Gentle readers, I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine: Julie Wright. Many of you, because you are avid and discerning readers, will be familiar with Julie's books, but for those of you who aren't . . . she is fabulous! Her book, My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life is absolutely amazing. A tender, funny, romantic, and inspiring story about a young woman coming out of a terrible childhood and a misspent youth to make something of herself. Along the way she has to make one of the most difficult decisions you can make in life, and Julie handles it all with a light, beautiful hand.
Her latest book, Eyes Like Mine, is about . . . well, lots of things. The pioneers crossing the plains to settle in Utah. A young girl who is bitter over her parents' divorce and the drastic changes it brings to her family. And time travel.
It's freakin' awesome, and I couldn't put it down. And I said to myself (when I could finally put it down), "Jess, you oughta interview Julie. Because this book was awesome, and she's freakin' hilarious. And cool."
And so some questions (and answers!) with Julie Wright!
1. Usually when I think of the Mormon pioneers crossing the plains to Utah, I think of heat and dust and cholera and dried beef and dead mules. Never before have I thought, Hey! And time travel! Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
It actually came one day while driving down the road. We live in Utah. Driving anywhere in Utah means you will deal with construction. I was whining about the conditions of the road and feeling a wee bit ungrateful in general. I popped in a Jenny Phillips CD and had a moment of introspection. I hate those moments. But this particular one made me think about my own pioneer ancestors and how they would laugh at me for whining about road construction when I was sitting in an air-conditioned car, drinking an ice cold Dr. Pepper and snacking on chips while waiting for traffic to clear. Yeah. Total hardship. I wondered, if my ancestors could see me, what might they have to say about my attitude? And the book just sort of came to me from that. I went home that night and wrote the first few chapters.
2. Your two main characters are both young and female, yet their personalities and situations are so vastly different, and you made their voices quite distinct. Did you have a hard time switching between them? Did you prefer writing one to the other?
I didn’t have too hard a time switching back and forth because they were both so different in my mind. I knew their personalities and knew what their motivations and goals were. I genuinely enjoyed Constance. I love the way the gentry of England speak and had a good time incorporating that into the story. And because the angst Constance felt was a little more justified than the angst of a spoiled contemporary girl, I felt more kinship to Constance.
3. Liz rides and jumps her horse competitively. Do you have any background with horses?
I live in the country . . . seriously. THE country. The kind where the livestock population is a hundred times that of the human population. And there’s dust and heat, dried beef, dead mules and—oh, wait, what was the question? Living in the country requires me to be around horses a lot, but I am FROM the city, so I don’t know much about them. In order to write this book, I had to spend some time at my neighbors, learning to ride and care for horses. It was great fun. But wow. Those animals are a ton of work.
4. You speak Swedish. Say something Swedish!
Did you hear it? Maybe I should say it louder. Did you get it that time? Oh, you mean *write* something Swedish. Ja, vet jag vad du vill at jag ska göra, men jag är roligt i alla fall. Jag älskar allting som du skrivet. Du är snillrik! Och Dashner har ett stor huvud. But don’t tell him I said so.
5. You and your husband own a small general store. If I owned a store, I would only carry books that I liked and/or wanted to read, chocolate, licorice, Dr. Pepper, and Cheetos. Did you open the store so that you could have an endless supply of treats? Be honest.
We opened the store because we wanted to live in the middle of nowhere and finding a job in the middle of nowhere is TOUGH. So we bought ourselves a job. It’s been interesting. I don’t regret it even though sometimes I act like a bitter shop keeper. Lots of good things have happened in my life due to the store. And hey, if I want ice cream at two in the morning, I know where the keys are kept.
6. What is your publication story?
Convoluted. I started writing my first book when I was fifteen. I finished it at the age of 24 and then left it on my computer for several years because I am a coward like that. I finally starting submitting at the encouragement (whip cracking?) of my husband and after three rejection letters got a contract offer. I stumbled through the first publication and the publication of my second novel and then realized those first two books were pretty poorly written and I ought to try a little harder. Book three, My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life, was much better written and, oddly enough, ended up being rejected by my then-current publisher. They said it was too dark. So I submitted with a bigger publisher and they published it for me instead. That rejection form a small publisher was the best thing to have ever happened to me even if it felt really horrible at the time. I’ve been able to grow and stretch as a writer in ways I never imagined. I hope to keep growing and stretching and improving as I get older.
7. Favorite books? (Try to keep the list to a reasonable length. Say, fifteen.)
To Kill A Mockingbird, Dune, Princess Bride, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Wheel of Time, Princess of the Midnight Ball, Ender’s Game, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson Series, Witch of Blackbird Pond, Pride and Prejudice, Poisonwood Bible, Les Miserables, Harry Potter, Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
I eagerly await all books written By Jessica Day George, Janette Rallison, and Josi Kilpack—something about those J names . . .
8. What are you reading right now?
Right now I am writing. I reward myself for finishing a new manuscript by reading. Soooo on my to-read-next-shelf is: Catching Fire, and Poison Study
9. What are you going to read next?
Catching Fire. I am so excited to read it, I can barely contain myself. It is my carrot dangling in front of me when I don’t feel like writing. I don’t get to read it until I’m done with this manuscript.
10. Favorite movies?
A&E Pride and Prejudice, The Tenth Kingdom, Meet Joe Black, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Love Actually and a ton of others.
11. Care to hint about the book you're working on right now?
I am writing a book called Spell Check. It’s a fun, YA fantasy about a girl who discovers she’s a witch on her sixteenth birthday. I have laughed a lot while writing this book. The first line? It’s a little known fact that witches are still alive and well in Salem Massachusetts. They call themselves cheerleaders.
12. You once told me the freaky-awesomest idea you had for a book involving a dream journal. Are you working on that story right now? If not, then SNAP TO IT!
Bossy much? Just kidding. It is third down on my list. So I am working on Spell Check right now, then I will be writing the Skinny Woman book we talked about over ice cream last month and the freaky awesome dream journal book is next. I should have it done by next October. The writing schedule can change based on editor’s commands. I am more than happy to switch things around if my editor said they wanted something else sooner.
Thanks, Julie! (By the way, blatantly flattering the interviewer by mentioning her books is . . . a nice touch! Also, the Skinny Woman book idea is a HOOT and I cannot wait for that one either.)
(Also, the first line of Spell Check rocks.)
And now, my gentle readers, go forth and read ye some Julie Wright!