What can I tell you about Julie Duck? I met Ms. Duck on www.twitter.com several months ago and she has been such an inspiration to me. Encouraging me to pursue my dream of writing, taking me out of my comfort zone and pushing me in the right direction. I have been blessed to make her acquaintance. Today I want to introduce you to Julie Duck. She is a YA (young adult) author that I think you will be hearing about a lot in the near future. Julie has two books currently making the rounds in publishing houses. It won’t be long before Julie Duck will be a household name. (Move over Stephanie Meyers) You can read excerpts from her books A Place in this Life here and Swell here. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
1. When did you first begin writing?
I’d been an artist up until the third grade… I still draw and paint when I can. However, when I picked up a copy of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I knew I was a writer. I not only wrote my own stories, but illustrated them and bound everything together in books! I even carried a portable typewriter with me all around the house – even the bathroom (TMI, but what the heck?).
2. Who are you inspirations?
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beverly Cleary and my all-time favorite, Judy Blume. Reading Blume was like reading my life, only a tad more juicy. She wrote about the things kids were curious about, but oftentimes afraid to discuss with their parents and even their peers.
(Julie, I devoured these authors as well as a child. Who knew we had so much in common.)
3. What are your writing habits? Do you write a certain amount of pages per day? Do you write at a certain time of day?
I keep picturing a nun’s habit for some reason. I wear sweats when I write. Just kidding. I try to write every night after my son goes to bed (when he stays in bed). During the day, I am a copywriter and have to give my words over to The Man. As for pages, I don’t strive for a page count. Banging out a few pages is all I desire.
4. Are you a pantster or a plotter? Do you sit down at the computer and let your story lead you where it wants to go or do you outline every twist and plot point?
It’s all about the pants with me, although I do mull ideas over in my head and sometimes write them down as a query or mini synopsis. Once I have the general idea in mind, I begin writing or conducting research. From there, my characters throw their own two cents into the mix and take me and the story for a ride. In the end, I am the editor and can nix some of their contributions if need be.
5. Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
I usually stay away from fantasy, paranormal, etc. But I really loved Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. The dialogue is awesome. And I’m beta reading a non-fiction story called The Charm, as well as looking forward to finding the time to read Get Lucky by Katherine Center (a wonderful writer – listen up girls!).
I could say that my favorite authors include Katherine Center, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and anything by Judith Orloff. Yes, I like new age books. As for classic stories, John Steinbeck rocks, and anything by the Bronte girls tugs at my heart.
6. What are your goals as a writer?
Writing for the rest of my life is my goal… and creating stories that melt hearts and pull at the reader’s soul is my life’s work. Why? Because I put away my fiction writing for 20 years before a health scare and job layoff stirred the echoes and got me back in the writing saddle. I just want to write stories, and nothing is going to stand in the way of that anymore.
7. If you had one wish for your writing career what would it be?
I’ve had a writing career for 20 years in the magazine and advertising industries. While these career paths are satisfying, and being published as a magazine writer and editor even more so, what I want now more than anything is to write YA fiction that moves people and makes them think about the characters morning, noon and night.
8. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
Write every day. Write different kinds of things – whether this means copy, requests for proposal (RFPs), or advertorials. All of it will make you a better writer when you finally sit down to write the story of your dreams. And don’t you dare ever say you’re out of words or too tired to do it – you’ll end up like me with years gone by without a single word written for the soul.
I also advise going off the deep end with negativity. One gal out there has a whole website devoted to her rejections. What she’s doing by focusing on that is getting more of that. And getting that ain’t where it’s at when it comes to writing!!!
9. Congratulations on acquiring an agent for A Place in This Life. Can you tell us a little about this book?
Thank you! It’s the story of a teenage girl named Nally who falls in love with a brazen boy, Todd, who happens to have leukemia. She experiences the stress and heartbreak that accompanies such a decision, as well as the dilemma of finding herself also attracted to her healthy, handsome locker mate, Alex. The decision of following what is right and what is easy tears her apart.
10. Have you considered self publishing any of your novels, or will you consider it in the future?
No, because I think self-publishing lends itself more toward non-fiction books than YA fiction. I might consider an e-book in the future, as I have an active blog (www.julieduck.wordpress.com) pertaining to the experience of writing and could provide useful insight for aspiring writers.
11. On April 18th, you had your first speaking engagement at an author for www.wonderwritier.com. Please tell us about that experience. Were you nervous?
It was fabulous! I didn’t feel nervous, until all these kids sat on the floor in front of me and the other judges (of the essays for www.wonderwriters.com). I’ve always loved speaking in front of people, so the chance to talk about something I love and be an inspiration to all the kids who also love writing was… the best thing ever. Better than ice cream. If I can help one child continue their dream of becoming a writer, then my job is done.
12. Please tell our readers about Julie Duck. What do you do for fun when you aren’t writing?
I like to laugh and have fun while also being serious. As a very patient impatient person, I have to pace myself to get the job done. Distractions are everywhere, and I’m always tempted to pull away and not put my nose to the computer. Melancholy is attractive to me, as are real stories about people who’ve been to hell and back and risen above it all.
Fun? I go on Twitter! Seriously, it is the best way to meet other writers, agents, editors and abstract folk who share a passion for creativity. I also read, blog and cook. Making messes in the kitchen are my specialty. Lately, I’ve been taking long walks when I can as well, to clear my mind for writing.
13. Have you ever won any awards for your writing? If so please elaborate.
As a youngster and teenager, I entered all kinds of writing contests and won awards. I was also a member of my high school (San Clemente) Academic Decathlon team and won awards for my essays. I also received a Special Judge’s Award from the National League of American Pen Women. But awards aside, the biggest award is the reward of touching someone’s heart with a story I’ve written.
14. Where can someone purchase your books?
In my dreams, they could be purchased at Barnes and Noble, Borders and Amazon. For now, my stories are on submission with editors and, I hope, finding homes soon.
15. After 17 years as a copywriter, what made you decide to write young adult novels?
I will answer this in two parts. I decided to start writing fiction after a momentous and life-changing Thursday in October 2008. My doctor called at 8:30 to tell me I had a giant nodule on my thyroid that had all the red flags for cancer… and 30 minutes later I was told that the magazine I edited was folding. A real 1-2 punch. I later learned that thyroid problems can stem from feeling a lack of fun in life… “When is it my turn to have fun for a change?” I’m big on vibrational energy. That is when I knew I had to open up again and let the stories out. Three days after I had half of my thyroid removed (and it wasn’t cancer!) I started writing A Place In This Life.
I write YA with an edgy bent because it calls to me. I feel the hearts of teenagers and relate to their experiences like I was still one of them. Never setting out to write for this market, I just wrote the stories I had in mind and they became the right thing for older teens.
16. Writing for young adults seems a difficult task to take on. Teens today have different problems then we did growing up, more technology, drugs, sex ect… How do you connect with your readers on their level, and find topic of interest to them?
The teenage experience will always have classic elements. Love and heartbreak, sex and drugs, discovering who we are. Whether these events take place in 1975 or 2005 doesn’t matter, in my opinion. Girls today want to know about that cute boy who could very well steal their heart… just as their mothers once felt. It is static, these stories, and I weave them around the times so that they are appropriate for what the kids are doing these days.
I also stress natural dialogue and never, ever talk down or preach at the reader. That isn’t what kids want, or me for that matter.
17. SWELL is now in the submission process. This has to be nerve-racking. I liken writing a book to giving birth; it is a rewarding yet painful process. How do you get any sleep with two of your “babies” out there in there all alone in the world seeking approval, and hopefully a multi-million dollar, multi-book contract (lol)?
I forget they are out there sometimes. Honest! If I focused too much on this fact, I’d never have a life. While the stories float about from one desk to another, I know that my job is to keep my “cork floating” and enjoy life whether or not I have a book deal. It is this mindset that, I believe, helps all things desired to eventually manifest.
18. Without giving it all away, what can you tell us about SWELL?
Beck is an art prodigy who falls in love with the most popular guy in school…. who also happens to be a closet alcoholic. When she’s introduced to his world and his booze, Beck finds it makes her feel better than she’s ever felt, and she’s taken down the dark path of alcohol addiction and getting into trouble. Even after a series of events that would shake the hell out of anyone, Beck can’t admit her problem until one afternoon sends her crashing through a guardrail and a boy named Jesse turns up unexpectedly to change her life for good.
19. Do you belong to any writing associations?
Nope! I will eventually get with SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators) later this year because they offer a great writing kinship to their members. If there’s ever an edgy YA association, I’ll be the first to sign up!
(Might I suggest that you start the edgy YA association. You are inspiring to me and many other aspiring writer. Create one on www.YahooGroups.com and I will be your first member.)
20. What are you working on now?
How many WIPs, you ask? LOL! I’m finishing my third story, Little Rooms, and have two others in various stages of dress. I’m attracted to the dark side of the story, and so all of my stories take the reader into the underbelly of teenage life, pulling them out on the other side eventually.