Julie's first published story Reunion was part of The Best American Short Stories 1983, she works at the University of Minnesota as the Professor of English and Creative Writing.
Now for the interview....
Wdebo: Can you describe a typical day?
Julie Schumacher: I try to write in the mornings, before I go to work. If I can get a couple of hours of productive writing in, that's a success. I've never written full-time, because I have two kids and I teach at the University of Minnesota. I try to reserve evenings for reading -- mainly novels and short stories.
W: How do you come up with the ideas for your stories, mainly Black Box?
J: Ideas are everywhere, all the time: we just aren't used to recognizing them as ideas. We think we're day-dreaming, when in reality we're sifting ideas through our heads all day long. The trick is to catch hold of the themes and ideas that come back to you, over and over like recurring dreams, and then give them shape and polish them so that they have meaning and are appealing to others, as well as yourself.
W: Could you give a short summary of Black Box, for those readers who might not be familiar with it?
J: Black Box is about two sisters, Elena and Dora. Dora, the older sister, suffers from depression; Elena, the younger, doesn't think that anything is terribly wrong until Dora is hospitalized. She tries to hang on to the sister and to the relationship she once knew, and she tries to help -- but Dora gets worse. Elena seems to have no one to talk to about what has happened to her family -- until she meets Jimmy Zenk, a quirky loner who offers her frightening information about the hospital where Dora is being treated.
W: Are any of your characters based on anyone you know?
J: All my characters, I think, are some version of me. As a day-dreamer, I like to imagine myself in a lot of different scenarios and situations, and to imagine how I would react. That said, I do know a number of people who have suffered from severe depression, and their experiences helped inspire me to write the book.
W: What is your favorite thing to do (apart from writing)?
J: Reading. Hands down. I am one of those wackos who hates television and cell phones and computers. I still write all of my books by hand, with a ball-point pen
W: What's your favorite color?
J: Blue. Which seems appropriate to a person who has written a book about depression.
W: If you were stranded on an island and could only bring five things what would they be?
J: Well, if this were an island well equipped with food and water and a comfortable house and clothing (so I didn't have to bring those), I suppose I'd bring a combination of favorite books and family and friends. Something to read and someone to talk to -- those are the necessities in my life.
W: Who are some authors you look up to?
J: Lots and lots of authors. Too many to name -- many of them dead (Jane Austen and George Eliot for starters), and many of them alive. I keep books of quotations/favorite passages from novels that I love, and I re-read them a lot. They inspire me as a writer, and they also help me maintain a sense of who I am and who I was.
W: Do you have a new project you are working on? And if so, can you tell us a bit about it?
J: I'm superstitious about revealing too much about what I'm working on -- writers tend to be nervous about these things. But I'm working on a few projects: a novel and a book of short stories, among others.
W: As an only child I am curious, what is it like being the youngest of five children?
J: I loved growing up in a big family. There was always conversation, always someone to talk to or pester, always something to do. I grew up hearing family stories at the dinner table, and playing games: solitaire, ping-pong, kick-the-can, cribbage, soccer, tennis, caroms, bridge, hide-and-seek, hearts, field hockey, lacrosse... you name it. A family is a sort of universe unto itself.
W: What is your FAVORITE book in the world, the one that you think everyone should read before they die?
J: Middlemarch, by George Eliot. It's very long: it's best to read it when you have a fair amount of time.
W: Finally, do you have anything else that you would like to say?
J: Yes. I think everyone should turn off the TV and the computer and read a good book.
W: Thanks for letting me interview you!
Remember to check out Julie's site HERE!
And also remember that when you comment on this post you recieve TWO extra entrees for my GIANT blogoversery bash contest HERE, where you also have a chance to win a copy of Black Box.