Finally, we get a little rain try to cool off things around here, but I'm off to the land of cheese with this week's featured author. She gives me directions and soon we're basking in chairs a stone's throw away from Green Bay (the water, not the town) sipping cool refreshments.
1. Who is Ophelia Julien and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
I'm still trying to figure out who I am myself! At the moment, I'm a writer/student/grandmother raising a two-year old who carries stories, characters, scenes, and bits of dialogue around in her head until she figures out what goes where in whatever story. I don't think I'm the most fascinating person in my city, but anyone who wants to know someone who is interested in all things paranormal, lives in music, and bleeds words might find me good to talk to. I grew up in a haunted house, after all.
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
People who know me aren't much surprised by anything I get into! People who don't know me might be surprised to learn that martial arts are important to me (I'm about 4'11" and 108 lbs). I studied Tae Kwon Do for years but shifted over to western martial arts to learn medieval long sword and arming sword. Superficially, I'm short and small and fit nicely into the background.
3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as becoming a psychiatrist?
Ahh, I wish I could answer this as a full-time writer! I'm not, you know. I have a day job and am studying to get another one. I'd like to be a writer when I grow up. But in terms of interest, stories fascinate me. I'm obsessed with ghost stories and cryptozoology. And I've been writing since I still had an eight o'clock bedtime, so I don't know that I chose to become a writer. I think I always was.
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
I've been lucky enough to share dinner with one of my all-time favorite writers, Douglas Preston (NY Times bestseller of both fiction and non-fiction.) So maybe we ought to go back to authors no longer walking the planet. In which case, I'd love to have dinner with Rudyard Kipling, believe it or not. I love the way he writes and cannot reconcile the novelist I admire with the racist/imperialist everyone assures me he was. That's not the take I have on him at all, no matter how many experts and scholars I read, and I would love to ask him how he got painted with that brush and how he feels about it.
5. If I were stranded on a deserted island (or suffering a four hour layover at an airport), why would your book(s) be great company?
Good question! I love books that I can get lost in and that feature characters I wish I knew in real life, so I do my best to accomplish that in the books I write. I think that Saving Jake could take you away from where you were, at least for the time it took you to read it. I think you'd get through it a lot quicker than four hours, though...
6. Share the Julien process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing, and number of rewrites.
Wow, that's a long question! Ideas come to me in weird ways: from articles I've read, from a bit of conversation I've overheard, from a name. I can't write a character until I have his or her name, so sometimes I get stuck waiting for that inspiration, believe it or not. Even though the story is in my head, I need a character to introduce his/herself to me before we go away together. I never use an outline for fiction; I use a laundry list of "things that need to happen" and I am constantly crossing things off as I use them and adding things in as need be. I also play around with the chronology of the story using my list. My schedule is, I write when I can but as the story gets more urgent I find more ways to squeeze writing time into my day. Editing and rewriting I do as the story needs, and then again at the end of the first draft. I may rewrite entire sections any number of times, but there's only been one time in my life that I've rewritten an entire book, and that was only because I seemed to be missing a character! I forgot about the research part. I prefer to find people to talk to about a chosen subject. To that end, I have interviewed a hospice administrator, an adoption agency worker, a police sergeant, a pastor, an ER doc, and a deputy US Marshall, to name some.
7. "I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don't know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?"
This is one of those things that's an entire conversation as opposed to one question and one answer, that's for sure. I've had students ask me variations on this and I usually ask them back who the story is targeted at so that they can start to focus on point of view, character, and voice. One of my favorite teaching exercises is to have my students write an opening line. During the course of a three-hour class, I'll have them come up with one opening line every hour. (I tell them them to come up with an opening line that would make a person want to read the rest of the story.) I'd probably tell the person asking me this question to keep that story idea in mind and then come up with a list of about 7-10 opening lines. Hopefully, one of them is going to open the door and let the rest of the narrative out.
8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read "Every great idea I have gets me in trouble." What is your philosophy of life?
I have a couple of things I try to live by. The first is my 11th commandment: Thou shalt have no regrets. What that means is I try to live my life so that I won't look back and regret...never taking that workshop because it seemed too expensive, never talking to that famous writer because I was too shy, never telling that person "I love you", never taking the opportunity to fence longsword in front of the whole class after only eight weekly lessons. That philosophy dovetails with Eleanor Roosevelt's "You must do the thing you fear." She had it right. We all stop ourselves (as adults) because we worry about feeling/looking foolish, being illogical, being rejected, any number of uncomfortable things. But nothing gets accomplished if we stay comfortable our whole lives. Go for it!
9. Please tell me you're not going to stop writing? What's next for you?
I almost stopped writing, but I can't, actually. I've been writing since second or third grade so I guess it's a little late to pull the plug. I have a book manuscript on an editor's desk at this very moment. If she kicks it back to me, I'm going after an agent. And I have about three books in my head for when school finally ends!
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
I have a website, www.opheliajulien.com That's the best place to find out about me. As for finding out about what I'm up to, since I'm not my own webmaster and don't know how to update my events myself, well, you could just write me care of the website. I answer everybody. Also, I have a blog (opheliajulien.blogspot.com) which I desperately need to update (I know. My bad.) I'm on Twitter somewhere, too. And FaceBook. Because I was told I should be. I'm not the best about keeping up with all of it, but I do get around to things eventually. If someone seriously was looking for me, though, the website is the best bet. I check that daily. Oh, and here's something fun! If you have about two minutes, check out my book trailer! It's at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpBBCNSctjE ; (If the link doesn't work for some reason, just go to YouTube and search for "Saving Jake Trailer".)