By Carolyn Edlund
Marilu Norden is an impressive lady. A multi-talented actress, artist, and author in her eighties, she has combined her interests to create a novel about the art world. Artsy Shark caught up with her recently to find out more about her life and work.
AS: How did you become interested in writing about art?
MN: Art has always fascinated me—from the age of four, when I drew a red-crayoned schoolhouse on the blue wall of my room, to now, at age 88 in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I create brightly hued canvases of Native Americans, their pueblos and the landscape of the Southwest. Back in 1989, a move to New Mexico immersed me in the Santa Fe art scene and introduced me to the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, an artist with a very strong spirit.
Ten years later, I moved to California and the indomitable O’Keeffe spirit followed me, permanently permeating my muse. It was during this time that the character of Adelaide Moran was born. Moran—a talented but demanding painter—would eventually become the protagonist of my second novel, THE GHOST PAINTER, a paranormal thriller set in the art worlds of New York City and Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.
I had already written an internationally award-winning debut novel, UNBRIDLED: A TALE OF A DIVORCE RANCH. But it wasn’t until THE GHOST PAINTER that I found myself actually writing about art, and learning more regarding the subject than I had ever anticipated—even though as an artist, I had already spent a lifetime creating art.
AS: What have you found most satisfying in your diverse career?
MN: I was most personally satisfied by the ten years I spent as the founder and director of a center for the arts in Del Mar, California. In my school days, I discovered the joys of expressing myself onstage—singing, writing, producing and acting, while drawing every chance I got, eventually majoring in fine art at Syracuse University. So, both talents rode in tandem and somehow always have.
As I grew as a performer, my visual art skills also grew, as I designed and painted murals, theatre sets, programs, marketing pieces, etc. All of this came in handy when I founded The Stratford Studio Theatre in Del Mar. It was initially born with the idea of providing children of the community with more involvement in the arts, something then lacking in the public school system. Highly successful, it grew to involve people of all ages, learning, teaching and growing, with classes in drama, dance, exercise, art, music, presentations and plays.
I have always felt that those ten years were not only a soul-satisfying endeavor for me personally, but they also made it possible for everyone involved—especially young people—to realize their potential. Many still write to me today of their fond memories from their time at Stratford, and of the fun and personal growth they attained there. The early singing career I’d enjoyed in Hollywood—and later, the awards won for acting in San Diego productions—all pale in comparison to the satisfaction gained in those ten years at the helm of the Stratford Studio Theatre.
AS: You’ve gotten surprising results from your first novel. What happened?
MN: My first novel, UNBRIDLED: A TALE OF A DIVORCE RANCH, won many awards and is currently in the process of becoming a possible TV series as a result of my submitting it to a development company in L.A. The novel is based on my actual experience at a divorce ranch in Reno, Nevada, in 1951.
Somehow, it was a story I felt I needed to tell, not only from a personal viewpoint, but also to educate readers on an important but little-known time in U.S. history. From the 1930s to the late 1960s—a time when divorce laws throughout the country required waiting periods of up to a year—Nevada dude ranches provided a place for divorce seekers to stay while waiting out the six weeks the Nevada legislature deemed necessary for breaking the bonds of marriage.
Many people came from the East to get “Reno-vated”, a term invented back in the 1940s by the columnist Walter Winchell. Although I fictionalized the characters in the novel, most were based on real people, and the majority of the story is based on real happenings.
AS: What are you working on these days?
MN: At present, I am concentrating on painting and on selling my art. Exploring the theme of “Spirit” as it relates to the Southwest Indians inspires my creativity as an artist. I have completed over 40 paintings on this subject so far.
Find out more about author Marilu Norden on Amazon, where her novels are available in paperback and on Kindle.