February Authors Interviewing Authors features two of my most favorite people, of the writer sort or otherwise: J.C. Lillis and Julie Hutchings! These two are so wonderful, so fantastic, so much fun(!) that I feel like they really need no introduction so…I won’t!
Here’s J.C. Lillis chatting up Julie Hutchings. Enjoy!
13 Questions with Julie Hutchings
The thing I love best about Twitter (besides @RealCarrotFacts) is the way it helps connect introverted writers with people we’d never meet under ordinary circumstances, simply because we’d rather die than introduce ourselves to the cool-looking stranger at the bookstore. Social media sucks sometimes, but damn is it a good friendship-starter-kit for creative types. Now we can assemble virtual goat-farm communes and invite all our new friends to come write and complain and make cheese. We can build neighborhoods based on heart and shared heartache, not physical proximity. We can help each other and challenge each other and distract each other with horrifying midcentury aspic recipes when our words are being uncooperative little punks.
The biggest bedroom of my pretend goat-farm-writers’-retreat is always reserved for Julie Hutchings, author of the witty, darkly romantic vampire novels Running Home and Running Away. She was one of the first real friends I made in the online writing community and will forever be one of the best, because she’s brave and kind and honest and hilarious and a bushel of other adjectives that would take up this entire space if I took them out and laid them end-to-end. We’ve interviewed each other a couple times before, and every time I’m like, why can’t we live next door to each other with a little bridge connecting our houses?
Today we chat about Julie’s upcoming book, her writing process, the value of taking breaks, and the question that’s on everyone’s mind: what Muppet she identifies with most.
JL: First of all, I’m so damn excited that we both have new releases coming out this year. Tell us whatever you can share about your new book!
JH: I’m so damn excited for YOU and Buzzfeed lists and The Mary Sue, and how awesome you are in general, with or without aspic. I CAN SHARE WHATEVER I WANT ABOUT MY NEW BOOK except the cover. But holy Mary, this cover. This cover makes me weak in the knees. ANYHOO.
The Harpy is the story of Charity Blake, a bitter runaway punk that has vengeance in her heart—enough that it turns her into one of the mythological bird-beast-torture-ladies, the harpies. She’s a very hurt, very damaged, very angry girl that does all the wrong things for all the right reasons. I think of her as the anti-Batman. She doles out justice, but it’s so, so wrong, and it brings her to places she never thought existed in her soul or in reality.
JL: It sounds amazing, and I know it will be—I know how passionate you are about this book. Charity sounds quite different from Eliza in your first two books, who charmed me with her regular-girl heart and humor. Would you say The Harpy is a signature “Julie book,” or do you feel like it’s a departure from your others?
JH: This is definitely more gruesome than Running Home or Running Away. It sounds like me—you’ll recognize it as mine, I bet, but it is far darker than the books you know of me now. There’s hope in there, though! And humor and love stories, so it’s not all doom and gloom and torture.
JL: Does your writing process change from book to book? I always go into a new project like “yeah, I’ve got this down now,” and then the book’s like “haha, foolish author, NO” and I have to make it up as I go along. Is that the case for you too, or do you have a tried and true process?
JH: I have a different process for every book. I do the same thing, I think I know what I’m doing, and then SLAM I have to do it all differently. The book I’m writing now is back to my grass roots, all handwritten, no word counts, just writing the book out of order as it comes to me, and man does that feel good.
JL: I know some people (myself included) who are seriously impressed when writers are like “I had a half hour so I managed to sneak in 800 words.” For me it sometimes takes that long to get in gear and locate the thread of the story again. Since it seems like you’re good at hitting the ground running when you have a pocket of free time, any tips for writers who find it tough to start their engines?
JH: Ha. I say this as a person who just suffered a nervous breakdown from overextending myself, but one thing never changes for me, and it keeps me going always: I never suffer from lack of motivation when it comes to writing because I know how goddamn lucky I am to have this job. I earned this job by performing at it. If you want to work for someone else forever, don’t be self-motivated. I can’t.
JL: You’ve said a lot of smart things on Twitter recently about how we writers need to forgive ourselves when we go through dry spells or pause our writing for other reasons. What are some mental scripts you’d recommend for a writer who’s super-tough on herself and feels like a failure when she isn’t cranking out words daily?
JH: I sounded like such a hardass in that last question, and then you throw this at me. Yes, I motivate myself to bust my ass whenever humanly possible to write and query and edit and read and do anything I can to improve my craft. But sometimes you need to STOP. You need to recharge the batteries, grease the engine, just be YOU without a word count. First off, you’re a writer because you don’t like to live by anyone else’s rules—so don’t start now. Don’t let anyone tell you that if you don’t write every day that you’re not a real writer. Don’t force yourself to do something that doesn’t feel right because you’re comparing yourself to someone else. Art is a heartbreaker—and writers break their own hearts every time they put words on a page. You need to let yourself repair from it.
And you remember this, goddamnit. If you put ten words on a page, draw a picture of your main character’s cat, think of a line of dialogue, or write 3,000 words and think every one of them is crap, remember that you’ve brought to life something that could not exist without you. There’s no way to do it wrong. You make the rules, you set the pace, you change the rules as often as you want, and know that at the end of the day if you’ve put work into your book, you’ve made something that nobody else on the planet could make. It’s important even if it barely makes sense.
And REMEMBER THIS, TOO. If you need time to think, to not write, to just feel, that’s all working towards the big picture. It’s like how a pregnant woman is the most exhausted in the beginning of pregnancy even though nobody can see that she’s pregnant—she’s setting the stage. This is when her body is working the hardest. The formative phase. Just because you can’t see the change doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Give yourself credit for putting in the work.
JL: Dammit, I want everything you just said cross-stitched on a pillow. Just multiple throw pillows so I can have them all over the house.
[Do you see why I love her?]
Okay. Now for our Totally Random Non-Writing-Question Lightning Round. If you owned a restaurant, what would be your signature dish?
JH: Oh, I can’t make things. But it would be a nice deep dish pizza just goddamn bursting with Peking ravioli.
JL: My tastebuds are confused, but intrigued. When you were sixteen, what was your favorite thing that hung on your bedroom wall?
JH: There was a LOT on my walls when I was 16, but this one poster of Brandon Lee in The Crow. Then there was a picture of a guy sitting at a table with a fork and knife, his face completely hidden by a stack of pancakes. It said HOTCAKES! under it and I loved it so hard. Also I had about 80 action figures from that comic The Tick all over the walls.
JL: Someday I will find you a copy of that HOTCAKES picture in a Goodwill, I promise. Battle of the Bombastic Ballads: “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or “Making Love Out of Nothing At All”?
JH: That’s not even a question, it is obviously “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” I’m crying thinking about it.
JL: I will fight you on this, Hutchings—Air Supply is overdue for reputation rehab. But whatever. Which Muppet do you identify with most?
JH: Bunsen. He’s my favorite, though I bet everyone will think it’s Animal.
JL: You realize if we’re ever in the same place for Halloween, we have to be Bunsen and Beaker.
JH: Please can we.
[*hones meeping skills*]
JL: You have exactly ten minutes to spend in your favorite amusement park. What do you do with your time?
JH: OOOOOOOH The Zipper! That thing with the cage that flips around and upside down and goes around like a ferris wheel but faster? I think I would throw up now if I got on one, and that’s assuming I hadn’t shoveled my face full of fried dough.
JL: If we went to Savers together someday (AND WE WILL), which section would we spend the most time in?
JH: I think we might never make it out of décor. I mean, really, that’s where I found the taxidermied alligator head.
JL: If you could take a trait or quality from one of your characters and transfer it to yourself, what would you choose?
JH: Crikey. That’s hard. I think I would love to have Kieran’s complete lack of fucks to give in Running Away. He knows how to say no, he knows he’s important and yet you never feel like he thinks only of himself. Also he looks badass in a black t-shirt, which is a crucial quality for anyone to succeed in life.
JL: If you could live inside one music video for a day, which would you choose?
JH: “Thriller” would be fun, right?
JL: Yes. You can come by and visit me in “Love is a Battlefield.” We can swap accessories.
J.C. Lillis is the author of contemporary YA novels HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART and WE WON’T FEEL A THING, plus various other stories about fandom, friendship, love, and art. She lives in Baltimore with her patient family, a possibly haunted dollhouse, and a cat who intends to eat her someday.
Julie Hutchings is a mythology twisting, pizza hoarding karate kicker who left her ten year panty peddling career to devote all her time to writing. Her debut novel, Running Home, and the sequel, Running Away are published through Books of the Dead Press. The Harpy coming in 2016 through REUTS Publications! Julie revels in all things Buffy, has a sick need for exotic reptiles, and drinks more coffee than Juan Valdez and his donkey combined, if that donkey is allowed to drink coffee. Julie lives in Plymouth, MA, constantly awaiting thunderstorms with her wildly supportive husband,two magnificent boys, three lizards and one Small Mexican Dog.
website: deadlyeverafter.com | twitter: twitter.com/HutchingsJulie
facebook: www.facebook.com/JulieHutchingsAuthor | amazon: amazon.com/author/