Thursday, January 6, 2011

A 1/2 Dozen for Novelist Julie Buxbaum

Here's a 1/2 Dozen for novelist Julie Buxbaum who offers as a backward-glancing definition of inspiration,
advice on love ...
"we are all a tribe of a certain kind of good crazy"
and a glimpse into her upcoming novel
from a sleep-deprived life amid diapers .

1. I despise the pervasive myth of inspiration – the idea that an entire book can exist simply because of an accumulation of inspired ideas – but I don’t deny that inspiration exists. There are things that have no other explanation. Was there a singular moment of inspiration for this book?

For me, inspiration seems to hit after the fact. Weird, I know, but only after I've finished a book, can I see, with that clarity of hindsight, exactly where the seeds of my ideas came from. While writing AFTER YOU, for example, I wasn't conscious of the fact that I had become obsessed with the question of how well we know the people we love, even though that's pretty much what the book is about! Instead, I only realize now that I was in the midst of making the biggest commitment of my life--my now-husband had just proposed--while I was writing. There is no doubt that the fear of not really knowing him at all, despite having spent the last seven years of our lives together, spilled out on to the page and took the shape of a novel. In AFTER YOU, I look at best friends, not lovers, and the plot isn't about someone proposing, but the idea or that central question of how well we know our loved ones is still there nonetheless. So no aha! moments or singular moments of inspirations for me, but rather the slow dribble of my neurosis, which is only apparent years too late!

2. Some writers hate to write. Other writers love being engaged in the creative process. How would you describe your relationship with the page?

Love-hate. I once read that writing is akin to sitting down every day and cutting open a vein. And some days, that is absolutely true. Since having a child this year, I've found myself less engaged in the creative process--not because I don't love to write--but because my attention span is shot from lack of sleep and trying to remember to buy diapers and make doctors appointments, etc, and I find the act of sitting in front of a computer and drowning out all other things clamoring for my attention much trickier. At the same time, there are few things in the world that rival the high of a great writing day, or even the high of writing one really amazing sentence. And so each day, I sit down hoping for that hit. Most days, I come home a bit disappointed in myself. But every once in a while, when I get it right, there is nothing better.

3. What’s your advice to someone who’s fallen in love with a writer?

Run! I think it takes a certain amount of nuttiness to be able to endure the loneliness and sustained amounts of concentration required to write a novel. But maybe we are all a tribe of a certain kind of good crazy? At least that's what I tell my husband.

4. Pep talk (or bootie-kicking) for the downhearted writer. Let fly.

I think I was no better a writer the day before I got a publishing deal than I was the day after, and so I think there is something to be said for not placing too much stock in that stamp of approval. Instead, focus on the writing. I swear, even though sometimes it's torture, for me at least, that's the fun part. The writing. Not the seeing my book in stores--though of course that's gratifying--but the sitting my ass in the chair each day and trying to produce something wonderful. The ass in the chair? That's what makes you a writer.

5. Research. We all have to do it. Sometimes it’s delicious, sometimes brutal. Tell us a tale from the research trenches.

My next book, THE MODERN GIRL'S HANDBOOK is mostly set in 1950's Long Island, so I've been having lots of fun researching. Reading a ton of books, watching movies, old t.v. shows, all set in the 1950's, so now the language, the dress, the mores are starting to become second nature for me. I've also been interviewing women who were around the same age as my character (35ish) in the mid-fifties, and they are so interesting and inspirational and helpful with the tiniest of details. For me, research seems to be less about going to the library and digging, and more about total immersion.

6. Are you bloggish? Why?

I started blogging this summer at Julie Has Writer's Blog ( and I'm loving it. I find it a great outlet for all the words and thoughts and essays that form in my head but aren't relevant to my book. I use it as a palate cleanser in a way. Even better, it's a great way for me to interact directly with readers, which is one of my favorite parts of being a writer.

Julie Buxbaum is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. Her first novel, THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE has been translated into eighteen languages and optioned to film by 20th Century Fox. She currently lives in London with her husband and baby daughter.