1. What inspired you to write Leah's story?
Well, first of all, I was in drama in high school, and in my experience, it was filled with a lot of colorful characters, so I thought it would be interesting to right about. Also, I ended up being the lead in a play once (I played Alice in Alice in Wonderland) and that was one of the stand-out experiences of high school for me. I was pretty shy and self-conscious, so to be on stage all the time was very nerve-racking. At the same time, though, it was also a lot of fun - I got to dance and run around and go to pretend tea parties. I liked the attention I got, but I also didn't like it, so when I thought about it years later, that was an interesting conflict to me. Also, one day, I was on my computer trying to think of something to write, and I suddenly had this image of a bunch of characters lying on a stage and talking. I wrote about them a little bit, just for a page or two, and then I saved it on my computer and kind of forgot about it. But then years later, when I was attempting to start writing a novel, I pulled that scene back up and went from there. That scene is no longer in the book, by the way, because the characters were just sitting around talking, so it was a little boring.
2. Why did you choose to write a contemporary story rather than another genre?
It wasn't a conscious decision, really. When I come up with story ideas, they tend to be more grounded in reality instead of fantasy. But that's not because I don't like fantasy or any other genre. Also, I do like writing about realistic, contemporary people and situations, and enjoy reading about them, too.
3. How did you decide to self-publish?
Well, once it became possible to self-publish electronically, then it became a better option for me. I don't think I would ever self-publish the "old-fashioned way," (where you pay someone to print copies of your book) because that would be expensive. But e-publishing is free, so I thought I'd try it out. Mostly, I just really wanted my family and friends to be able to read it. My brother kept bugging me, asking when he was going to get to read it, so now he can. Also, I was curious to see if I could be successful and reach a lot of readers through self-publishing. It was a bit of an experiment for me.
4. What are your ideal writing conditions?
Oh, I'm so picky, it's crazy. I like to have total silence, or at least close to it. I don't understand how some people can write with music. I get too distracted. Well, actually, I sometimes listen to music, but only things that don't have words, like classical music or this Icelandic band, Sigur Ros (they technically have words, but I can't understand them). I don't like to have anyone sitting or standing behind me, even if they're not right next to me, because I don't like feeling like people can read over my shoulder. Weird, I know. My favorite writing place I ever found was a basement of a library, down in the stacks.
5. What is your biggest distraction from writing?
Um...life? Haha. Actually, probably the internet. Especially since I write on a computer, and the internet is on my computer, only a click away.
6. What is the best writing advice you've been given?
One of my creative writing teachers used to say that we should use "words close to life," which basically meant that we shouldn't get too fancy and show off-y with our words, which I think can be a problem with beginning writers. You feel like you should use the biggest word you know. But she told us that, when people are reading your story, you want them paying more attention to the story than the words. Of course, beautiful writing is great, but ultimately the words are just there to help the reader form a mental picture of the story.
7. If you could have dinner with any two authors (dead or alive) who would you pick and why?
Oh, boy. I would love to have dinner with the author Bill Bryson, who is still alive. He's a non-fiction writer and is super funny. He's also been all sorts of cool places, like Australia and Norway, so I think he'd be an interesting dinner guest. I'd also like to have dinner with J.K. Rowling, so I could ask her a bunch of questions about Harry Potter. And because I really admire her.
8. What is your favorite dessert?
Chocolate ice cream! I love ice cream. Actually, my favorite is chocolate with little bits of brownie mixed in.
9. Have you read anything fantastic recently?
Oh yes! I'm currently reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, which is a writing guide, actually. It's really excellent. I also just read a middle grade novel called Savvy, which I loved. A few weeks ago, I read The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson, which I loved. I've also been rereading all the Mortal Instruments books (by Cassandra Clare) and eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.
10. Do you have a theme song for Cardboard Characters?
Hm, not really. I made a playlist for Leah, songs that I imagined she would listen to or that related to her character, but I lost that because I got a new computer and it was on the old one. Let's see...well, when I think about the book, I tend to think of MGMT's song, Kids, because I listened to that a lot when I took breaks from writing. Also, one of the characters in the book, Kyle, has a band, and I imagined that it would sound like this other band I like, Brand New, on their first CD, Your Favorite Weapon.
Thanks for stopping by, Julie! Read the review for her book, Cardboard Characters, here!