Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meet Author Ophelia Julien!

Today's guest is Ophelia Julien -- author of several young adult novels, including Saving Jake (New Leaf Books, 2002), about a boy who can "track" lost objects, people, and even past lives with his mind.

Unlike most of us, Ophelia grew up in a haunted house on the north side of Chicago. She reads, writes, and collects ghost stories. Her more mundane activities include baking, knitting, crocheting, and sleeping whenever she can.

For more information about Ophelia Julien, visit her web site at and her blog at

Q: How old were you when you first realized that you wanted to be a writer?

Ophelia: When the Beatles' song "Paperback Writer" hit the charts and summed it up for me in actual words.  I was in grade school at the time and already writing stories.

Q: Describe one of your earliest works. Who or what inspired you to write it? 

Ophelia: When I was in eighth grade, I wrote what I thought was a novel (40 type-written pages with no margins and no double spacing) set in a boarding school.  The influence was Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co, still one of my all-time favorite books.

Q: Can you name someone whose encouragement made a significant difference as you developed into a writer?

Ophelia: I'm an inveterate letter writer (as in fan-girl) and have been since I was a kid.  My first response came from Madeleine L'Engle and I still have that letter.  I also have a note from Stephen King that encouraged me to write what I wanted to write, which was young adult fiction, and a letter from another of my heroes, Richard Peck, who gave me encouragement in an entirely different way.  I was lucky enough to meet Mr Peck.  He's a lovely man.

Q: Please tell us a little about your ties to Chicago.

Ophelia: I grew up in Chicago and didn't move away to the suburbs until I was married and a parent.  Chicago is probably one of my all-time favorite cities.  Its history is hidden because so much burned down in the Great Fire, but it has history, all right.  And lots of haunted places.  Like my childhood home, for instance.

Q: What was easy about writing Saving Jake? What was difficult?

Ophelia: I don't think anything about writing Saving Jake was easy.  For one thing, it's the most autobiographical book I've ever written and I was terrified when it got published and my family was going to be able to read it.  Parts of it were truly painful to put down on paper, but I'm glad I did it.  Maybe the only easy thing was getting the character of Jake Holdridge.  He pretty much rang my doorbell and introduced himself, unlike Philip Corts who ran away from me for almost two years.

Q: Of the characters mentioned in Saving Jake, choose one you would like to meet and tell us why.

Ophelia: I'd love to meet Jake face to face.  We understand each other completely and he'd be fun just to hang around with for a day.

Q: In your blog, you talk about the Chicago Swordplay Guild. Do any of your books draw on that particular interest of yours? If not, do you think you might write a book that features swordplay someday?

Ophelia: I'm currently working on a book now that will include swordplay and if I don't get it right, I sure will hear about it!  Actually, I'll need to run those scenes past my colleagues just to make sure I don't mess up.  I'm very interested in swords and sword fighting but interest does not a skilled practitioner make!  One of these years, I also hope to include Tae Kwon Do in a book, since that was my first exposure to martial arts, back when I was in high school and college.

Q: You obviously have a special sensitivity to otherwordly phenomena. Is that a help or a hindrance to you as a writer? Can you give an example of how it helped or hindered you on a specific project?

Ophelia: At one time I might have said my "sensitivity," as you very kindly put it, was a hindrance.  I've tried writing other kinds of stories and no matter what I'm doing, even my adult short stories, I end up putting a paranormal twist into it. I can't seem to keep that out of my creative endeavors and have decided it's best not to try.  And despite my background, I do manage to frighten myself from time to time.  Back when I did newspaper writing, I wrote an annual Halloween feature where people would tell me their true ghost stories and I would write them up.  One year I was home alone typing up my copy and there was a God-almighty crash from the direction of my basement.  It sounded like someone dumped a cabinet full of dishes on the floor.  I got up to investigate and nothing was out of place.  And of course, no one was there.  There's a reason I write during the day!

Q: Anything else you'd like to share?

Ophelia: Sure.  Right now I'm working through the inevitable frustration of trying to get my next manuscript published.  I'm currently searching for an agent who handles YA fiction, as well.  Someone recently asked me about my dream of being a famous author, but you know what?  That's not exactly it.  In the end, I don't care if people can't remember my name.  But I'd sure love it if they remembered my characters.  Thanks for asking!

1 comment:

  1. How about a book about a Chicago sword swallower who dies when he's accidentally shoved while swallowing his sword during a Tae Kwon Do tournament and comes back to haunt an Author's Conference?