I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie about Black Box, and she was nice enough to answer my numerous questions. Thanks, Julie, for taking time out of your busy schedule for me!
What prompted you to tackle such a heavy topic as depression?
I don’t begin with topics. I begin with characters. I started with Elena and Dora and their relationship, and the plot developed from there. That said, I did end up writing about depression because–as in the author’s note at the end of the book–I had seen several people very close to me suffering from mental illness.
Why did you choose to tell the story from the point of view of Elena, whose sister is struggling with depression?
I was more interested in the idea of the “bystander” or the person who had to try to decide if and when to intervene in a crisis. Elena at first assumes that there is no real crisis; but as her sister’s condition deteriorates, she begins to believe that she is responsible for Dora. She’s well intentioned but mistaken both times.
A lot of stories I’ve read about mental illness make it a point to show cause, focusing on the character’s past or family life. I don’t recall a reason for Dora’s depression being revealed in Black Box. Was this intentional?
Yes. I didn’t want to create and point to a “cause” like abuse or foster care or trauma. Often there are no objective causes for depression or other forms of mental illness. I didn’t want to provide a tidy explanation–like an escape clause for the reader–or an easy answer, when in life there often are no answers.
At 164 pages, Black Box is a pretty short book, but it packs a punch. How long did it take you to write the book?
I wrote the first draft pretty quickly, in under a year. Then I revised for another 1-2 years. Revision always takes longer than I imagine it will. That’s where the heavy lifting really takes place.
I think the author’s note at the end of the novel summarizes my hopes for what the reader will take away from Black Box. That shame should not be the corollary of mental illness. That keeping one’s misery to oneself is a mistake. That books can make a difference in our lives.
Are you working on another novel? Could you describe your writing process?
I’m working on several projects, including a book of short stories and a novel. As for my process: I used to be more haphazard, writing whatever I was interested in at the moment. But in the past few years, I’ve tried to become more disciplined and more organized. I make outlines. I try to stick to a schedule. I try to write a full draft before going back to make changes. But of course sometimes I break my own promises…
What are you reading right now? What’s the one book you can’t wait to read?
I’m reading Marilyn Robinson’s Home and My Abandonment by Peter Rock and a couple of collections of short fiction. The book I can’t wait to read is the book I don’t know about yet, that a good friend will recommend to me.
Thanks again, Julie! I look forward to reading your other works, and I wish you all the best in your career!
Dear readers, please let me know if you get a chance to read Black Box. I’d love to know your thoughts!
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.
© 2008 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.