AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Julia Hoban
I'm currently reading Willow, the new young adult novel by Julia Hoban. I actually had the chance to get an email interview with Julia, and ask her all about Willow and the inspiration behind this new release.
Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer.
Cutter and crew team member stuck in library stacks discuss Claude Levi Strauss and learn to love.
You will grant me clemency, and call that fifteen words, as Claude Levi Strauss is a proper name, and could (if we are being indulgent!) be counted as one word.
Now I'm sure the above made absolutely NO sense. It's my riff on a rather infamous description of the multiple Oscar winning film KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN. The movie is an absolute masterpiece, but it wasn't an easy sell. It tells the story of two men, one a political prisoner, the other gay, who are in jail in some nameless South American country. The gay man is a movie buff, and attempts to distract the two of them from their plight by talking about his favorite films. The producer described it as a "marketing nightmare" and said that studio execs summed it up in the following manner: "Queer and Commie stuck in prison cell discuss old movies and learn to love." I thought of that film, and the difficulties the producers faced when WILLOW was rejected again, and again, and again..... I actually used to repeat the description that I gave you (Of WILLOW) in my head all the time!
What inspired you to write Willow?
I wanted to write a book for all of us with self destructive urges, a book that would take one person from a place of self harm to a place of healing, and in doing so possibly make people question their own damaging behaviors. I chose to make Willow a cutter because it is a very dramatic and obvious form of self injury, but it could just as easily have been a book about overeating or doing drugs, or even something as innocent as watching too much television.
Where do you write your books?
Although the laziest person in the world (I do everything in bed) I'm actually reasonably disciplined about where I work. I have my own office in my apartment -- don't be impressed, it's tiny. But it is a rather beautiful shade of cornflower blue, and I designed my desk, it's in the French Provincial style, and has hand painted silver roses in the corners. I'm sure that sounds fearsomely over the top, will it bring things back to earth if I tell you that I always work in pajamas?
What is your favourite book?
I have hundreds of favorite books! Really, everything from Anna Karenina to The Cake Bible --- I don't think my husband would have married me if I hadn't mastered the "perfect all American chocolate butter cake with burnt orange silk meringue buttercream!" Honestly, I couldn't possibly name all of the ones I adore, so I'll just mention a few: The Sound and the Fury, the entire Sherlock Holmes canon, I truly don't understand people who don't like Sherlock, One Hundred Years of Solitude.... Pretty much everything by Dickens.... Tell me when to stop! But lately I find myself recommending one book in particular, a book that never fails to move me: "The Railway Children" by Evelyn Nesbitt. It's a middle grade novel, but it can be read and appreciated by anyone of any age. One of the things I love most about it is that it can be enjoyed on so many levels: it's a delicious read to snuggle down with under the covers on a rainy day, and it's also a profound work with many important life lessons.
Who is your favourite heroine, and why?
Well, the answer to that is very fluid, depending on when and where you get me in my reading and writing life. There are many female characters that I adore, but right now the one I'm thinking about is Hardy's beautiful, doomed Tess. I can't really articulate what I love about her exactly. Maybe it's her resilience, her vulnerability, her tremendous emotional honesty, maybe it's just the fact that Hardy so clearly cherished her.
What part of Willow was the most fun to write?
You're going to make me blush, but the naughty bit was the most fun! I really enjoyed working on the scene where Willow and Guy lose their virginity together. Your readers are going to think they're in for something quite steamy, but it's rather tame! Blink and you miss it! What I like about it is the tenderness and awkwardness between the two of them.
Do you have any tips for readers who would like to become published authors?
If it's something you really want, then under no circumstances should you give up! Never, never, never, never, never ( just to throw in a quote from King Lear, another work I could have cited as a favorite). I went through a tremendous amount of rejection before WILLOW was accepted. It took three years, several broken computers, and my husband threatening divorce. I hope it's easier for other writers, but if it isn't, just keep going!
What are you currently reading?
I'm ashamed to say I'm not reading anything, you know why? I've reached a critical point in my new book, and I can't have someone else's voice in my head, which brings us to....
Are you working on anything else at the moment, and if so, can you tell us?
I am working on another project, and I'm afraid that I have to give the same stock answer that I've given other interviewers, I'm WAY too superstitious to talk about it until it's finished. However, I can add something a little new this time --- I'm 75% done, and will be able to talk about it soon! I hope you'll invite me back to discuss it!