Novelist, essayist/short story writer, Julie Schumacher (complete listing of author’s books) writes for both children and adults. In her latest YA novel The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls releasing on May 8, 2012, the storyline of meaningful literature and mother-daughter relationships easily crosses over into adult fiction. As the author explains:
“No matter what I start writing about, I end up gravitating toward a particular emotional territory: family relationships, characters who are drawn toward one another but don’t get along, off-beat interactions or misunderstandings, unrealized desires. Those motifs work just as well and can be at least as satisfying in YA literature as in literature for adults.”
However, when described in one sentence, The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls is: A book about books and reading.
I’m Adrienne Haus, survivor of a mother-daughter book club. Most of us didn’t want to join. My mother signed me up because I was stuck at home all summer, with my knee in a brace. CeeCee’s parents forced her to join after cancelling her Paris trip because she bashed up their car. The members of “The Unbearable Book Club,” CeeCee, Jill, Wallis, and I, were all going into eleventh grade A.P. English. But we weren’t friends. We were literary prisoners, sweating, reading classics, and hanging out at the pool. If you want to find out how membership in a book club can end up with a person being dead, you can probably look us up under mother-daughter literary catastrophe. Or open this book and read my essay, which I’ll turn in when I go back to school.
To sample Adienne’s essay, please read Chapters 1 and 2 of the novel. It’s both delightful, and thoughtful, earning — [Starred Review], Kirkus Reviews: “The characters, especially the four girls, sparkle…. Smart and insightful.”
The Divining Wand has scheduled a return visit from Julie Schumacher on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 but — for today — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:
Julie Schumacher grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and graduated from Oberlin College and Cornell University. Her first published story, “Reunion,” written to fulfill an undergraduate writing assignment (“tell a family tale”) was reprinted in The Best American Short Stories 1983. Subsequent stories were published in The Atlantic, MS, Minnesota Monthly, and Prize Stories: The O.Henry Awards 1990 and 1996. Her first novel, The Body Is Water, was published by Soho Press in 1995 and was an ALA Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Minnesota Book Award. It was published in translation in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Israel, Greece, and Korea. Her other books include a short story collection, An Explanation for Chaos, and five books for younger readers: The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls (2012), Black Box (2008), The Book of One Hundred Truths (2006), The Chain Letter (2005), and Grass Angel (2004), all from Delacorte. Ms. Schumacher lives in St. Paul and is a faculty member in the Creative Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of Minnesota.
And now the opportunity to get to know Julie upclose and personal:
Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Reading and writing whenever possible. Family. Students. Friends.
Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Be kind. Work hard.
Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Reading a good book in front of a fire, on a snowy afternoon by a window, accompanied by drowsy felines.
Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. I don’t care for arachnids.
Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. In a hillside writing studio above Lake Como, in Bellagio, Italy.
Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. I feel I should have an impressive answer to this: Joan of Arc or Elizabeth the 1st…. But a lot of impressive historical figures lived dramatic and not very happy lives. So I guess I’d rather identify with an anonymous, comfortable woman in a tidy house – a person time has forgotten.
Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Anyone who overcomes adversity and is willing to talk to others about doing the same.
Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. “Yeah, right” is a favorite. And I have to cross the phrase “some kind of” and “a sort of” out of everything I write. *Eschew verbal clutter.*
Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. Musical ability. I want to sit down at the piano and sound like Mozart, without even trying. Or open my mouth and hear Etta James’s voice booming out of me.
Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Raising children and teaching and writing books – all in the same lifetime.
Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. I can be stingy; and I am a skillful liar.
Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Empathy. Writers need to be able to imagine themselves in the lives and situations of others.
Q. What do you regret most?
A. I have plenty of regrets; thankfully, most of them are small. The larger ones involve selfishness or small-mindedness directed toward other people.
Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. For a day, or even an afternoon, I’d like to be the fastest person on the planet. (On foot, that is – not in a car.)
Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I have what some people think is an odd sense of humor.
Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. The colonel in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s No One Writes to the Colonel.
Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. She’s not all that villainous, but: Mrs. Medlock in The Secret Garden.
Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. I’d meet Billie Jean King and tell her, “Thank you for beating Bobby Riggs.”
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. The use of “lay” for “lie,” as in “I’m going to lay down and rest.” That’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.
Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Reading. I also like typing – preferably on the springy keyboard of an IBM Selectric typewriter.
Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Candor. Humor. Kindness.
Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. I can’t think of five favorite songs. I am fickle and fairly simple minded when it comes to music.
Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. Middlemarch. Northanger Abbey. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Anna Karenina. The Professor’s House.