For What It's Worth

Friday, March 26, 2010

Interview with Julia Hoban


I hope you have enjoyed reading about Willow all week. It is truly one of my favorite books. Julia was kind enough to answer a few questions so enjoy!

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a copy of Willow HERE & look on the sidebar for links to all the Willow related posts from the past week! 

Q) What inspired you to write Willow?
Julia - 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.

Q) Books play such an integral part of the story in Willow, it made me wonder what books or authors influenced you and your writing?
Julia - Well in a sense I’ve been influenced by every writer I’ve ever read, I really couldn’t point to anyone specific. I can tell you that I adore reading as much as Willow and Guy do, books are and have always been one of the ruling passions of my life.

Q) Willow has isolated herself to an extent that she often has a warped view of her interactions with other people. Yet I found her to be a very sympathetic and unselfish character. Could you explain how you were able to get across her more appealing qualities?
Julia - Thank you for saying that, I’m very glad that you perceive her that way! Willow is a very high maintenance girl, no question, so it was very important to show why she is lovable as well. I think the great love and concern that she has for her brother goes some way towards demonstrating this (I hope!) as does her behavior in the physics lab, when she comes to the rescue of the other girl, even though she has no reason to. She’s in a great deal of pain, yet is still able to defend and stand up for someone else. I think that says volumes about her character.

Q)Why do you think Willow is finally able to open up to Guy despite closing herself off to everyone else?
Julia - There are a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost is their shared love of books and Anthropology , but even though Willow feels she’s met a soul mate she wants to push Guy away, she’s simply not ready to let anyone into her world. That changes rather dramatically, however, when Guy stumbles upon her secret. She is forced to open up to him then. Of course this proves to be the best thing for her, but initially she is very reluctant where Guy is concerned.
I’d like to mention something here --- when Guy first finds out that Willow is a cutter, she offers to sleep with him as a way to buy his silence. She makes this offer although she barely knows him. I said, in answer to your first question, that I wanted to write a book where a character went from a place of self harm to a place of healing. I also very much wanted to write a book where a young woman starts off by treating her sexuality in a completely irresponsible and cavalier fashion, and learns to value both it, and herself. When Willow offers to sleep with Guy she is being no less self destructive than when she takes a razor to her flesh. Now Willow and Guy eventually do have sex together (I don’t believe this is a spoiler, the second you meet Guy, you know the two of them are going to fall in love and that he is going to help her heal. The question isn’t will this happen, but how and when.) And when they finally do have sex, it is an appropriate choice and handled in a responsible fashion. Make no mistake, I am not advocating teen sex, it’s just that there are very few positive examples of responsible sex in the YA literature. Sex in YA books tends, for the most part, to fall into two categories: consequence free and of no more importance than the hottest accessory, or something that leads to tragedy. I wanted to show a different model. Now here’s the great part, I was worried that this would make parents nervous, but there’s been a lot of feedback from mom’s that were quite approving. One mother wrote that “Willow and Guy don’t just have technical safe sex, they have emotional safe sex.” Exactly. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Q) Laurie has a small, but important role in the book. What effect do you think Laurie's friendship has on Willow?
Julia - What a great question! As you say, although a tertiary character she plays a pivotal role, both Laurie and Chloe draw Willow out of her shell almost against her will. I don’t know if you noticed this, but Willow’s interactions with the girls have a definite arc. The first time she’s with them she says something completely stupid, and has to run away, a few scenes later, while still uncomfortable, she’s able to talk about shoes and fashion, something she would have been completely unable to do at the beginning of the story. Laurie works a quiet magic on Willow. She’s willing to talk without judging and accept Willow as part of the crowd.

Q) Are you working on anything now that you can tell us about?
Julia - I am working on something, but I’m much too superstitious too talk about it! You want to know how superstitious I am? The corrections on WILLOW were due on April first, and I asked my editor if I could deliver them in the next day because I was nervous about handing them in on April Fools day! I can tell you I’m about 80% done with my new project….

Q) What is your idea of the perfect day?
Julia - It would have to include lots of sleep (I never get enough!) and lots of chocolate! I love it when my husband takes the day off work, we go to the Metropolitan Museum, see something amazing, have lunch there, walk home through Central Park, and then take a nap. I can’t imagine how boring that must sound to your readers!

Thank you Julia for stopping by and for giving us insight into the writing process. Thank you for answering all my emails and questions! It's always nice to find out the person whose work you admire is also so kind and generous with their time and knowledge.
And thank you bloggers for indulging my little obsession........I hope this week has given you insight into Willow if you have read it already or made you want to go read it if you haven't.