The daughter of two law school graduates, Amanda Brown had always assumed that she, too, would be a lawyer. After college, she decided to attend Stanford Law School, but once there, she was miserable. Her only comfort was during those terrible years was her dog Underdog and the story she was beginning to write about a perky blonde law student much like herself named Elle Wood.
Legally Blonde, the story of Elle Wood’s experience at law school, closely resembles Brown’s own experience. Amanda says that she started writing after being struck by just how strange the other students were – how different they were from her. She recalls attending a meeting for a woman law students club only to discover that the leader’s biggest aspiration was to change to word “semester” to the word “overster.” The leader disliked the word “semester” because she felt it was too masculine. Brown says she found this funny but felt that if she told people her Stanford stories, no one would believe her. She began keeping a journal and writing letters chronicling her own experiences. Soon she created a world full of Star Trek fans, prep school snobs, and angry feminists that form the hilarious background of Elle’s adventure.
The book Legally Blonde features a Chihuahua named Underdog, although Brown’s own Underdog was a Bichon. Brown, Like her character Woods, brought her pet to law school with her and was forced out of the dorm because of a ‘fascist’ no-pet rule. Both Brown and Woods relied on their Underdogs for support during hard times. “Underdog is Elle’s faithful confidant. He is the one furry person she can always talk to,” Brown says.
As Legally Blonde began taking shape, Brown began to realize how much she enjoyed writing fiction. The idea of becoming a writer had not occurred to her until that point, but she discovered that writing could help her escape from the misery she felt in law school. Stanford is now a distant memory, the only remnants of it alive in her writing.
In addition to Underdog, Brown now shares her life with a new dog named Gomez. They live San Francisco, a city, she says, that is “great for dogs.” The beautiful weather means that dogs are never stuck inside because such “travesties” as snow. The city is also full of pet lovers. Sidewalks cafes allow pets to eat outside with their owners and many stores even allow pets to come in and join their owners as they shop. Brown says that her favorite pet store in San Francisco is a shop named George. Underdog and Gomez agree.
In addition to being a proud pet owner, Brown is also an activist. She serves on the board of the Peninsula Humane Society. She helps the group’s professionals rehabilitate sick animals and find all homeless animals a place to live. She also works on a number of development projects, helping to raise money and awareness for the cause. Brown says that she is often asked why she works so hard to prevent animal cruelty when there is so much cruelty towards humans. Her argument: “all forms of cruelty are related and that humans will never be kind to each other unless they are kind to animals. Moreover, animals do so much for people.” She offers evidence, the lawyer in her ever-present: two friends of hers have children with serious forms of arthritis. While these kids have trouble walking, they can ride horses. The animal have had a huge impact on the children’s lives – giving them freedom and fun.
Of the big-screen version of her book, Brown says she loved it, although Underdog switches breed and changed names, and she looks forward to Legally Blonde 2. She is particularly happy that the second movie will have focus on animal rights, a cause so dear to her own heart. As for her, she has another book, Family Trust, coming out in July. Much like her first, animals in this book will play a prominent role. Next, she hopes to write a children’s book featuring her own dogs: Gomez and Underdog. Like Legally Blonde, it should be great fun for animal lovers of all ages.
By Julia Fuma