Thursday, July 16, 2009

Savvy Scribblers: Julia Hoban (+CONTEST!)

Julia Hoban is the author of Willow, a book that I rave about. Julia and I have been chatting about Willow for a while now, and I asked her to do a formal interview with me for IHM which she agreed to do and I am so thankful. Willow came out on audiobook on Tuesday and is available at Audible and iTunes!

About Willow:

IHM: I noticed that you didn't specify a location for the novel in the pages of the book. What was the reasoning and purpose behind that?


JH: It's interesting that you noticed --- not everyone does, but you're absolutely right, I never specify the location. The book deals with a rather sensitive topic, one that could in fact be off putting, I needed my readers to be able to connect as immediately as possible to the material, and I felt that naming a location might put up a kind of barrier. People needed to have their own image of where the book takes place and their own associations, that's why I never name the locale. BUT, to my mind the book takes place on the campus of Columbia University where I went to school, Riverside Park, where I walk every day, and the Museum of Natural History which I visit as often as possible.
On a related note, you may have noticed that I never described the characters either. This was for much the same reason. I wanted people to have their own image of them -- what if I had described Guy and he sounded like your ex? Or Willow sounded just like the girl who stole your ex? It would have put up an insurmountable barrier.

IHM: A kind of slight spoiler here, so don't read this question if you've not read the book, skip ahead to question 3. Willow loses her virginity during her journey to self-discovery, do you believe she lost it in the right way? Can you please touch on both the emotional and physical aspects of this for us?

JH: Yes, I do believe that her first sexual experience is in fact a very healthy choice for her. She not only has technical safe sex, but she has emotional safe sex as well. Right before she loses her virginity she runs into an old friend of hers who asks her who Guy is --- Willow doesn't say "He's someone I met at my new school," she doesn't say "Someone I know from the library," she says "He's someone that knows me, and someone that I know." I used the word "know" deliberately because of the biblical connotations, and I believe that it speaks to the "emotionally safe" sex that she and Guy have. They are indeed two people that know each other very deeply, and love each other very much, before they take their relationship to the next step.

IHM: You advocate both emotional and technical safe sex in this novel, which I think parents would appreciate, but have you had any ickiness from any parents talking about how you shouldn't talk about sex at all in a YA genre?

JH: I love your use of the word "ickiness!" No. Just the opposite!! Of course there may well be parents who are scandalized, but so far the only ones who have gotten in touch with me, have had a very positive reaction. In fact, the phrase that I used above, "emotional safe sex' comes from a letter a mom wrote me!

IHM: Can we talk about the metaphor on the cover a little bit? The way I interpret it, it hits Willow's cutting release, and her fragmented sense of self... am I anywhere close?

JH: It may surprise you --- and your readers as well --- but I had nothing to do with the cover, authors rarely have a say in the matter! I can say that I am extremely pleased with it. I think your interpretation is very interesting, and may well be what the designer had in mind. I never thought of it that way, to my mind it's more illustrative of the actual cutting.

IHM: Guy is an amazing character, and I am wondering if there is a real life inspiration for him?

JH: Well, I like to say that Guy is based on my husband.... That I am in fact married to someone that kind and special, but one day my husband heard me say that on a radio interview, and he hasn't stopped trading on it since!

About Julia

IHM: Willow has such a strong, valid, and healthy perspective. Do you come from a background in psychology?

JH: It's rather extraordinary that you should say that Willow has such a strong, healthy, take on things, when she is such a self destructive character. However I do think she is strong in many ways, her deep love for her brother and the degree to which she wishes she could take on his suffering spring from that strength.
You may have noticed I didn't answer the question! Do I have a background in Psychology? No, certainly not in any formal sense....

IHM: Where did you go to college and what did you major in?

JH: I went to Columbia University, and then went on to graduate school there. I was in Physics, but left the program midway though, to write WILLOW.

IHM: If you could be written as you are, as yourself, into one of your favorite novels, which one would it be?

JH: Readers of WILLOW may have picked up on the fact that I am a Sherlock Holmes fan. if I could be written into anything, it wouldn't be a novel, but a short story. "A Scandal in Bohemia" to be exact. I would take the place of Irene Adler, and best Holmes just the way she did!

IHM: Name three things you don't leave your house without.

JH: I would say that I don't leave the house without my keys, a hat, and gloves, except that I have been known to forget my keys! As to the hat and gloves, I don't leave without them! I wear a hat and gloves 365 days a year. My middle name is eccentric! My summer gloves are very pretty though, many of them are embroidered with flowers......

Thank you Julia! I really enjoyed your answers to these questions, and we appreciate you taking the time to answer them! Now for a special treat, here is Julia's list!

The Top 5 Fantasy Books Julia Wishes Existed:

1) The Complete Ten volume set of Sherlock Holmes (There are only two volumes)
2) The Complete NOVELS of Shakespeare. Can you imagine a novel by Shakespeare? Sigh.
3) I adore the book "Seven Men" by Max Beerbohm, to my knowledge the only short story collection he wrote. Your readers MUST rush to read "Enoch Soames." In any case, I would like the further three collections of Max Beerbohm's stories.
4) Death twixt Wind and Water by Harriet Vane. Harriet Vane is one of my favorite fictional characters, written by Dorothy Sayers. Harriet was a novelist, and one of her books was "Death twixt Wind and Water" What a pity it doesn't exist!
5) The complete twenty volume set of Josephine Tey's novels. Tey was an extraordinary mystery novelist, unfortunately she only wrote a handful of books, fortunately they are among the best of the genre.

NOW, to enter to win a copy of Willow by Juila Hoban (a new hardcover from Amazon) leave a comment with your email address AND a fantasy book YOU wish existed.
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1 comment:

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