Friday, October 29, 2010

Julie Berry: An Interview

Secondhand Charm is your second book to be published by Bloomsbury. I find that each published book seems to have a behind-the-scenes scenes saga behind it. Are there any interesting or memorable stories about the creation of Secondhand Charm?

I’m afraid the process was sadly pedestrian. It looked like me gazing bleary-eyed at my laptop, scribbling in a single-subject notebook, and foraging for snacks. As for the initial inspiration, that was just lots of me driving back and forth to work in my minivan, musing. How about this? How about that? Charms. Good luck charms. Love charms. They’re kinda neat. Wonder if I could create a story that involved charms …

I often find that fantasy authors like to base the worlds in their novels off of time periods and countries that correspond to history. Were the details of your fantasy world based off of any particular time-period or country? The story seemed very 1800’s to me.

I used the 1780s as my target time period. I made sure that all the details of my world, and all the words used, existed in that decade. That window of time just appealed to me – the dress customs, travel, weaponry, cultural norms. They feel right at home. Perhaps I was a teenager there in a past life. (I’d better make it clear that I’m joking …)

In the book Evie discovers that she has a magical connection to a sea serpent, and that she really likes the ocean. Was Evie’s story inspired by particular love of the sea on your part or were there other sources for inspiration for the project?

I didn’t grow up near the ocean, and I’m not someone who spends loads of time at the sea. I sunburn just by thinking about sitting outside, I worry about my kids drowning, and I’m terrified of things in the water that can eat me. I think I’m more in love with the idea of the sea, with the creative landscape of it. Imaginatively, the sea is a place I love to be, from my childhood dreams of swimming with dolphins, to a later fascination with marine biology. I’d happily watch Discovery Channel programming about oceanic life for days on end if I had the time. Such power, such vastness, such a different world where things can navigate in three dimensions instead of two. The ocean with all her moods captivates me.

I must ask. Will there a sequel in the works for Secondhand Charm? If not, what project do you plan to work on next?

I confess, I never envisioned a sequel to Evie’s story. Other advance readers have asked me that question too, so it has me wondering. After finishing the story, I’ll ask you -- do you think there’s room for one?

Well without trying to be too spoilery I thought that where the villains ended up at the end of the book could lead to Evie having to face them again, and hence my curiosity about the sequel.

What is your favorite and least favorite part in the creation of a book?
Least favorite part: lack of sleep, and how my house disintegrates around me. It’s bad. Favorite part: the writing. And the revising. Right now I’m savoring the responses bloggers and reviewers have shared.

I wonder how many writers are a bit crazy like I am. As I write, I’m torn between loving what’s appearing on the page, and feeling certain it’s worthless drivel. Finally I throw up my hands in despair, proofread, and hand it over to my editor to let her deal with it. So every time I hear that someone has read Secondhand Charm and loved it, I’m thrilled, of course, but also a little bit astonished.

I noticed that you have started a series called The Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys. Can you tell us a little bit about this series? Are they middle grade novels or graphic novels?

Yes, and yes! Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys is a collaboration with my sister, Sally Faye Gardner, the illustrator. It’s the story of Cody Mack, fifth grader and expert troublemaker, whose parents and principal send him to a boarding school of last resort to try to fix his bad behavior: Splurch Academy, where eminent behaviorist Dr. Archibald Farley promises to reform Cody for good. Dr. Farley turns out to be a mad scientist vampire, and the faculty, a pack of shape-shifting kid-eating fiends. No one ever escapes alive. (This feels a lot like junior high to me.) Cody and his friends have to stay alert and crafty to save their skins from Farley’s sinister schemes, the first of which involves plungering boy brains out through ear canals and swapping them with the brains of trained rats. Good wholesome entertainment for reluctant readers everywhere. ;)

The series, which currently has four titles in the works, is a mix of early middle grade chapter book and graphic novel. It feels very “comic book,” but there’s lots of novel for kids to read as well. I know that many current series have played with different ways of integrating text, illustrations, and comic panels, but I think the recipe we’ve concocted with Splurch Academy is unique, and lots of fun. It’s a love note to my four disruptive sons, whom I holler at more than I should. I hope it’ll raise my stock value in their eyes. Series titles so far: THE RAT BRAIN FIASCO, CURSE OF THE BIZARRO BEETLE, THE COLOSSAL FOSSIL FREAKOUT, and THE TROUBLE WITH SQUIDS.

We’ll, end with one last random question. What is your favorite thing about fall?
Sweaters! And apple crisp. I make a mean apple crisp, and an even meaner apple pie, when I can find the time. But now that I’ve hit my metabolism-squelching mid-thirties, sweaters may be the only innocent fall pleasure left to me.

Thanks for the inverview. It was fun! Secondhand Charm has been out in the stores for several weeks now. I hope some of you readers will take a chance to pick it up this fall season.


Suey said...

Just for the record... I'd like a sequel to Secondhand Charm!

Charlotte said...

Thanks for the great interview. I'd never heard of the Splurch Adademy before--I'll add it to my list!