She may often write about a galaxy far, far away, but Judy Blundell does so from a home in Stony Brook residents’ own backyard. Blundell, also known as Jude Watson, is a best-selling author of fiction for children and young adults.
She has written somewhere around 70 books since she began writing in the mid-1990s, though she said in a phone interview last week she lost count. More than 40 of those are “Star Wars” novels written in the time that falls before, after and between the stories depicted in the seven films released to date.
Blundell, as she’s known when writing historical fiction stories for young adults, lives close enough to Stony Brook Harbor to hear seagulls and ferries while she sits in her office. She also spent time living in California, New York City, Florida, Washington and Delaware, among others.
“Coming back to Long Island is a place I know really well, and it has really been a joy to wind up in this beautiful place, Stony Brook—it has been wonderful,” Blundell said. She was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens.
Her mystery and adventure stories for children, usually in the ages 8 to 12 range, get the byline Jude Watson. The scenery in her hometown coupled with her own curiosity are her major sources of inspiration, she said.
“I think the world around me is a varied and fascinating place,” Blundell said. “I’m always interested in people, overheard conversations, things I witness on the subway if I’m in New York or in Target or wherever. Writers are always looking for characters. And very often, books, for me, start with a character rather than a situation and then you sort of write your way into figuring out what the story is.”
Blundell conceded she has had plenty of days with no inspiration, but her remedy is to power through. She offered that as advice to aspiring young writers: Even if you think what you’re producing is terrible, you have to keep writing. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working,” Pablo Picasso once said, and Blundell said she shares that philosophy.
Blundell has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list several times in her career. In 2008, she received a National Book Award for young people’s literature for the first story she ever put her real name on: “What I Saw and How I Lied.”
Blundell’s husband of more than 30 years, Neil Watson, executive director of the Long Island Museum, said he’s her biggest fan.
“I have the highest respect for her and as a writer, I think it’s tremendous that she has gotten the critical and popular acclaim that she deserves,” Watson said of his wife in an interview. “She is a wonderful writer. She’s a very generous person with her craft and with her ideas.”
Together the couple has cultivated a love of the arts in their 15-year-old daughter Cleo, who is a talented artist in her own right. She is a member of the National Junior Art Society.
“It’s just a part of our house,” Watson said of art in their Stony Brook home. “It’s the home of a museum curator and a writer. Music is constantly on—all types.”
Blundell spoke fondly of her foray into the world of Star Wars, but also mentioned she had fun writing her last novel, “Sting,” which was a follow up to a story she wrote called “Loot,” about a successful jewel thief and his son.
“It was difficult to write because it was a ‘heist’ book, so the plots are very tight and obviously I’m not a jewel thief, so there’s a lot to figure out,” Blundell said, laughing. “But they’re meant to be fun to read and they can’t be fun to read if they’re not fun to write on some level, as hard as they are.”
Blundell said one of her goals is to write stories for kids who view reading as more of a chore than a pleasure.
“I consciously wrote [Loot and Heist] for kids that don’t normally like to read, what we call reluctant readers,” she said. “So the chapters are very short, there’s a lot of action, there’s a lot of fun; there’s a lot of jokes for that reason.”
Blundell said she is currently working on a novel that will be geared more towards adults, though that’s the most she wanted to divulge about it at the moment. To learn more about Blundell and her work, visit her website: www.judyblundell.com.