Author Interview with Julie Berry

We welcome Julie Berry to the blog today. We’re ecstatic she will be at WIFYR teaching a Novel workshop.

Photo of Julie Berry

How did you begin writing?

I majored in communication in college, so technical and professional writing have been part of my life for a long time. I first began thinking of writing fiction after my youngest son was born. I began my journey by writing short humor columns for a local newspaper for several years. It was great experience working with editors, meeting deadlines, and eying voice, timing, and word-count. After I’d gotten my courage up, I returned to school, ultimately pursuing an MFA in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of the Fine Arts. In my time in grad school, I wrote three novels, two of which were ultimately published.

The Earth’s under attack, you go to the bookstore for one book to take with you during escape. Go!

I dread how this may sound like a pious answer. I swear it isn’t. I’d bring the Bible. For pure literary heft and scope, for the comforting companionship of literature, the Bible can’t be beat. As I once told The Boston Globe, compared to the parting of the Red Sea, most modern fantasy literature is milquetoast. But if, as my VCFA southern writer friend Kathi Appelt likes to say, I could only take one book to a desert island the Bible was already there, then I’d bring Pride and Prejudice. And if at all possible, I’d smuggle along a set of Tolkien.

When you’re not laboring over the keyboard, what would we find you doing?

Moping, whining. Trying to find the floor underneath the mess. When my life is a little more orderly, I like to do things like quilt and garden. But my life hasn’t been orderly in decades. I work out fairly regularly, to try to keep the old machine somewhat limber. When there’s time, and there never is, I like watching movies, and certain BBC programs. Bit of a Marvel fan, too. Not ashamed to admit it.

What’s the last book that made you do a spit take? Or at least laugh out loud?

First, I must bare my uncoolness by saying I had to Google what a spit-take was. Now that I understand, the answer’s simple: anything by Terry Pratchett or P.G. Wodehouse. Which reminds me, I’m sadly overdue for a good comedy jag.

Can you give us a typical day in the life of?

I keep striving for typical, but with four boys, it never happens. Still, here goes:

5:00 a.m. alarm. Teach a 6:00 a.m. scripture class for teens. Get kids off to school by 8:00. Bit of housecleaning, get to the gym to work out with some friends. By 10 or so, I’m back home getting ready to start my workday. Scramble to catch up on correspondence, marketing, promotional stuff. Then, transition to writing. Write till kids come home. Write when I can during their afternoon activities. Write a bit more after they’ve gone to bed. Or read. Crazy deadlines can disrupt the balance and chain me to my laptop. Lulls will find me sipping the delights of Netflix more than I should.

You’re at Carol’s dance party. Are you dancing in the middle? Head bobbing? Fly on the wall? Or do you apologize later because you got a sudden case of food poisoning?

I am embarrassing Carol and causing minor injuries to others. Carol and I were classmates together at VCFA, and we’ve got many dances under our belts. We know how to boogie. At least, to our own satisfaction, and possibly to the amusement of those around us.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given concerning writing?

I have this posted to my wall. I believe it with all my heart. “Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” –Henry Van Dyke I don’t think any of us can ever be as good as we like to be, as good as the greats who’ve changed our lives. But we still can allow ourselves to leave our little offering at the altar.

And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?

Oh gosh. I’m definitely not saying this was my favorite song. I kinda sneered at it at the time. But it was pretty much the soundtrack to my early teen years, and still can grab me by the navel and yank me back to that gooey hormonal place. That song, of course, is “I Get Lost in Your Eyes” by Debbie Gibson.