Friday, January 25, 2008

Author Visit: Julie Halpern

Please welcome author Julie Halpern! Julie's YA novel, Get Well Soon, was nominated for a 2008 ALA Quick Pick. Congratulations, Julie! :)

A native to the Chicago suburbs, I have been a school librarian for the past seven years. I live with my sweetheart husband, illustrator Matthew Cordell, and our gloriously large Siamese cat, Tobin. In my spare time I like to read, watch TV, play Sims 2, and travel.

Anna Bloom doesn't know what happened, but somehow she ended hospitalized at Lakeland for depression. Through laugh out loud funny letters home to her best friend, Anna describes her experiences in a mental hospital, complete with kooky friends, oblivious adults, and even a little romance, and ends up learning more about herself than she ever expected.

What inspired you to write Get Well Soon?
The book is based on my own hospitalization for depression in high school, although throughout the editing process a lot of the details have become fictionalized. I always thought the experience would make a great book, filled with interesting characters and bizarre situations. And since I read so much YA, and so much of it is dark and depressing, I thought it would be nice to write a funny book about a not so funny topic.

Tell us about your main character. Are you like him or her?
I am definitely like her, although I’m not as sarcastic. And since I’m older and have had many more life experiences than Anna, I think I’m a lot more confident. But her experience was very close to my own experience in the hospital, with a few fictional details thrown in.

What is your writing process? Are you an outliner or not?
I don’t really outline. Sometimes I make a list of things I want to include in the story. Get Well Soon had a lot of events that had to happen in a very specific amount of time (three weeks), so I wrote out sort of a day planner, where I plugged in big events on specific days. I hand write the first draft of my novels because I write much faster than I type, and I like to flip back, scratch out, etc. Then I have to type up the whole thing, which is my least favorite part, and I revise as I go. Then I print it up, revise it again, and then it’s ready for someone else’s eyes.

What’s your favorite time of the day to write?
In high school, I loved to write at night because no one else was awake. But now I fall asleep around 9:30 every night, so that’s out of the question. I can pretty much write at any time of day, as long as I just sit myself down and make myself do it.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading Get Well Soon?
I’d like readers who have their own battles with depression to gain some sort of happiness from the book because it’s funny and because it lets them know they’re not alone. And I hope that people will look at depression and hospitalization a little differently, like maybe it’s more normal than they think. I have heard from quite a few people that have been or know someone who has been hospitalized, teens dealing with depression, as well as teens just looking for a funny book. I love hearing from the readers because it makes me feel like I did something right.

Writing can be filled with rejection. How do you handle that?
Not too well, although luckily I have a day job that I love and don’t have time to write millions of novels and wait for millions of rejections. Get Well Soon only went through a couple of rejections, and I just knew when I found my editor that we were meant to work together. She is now helping me revise my newest novel.

What characters do you most admire in your book and why?
I admire Matt O. because he’s been through some tragic stuff but still continues to be human and funny. And I completely admire Justin for seeing past unrealistic beauty standards for women and liking Anna the way she is.

What’s your next project?
My next book was originally called Roll for Initiative (a Dungeons and Dragons reference), but my editor and I are working on a new title (although I have some students who are fighting to keep the title). It’s a teen novel about how best friends aren’t always the best people for you and how nerds can be cool. Or something like that. I’m waiting for my editor’s first big round of notes. Always a little scary, but she did say she loved it and she swears she doesn’t say that to everyone. I asked.



Link to Amazon:

**Julie's giving away one signed copy of Get Well Soon and a frowny face button! To enter, leave a comment here, on LJ or both places by 9pm on Sunday night.**


Jessica Burkhart (Jess Ashley) said...

*Sorry about the spacing issue, guys. Blogger decided how to space my paragraphs! Enjoy Julie's Q&A! :)

Stephanie J said...

Great concept for a book! I like that it will give others an opportunity to look at depression and hospitalization differently. I haven't had much contact with friends who have depression (as far as I know) but it's something that I know has affected a lot of friends of friends.

I never thought about the concept of using a dayplanner to plot out elements of the novel. Good idea!! As a librarian, did you always know you wanted to write or did you have to "allow" yourself to transition from reader to writer? Do you use any of your experiences from working in a school in your novel?

windycindy said...

Hello, I would enjoy reading your book. I also suffer from depression and have been on medication and therapy throughout the years. Please enter me in the contest for this intriguing book. Thanks,Cindi

Anonymous said...

this book looks very interesting to me. i would love to read it!

Anonymous said...

That was a great interveiw. The book sounds really interesting I would love to read it.

award said...

Your book sounds great! It reminds me of Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story. I really enjoyed that book and know I would love yours! I like your idea of taking a dark topic and making it hopeful and humorous.

Anonymous said...

ooh! i really wanna read this book!

the story siren said...

sounds like a interesting read. i would love to be entered in the contest.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie. I saw you at the kidlitosphere conference. Fantastic book cover :)

Julie H said...

Thank you to everyone for reading the interview and for commenting! I am so amazed at Jessica's fabulous readership.

To Stephanie- I never really considered myself a reader or a writer, until I realized that reading all of the time (even if it was just magazines or comics) did make me a reader and writing all of the time (even if it was just silly stories for my friends or journal entires or letters) made me a writer. The experiences I use from working in a school are more the language and current trends I hear about from the students. And I think being around teens all day keep me young and goofy.

Good luck to everyone in the contest! If you ever have any thoughts or questions in the future, feel free to email me at

Thank you again for reading!

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