Julie Anne Nelson - When Characters Get Very Little Downtime
When Julie Anne Nelson isn't working as a technical editor, she loves to live out her passion for young adult fiction through her writing. Her wildly popular The Sevens series was inspired by a Percy Shelley poem and, as our author of the day, she tells us all about it. Nelson also talks about her writing habits, her tendency to sneak extra books in between writing/editing the main series and how her teaching career inspired her to write for young adults.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Wild Wood is about.
The Wild Wood is about the struggles and adventures of seven girls who are born at the exact same time on the exact same day in a superstitious (and very dangerous) small town.
What inspired you to write a story about seven girls who were all born on the same day?
I used to do a writing exercise where I would use famous quotes and proverbs as story prompts. The Wild Wood and the six other books in the Sevens series are all inspired by a Percy Shelley poem called To Jane: The Invitation. The specific line that started the entire series is:
“Away, away from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs…”
That is what inspired me to start the series, but the characters, their growth, their strength, their struggles… that is what kept me engaged with this story for many years, through seven books.
How much has teaching middle school influenced your writing and storytelling?
Spending as much time as I did with middle school and high school students challenged me to create a diverse group of characters that represented just how diverse young people are. They are as unique in their outlooks on the world as the rest of the population and should have stories that represent that fact.
Did you know from the start that you were going to make this into a series?
I knew there would be a series (I actually only write series, never a standalone book), but I had no idea it would be a seven-book series! After the Sevens series is finished, I am definitely working on trilogies for a while!
What is your secret to keeping your readers hooked throughout the book? Some of them stayed up all night to finish it!
My poor characters get very little downtime!!! I’ve loved reading the reviews that showed that people really got hooked by the characters and couldn’t let go until the book was finished!
How did you manage to create 7 such complex characters? Are any of them inspired by real people?
In truth, my characters create themselves and I just take down their story. I have no idea where the story is going before I write it, and I am VERY excited to see how their story resolves. Certain moments might resonate in my real life, but none of my characters are based on real people. One funny story is that friends of my mother thought that I had a bad relationship with my dad because they read The Wild Wood and were concerned that one of the difficult characters (Pastor Rowe) was based on my dad, who is a priest. My mother assured them that my dad is nothing like Pastor Rowe!
It has been really gratifying to hear from many young people about how they loved that there are so many complex female characters who inspired them. We definitely need more great female characters in books, television, movies, etc.
Why young adults? What is it about this audience that attracts you?
Young adults are fun to write for and about because so much is going on in their lives in the space of a few years. That said, I also write new adult (or mature YA) because my characters are aging through the story and they are experiencing different struggles as the books go on. In December, I am putting out a trilogy called The Blood Bearer Trilogy, that is definitely on the darker side of young adult. I also write general fiction—basically, I write whatever stories come to me and let them go wherever they want.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
It is definitely not a secret, but I am also a professional technical editor. As for a secret skill (that should definitely stay secret), I sometimes sing opera (not well, but loud).
Have you always wanted to be a writer? And when was the first time when you truly felt that you are now an author?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer and felt like an author for the first time when I published my second book, more with the third and fourth, and definitely with the fifth book!
How do you force yourself to finish what you're doing before starting the next project when the new idea is nagging at you?
I write very fast (editing is much slower!), so I usually sneak extra books in between editing/writing iterations on the main series. That’s how I ended up with another trilogy to publish this year!
Does this book have an underlying message? What do you hope your readers will take away from it?
I love history, current events, and geopolitics, so there is definitely a lot going on in my books. And I love world building in my stories, so I tend to have quite a few characters and intricate plots with global ramifications. My favorite review of my books was from a local librarian: “The Wild Wood series is a fantastic tale with well-developed characters, descriptive settings and an intricate and engaging storyline. It’s George RR Martin quality for young adults! My middle school students love this fantasy!” As a Game of Thrones fan, that made me smile!
Tell us about your writing habits. Do you have a favorite writing spot?
I write full time on top of a full-time job, so I am busy pretty much all of the time. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because writing allows me to transcend everything else and travel to other worlds that exist only in my mind (at least, until I publish them and share them with everyone). I have several writing spaces, but my favorite spot is at a treadmill desk. I used to sit for my day job and also while I wrote, and all that sitting just isn’t great, so I now have the option to sit or stand for both my day work and my writing.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently writing book 7 of the Sevens series and editing book 6, as well as writing, editing, and revising my next series, The Blood Bearer Trilogy.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love to hear from readers, so definitely let me know what you think at: [email protected]