Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, January 14, 2005

Laura Branigan

With all the projects, articles and book reviewing I’ve got going on, it’s hard for me to keep updated on current events. (Admittedly, I try to watch the news, but the entire program isn’t closed-captioned so I only get bites and pieces of what’s going on.) I used to be a devoted newspaper-reader but with limited time to write every day, that gets put on the back-burner, too. I’m subscribed to a lot of magazines – the giant stack of unread issues in my bedroom is testament to this! And as for reading news online? Well, anything that Yahoo! News and MSN News has headlined are scanned before I log in to check my E-mail. (As it stands, I didn’t even know about the September 11, 2001 tragedy until a girl I was chatting with on that day told me “go turn on your news.”)

For this reason, I didn’t hear about the untimely passing of singer, Laura Branigan, until I happened to open a week-old column written by Frank Baron and read his comments about it. I was shocked to learn of her death and it touched me on a more personal level for one very important reason: Her song, Gloria, played a role in my thinking up an idea for a story I’ve since been struggling with. (It was actually two things that gave me the idea for my story: This song and some guy who kept calling the house my sister and I lived in at the time, demanding to speak with someone who no longer lived there.) At first I named my protagonist Shelby, but after some thought, since it was Branigan’s song that helped create this story, I changed my character’s name to Laura, as a way of honoring her.

And now it seems that, with Branigan passing on, I will be honoring her in a whole new way. I never thought of how much influence her song had over this story (and it is a big influence in my character’s life). But I certainly won’t be seeing this story the same way anymore. Especially since I recently learned Branigan had red hair, just like my character (though my character’s hair is a little more brighter red than hers). In a way, this is kind of scary, because if her family finds out and they read the book (in the MIRACULOUS event that it gets published), what if they sue me over something? Like how my character had an abusive father and they say something like, “I’m going to sue this horrible author because Laura NEVER had any trouble with her father and now people will think she did!” Of course, this book won’t bill itself as some kind of “unauthorized biography of Laura Branigan.” I don’t even know if Ms. Branigan had friends named Karen and Jeff!! This story is FICTION but I’m getting worried they won’t see it this way. Especially since my character happens to have red hair (and I swear right here and now that I NEVER KNEW Ms. Branigan had red hair!!). My character’s life developed on its own; that is just MY CHARACTER. It’s not meant to represent the late Ms. Branigan in any shape or form, though as it stands now, the only similarities are the hair color and first name. (I’m too nervous to even look up her middle name or date of birth.)

And, you know, given this recent information, I’m not going to change my character’s hair color. This character is FICTION. She WAS given a new name, to honor the woman whose song inspired me to create her in the first place, and that name will now stand. Because, I think, in a way, I will still be honoring her. If this book never gets published, there will still be one writer in this world who was so inspired by one of Ms. Branigan’s songs that she wrote a story with it. (The song appears twice n this story.)

But part of me is still saddened over her passing. I’m not taking it too hard, really. I didn’t know her (though in a way I guess you could say I did). But I am still grieved over her death. I’m grieving because now she will never know how much her song inspired one unknown writer in this world. She will never get to read the story her song inspired and see her first name in there. She will never know. But ... I’d like to think that ... in some way, she now will. Being on The Other Side allows her to know all, see all and be all. And perhaps now she knows there’s an unpublished story out there, written thanks to her song.

Still, I could’ve done her a favor and got that book published. Problem is, I am SO FREAKING PARTICULAR with my writing. I don’t even WANT to mention how many drafts this story has gone through. You wanna know why I have more nonfiction titles than fiction published? Because my fiction has to be perfect. It has to be right. One beta reader told me she couldn’t get past the second chapter, I took the story through another revision cycle. Another told me he thought it was a romance and down it went on the operating table once again.

But you know something? I just can’t be like that anymore. Not now, anyway, and certainly not with this book. Because when I pull out my most recent draft to start work on it ONE LAST TIME, I’ll be doing it with more purpose and definition. I’ll be doing it because, now, I NEED to. I need to finish this book and try to get it published. And I think that, maybe, somewhere along the way, Laura might be right there behind me to keep coaching me on. To tell me not to worry over word choice, tone or mood. Because now, this time, the book will be perfect, because it will be for her.


  • At 11:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hi Dawn,

    I've been a fan of Laura's for over 20 years. I wanted to mention that Laura did not have red hair ever. I'm not sure where you recieved this info, but if you have a look at photos of her, her hair is definately dark brown.
    Good luck with the book!


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