Interview with Julia Hoban
CS: What inspired you to write WILLOW?
JH: 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.
CS: Cutting is a very sensitive issue that I’ve personally not seen or heard much about. What sort of research did you carry out for the book?
JH: I did a fair amount of reading about the “technical aspects” of the disorder. Steven Levenkron’s book “Cutting” was very helpful. One thing that may surprise people is the amount of care many cutters take with their wounds. It may seem counter intuitive, why cut yourself and then clean and bandage the cuts? But that’s a real window into the psyche of a self injurer: as Willow says cutting is not a dress rehearsal for suicide. It is most often a way of stuffing down feelings that would otherwise be too overpowering.
CS: Which scene in the book is your favorite and why?
JH: My favorite scene in the book is when Willow and Guy lose their virginity together. Prior to that scene, Willow is asked by a friend about Guy, who is he, what is his relationship to Willow? Willow’s response: “He’s someone that knows me, and someone that I know.” I really feel that everything in the book is leading up to that sentence, and I wish that every young woman and young man would feel that way about the person that they first sleep with.
CS: Now let’s move away from the book slightly, can you tell us about the first story you ever wrote?
JH: I can’t remember the first story I ever wrote, my first effort was a poem, I was eight years old and I entered it in a contest. I came in 39th out of 40.
CS: Well I’m glad that didn’t put you off writing for life! What is your favorite book and why is it special to you?
JH: I have hundreds of favorite books! Really, everything from Anna Karenina to The Cake Bible — I don’t think my husband would have married me if I hadn’t mastered the “perfect all American chocolate butter cake with burnt orange silk meringue buttercream!” But the book that I return to again and again, a book that never fails to move me is “The Railway Children” by Evelyn Nesbitt. It’s a middle grade novel, but it can be read and appreciated by anyone of any age. One of the things I love most about it is that it can be enjoyed on so many levels: it’s a delicious read to snuggle down with under the covers on a rainy day, and it’s also a profound work with many important life lessons.
CS: That cake sounds delicious! I’ve never read The Railway Children, but I’ve seen the movie and can agree with you there. It’s definitely a timeless classic. What are you working on at the moment?
JH: Thank you for asking! I don’t like to give specifics – I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious! It’s really out of superstition, it seems unlucky to give away too much before the book is done. I can tell you this though: everything I write has a theme. Willow is about the power of love to heal. The theme of the book I’m working on now is about emotional freedom.
CS: Not pretentious at all! I’m definitely looking forward to reading the finished piece though. Now finally, before we draw to a close, if you were to interview yourself what question would you ask, and how would you answer it?
Q) You say that you wrote WILLOW for those of us with self destructive urges, that it is a book about the redemptive power of love. All well and good, but do you really think that a book, any book, can help someone with such severe problems?
A) Absolutely. I can tell you from personal experience that I count many books as good and trusted friends, that there are books that have helped me through the deepest despair and through intense loneliness. Now WILLOW may not be a book that speaks to everyone, but if someone is able to learn from it, to question why they might treat themselves as less than they should, then this author will have truly done her job.
CS: An excellent question – well answered! Thanks for your time Julia, and for writing such a beautiful, sensitve and insightful novel.
If you’d like to read WILLOW, or any of the other books that Julia has mentioned you can order a copy from Amazon.com via the links below: