums Andrews kept, eventually winnowing the selection down to 41 — their editor counseled them not to choose “ones that you’re known for,” Andrews said.
“We spent many days with hundreds of photos spread out all over the kitchen, the living room and dining table trying to figure out which ones that were the last candidates,” Walton Hamilton said.
It took Andrews and Walton Hamilton around three years to complete the memoir, working mostly in Andrews’s home.
Andrews says she found writing the book — the first draft was 600 pages, and the final version is 352 pages — “exhausting.”
“Some parts of the book that reflect some personal challenges for mom, those were painful to revisit and for us to discuss and go through together,” said Walton Hamilton. “On days we had to deal with something difficult — for example, her mother’s passing — I would try to structure the day so that we could tackle that at the beginning of the day, while she was stronger and fresher, and then leave on a high note at the end of the day.”
Walton Hamilton, who has a 23-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, described their writing process as “cathartic in some way,” explaining that she remembered many of the events in the book “from a child’s perspective.”
“Once you become a parent, you realize how nobody teaches you to be a parent, you never feel like a grown-up. I did suddenly realize that all those years that I was thinking she had it all together and knew it all, she was muddling through just like everyone does,” said Walton Hamilton. “[She] was young, confused, needed guidance. It was interesting to realize how young she was, how young we all are.”
For her part, Andrews said she was “reminded vividly by writing the book, reading all the proofs, just how hard I actually had worked and how much I accomplished in any given day, considering it was family as well as work on film.”
“She kept on saying, ‘Good God, no wonder I was so exhausted,’” Walton Hamilton added.
Walton Hamilton — who is an editor, producer and arts educator — said she often turns to her mother for parenting advice: “Mostly what I’ll do is I’ll share my anxieties or my concerns, and very often Mom will weigh in and say, ‘I find that this, too, shall pass.’”
“There’s a beginning, a middle and an end to all of that,” Andrews said.
Will there be a third volume to the memoir? Andrews says she isn’t sure yet. The two women are busy for now. They are developing a podcast about children’s books that will debut next spring. And Andrews will voice the character of Lady Whistledown in the new Netflix series, “Bridgerton,” inspired by Julia Quinn’s historical romance series of the same name.