Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I've Got Nothing But LOVE for Julie Buxbaum

So today I have a fabulous Q/A with Julie Buxbaum, whose debut novel, The Opposite of Love, is receiving a lot of attention and praise, all deserved. I wanted to interview Julie for the blog because like so many Ask Allison readers, she had a day job - she was a lawyer - before taking the leap to write a novel. And not only did she write a novel, she wrote a huge novel...and I don't mean in terms of pages, I mean in terms of advance and buzz. To cap it off, Julie is a wonderful, generous person, and it's impossible not to root for her! I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

Here's a bit about the book:

When successful twenty-nine-year-old Manhattan attorney Emily Haxby ends her happy relationship just as her boyfriend is on the verge of proposing, she can’t explain to even her closest friends why she did it. Somewhere beneath her sense of fun, her bravado, and her independent exterior, Emily knows that her breakup with Andrew has less to do with him and more to do with...her. “You’re your own worst enemy,” her best friend Jess tells her. “It’s like you get pleasure out of breaking your own heart.”

As the holiday season looms and Emily contemplates whether she made a huge mistake, the rest of her world begins to unravel: she is assigned to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit where she must defend the very values she detests by a boss who can’t keep his hands to himself; her Grandpa Jack, a charming, feisty octogenarian and the person she cares most about in the world, is losing it, while her emotionally distant father has left her to cope with this alone; and underneath it all, fading memories of her deceased mother continue to remind her that love doesn’t last forever. How this brave, original young heroine finally decides to take control of her life and face the fears that have long haunted her is the great achievement of Julie Buxbaum’s marvelous first novel.

And here are Julie's answers to my questions:

1) You quit your job as a lawyer to become a writer. Have you always dreamt of being a writer and the law just side-tracked you for a few years?
I had always dreamed of one day writing a book, but for some reason didn't really consider novelist as a potential "career" choice. It took feeling completely unfulfilled as a lawyer to think seriously about how I wanted to spend all of that time--that 90% of my waking life--that was currently being wasted at a job I hated. As soon as I realized that there was nothing stopping me from pursuing my dream other than my own fear, I decided to take the leap. I have to admit that looking back, it was a crazy thing to do--just quitting cold turkey to write, when I hadn't really written anything before--but somehow, it turned out to be the best decision I've ever made.

2) When you quit, did you have a Plan B? If so, how long did you give yourself to succeed?
I didn't really have a Plan B. But I did decide when I quit the law that I had to be okay with the possibility that I could spend a year writing a book that would end up just being a pile of paper that lived in my drawer for the rest of my life. I figured regardless of what happened, the experience of writing my first novel itself would be worth it. Once I started writing, though, I became completely hooked, so I think even if I hadn't sold the THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE as quickly as I did, I would have found a way to feed the habit. I probably would have started temping as a lawyer, or maybe found some sort of part time gig, so that I could keep writing. I can't imagine a life now that didn't include finding time to write.

3) Tell me how you went about writing the book…did you quit your job, then sit down the next day and, voila, a novel?
My last day of work was a Friday, and I started working on the book that Monday. Sadly, it wasn't voila, novel, though that would have been great. My writing experience had lots of fits and starts: some great writing days, some days where I thought I should just give up and go back to my life as a lawyer, some tears, and every once in a great while that wonderful feeling that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

4) Do you outline your plot and the book? I know a lot of writers do this…and I don't, because I like to let my characters take me where they want to take me. But part of me wonders if I'm missing out on this huge breakthrough because I neglect the outline!
I outlined for about two weeks, when I first started writing, but I was off outline within three days. The only thing that remained standing from my original conception of the novel was the opening scene and the ending. I am not formally outlining the second book because I agree with you. If you feel beholden to an outline, then your characters can't take you where they want to go, and for me that has been the most fun (and the biggest surprise) of novel writing!

5) Your book is everywhere! (Including a huge poster in the Barnes and Noble by me!) Have you been actively involved in the promotion or did Dial mostly come up with the promotional/advertising plan for you?
Thanks! I can't tell you how happy it makes me to hear that you have been seeing it around. One of these days you'll probably catch me shamelessly taking a picture of that Barnes & Noble window! I have to say I've been incredibly lucky to have the support of Dial behind me. They've done a great job with the promotional/advertising side of things. At the same time, I think it's important to do my best to get out there and promote THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE. Admittedly, that's scary and often outside my comfort zone, but I don't want to later regret not giving my book every opportunity. It sort of feels like having a child in a way.

6) A lot of writers, myself included, have found that the actual publication of the book to be the most nerve-wracking of the entire experience. Have you found this to be true? How do you deal with the pressure?
Absolutely! I didn't realize until recently how it is both utterly terrifying and thrilling to release a book out into the world. My New Year's resolution was to not ruin this experience for myself by stressing out too much. But the truth is some days I feel intense pressure, which I realize is silly and entirely self-created because I am not even sure I could articulate what I feel pressure about. On the other hand, I've been making time to just sit back and enjoy and revel in the excitement of it all. This is a once in a lifetime thing--a literal dream come true--and I'd hate to look back and kick myself for only dwelling on the nerve-wracking parts.

7) I know that you're working on book #2…we've been talking about improving your work and evolving as a writer a lot on the blog…are you doing anything differently this time around?
I fully agree with what you've been saying about making sure you are constantly evolving as a writer. I am very proud of THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE, but I sincerely hope I look back on it years from now and think about how far I've come. With my second novel, I'm trying to be more ambitious and less scared of taking risks as a writer. My process hasn't changed, but I find I am much tougher on myself this time around, which I think is a good thing.


Trish Ryan said...

Hooray for escapee lawyers! My personal thought is that billing your misery in six minute increments teaches you a lot about how to keep a plot moving :)

Yay Julie :)

Larramie said...

To write and sell your first novel is quite impressive. Congratulations, Julie!

Allison raved about TOOL while reading the ARC and -- on that praise -- I pre-ordered a copy. It's on my TBR pile and am now more anxious than ever to get to it.

Sara Hantz said...

Fabulous interview. Can't wait to read the book. Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

I've been lurking here for a while and enjoy reading your thoughts though question 5 here makes it sound like you've no idea how publishing works... asking her if she had anything to do with the poster in B&N is like asking if she fronted the $10,000 it costs to get that kind of promotion. Of course it's all Dial. No one can afford B&N publicity otherwise (which is why shopping at indy stores is the better way to go...)

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Anon-You misunderstood my question.

Obviously, Julie didn't front the money for the BN posters, but authors often meet with their publicity team to discuss the best route for their book - what each person can bring to the table, and that's what I was asking. How much was expected of her to bring to the table. (For example, with The Department, I reached out to various editors I know.)

I'm sorry that you think it sounds like I have no idea how publishing works.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Anon-I just reread my above comment, which I wrote quickly this AM, and just wanted to say that it sounds snarky, but I meant it sincerely! I'm sorry that you thought the blog came off as unprofessional.

pamcl said...


I stopped by yesterday, read this interview and then an excerpt of the book and then picked up a copy today, and read the whole thing in one my local panera! It was that good.

This is the kind of blog post that really resonates with me, when the blogger has actually read the book and raves about it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


MaNiC MoMMy™ said...


YOU GOTTA GET THIS BOOK TO THE TOP OF YOUR TBR PILE... in fact, stop what you're reading now and START THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE!!!

Then come over and thank me! LOL.

It's such an amazing book, I have to turn this dang computer off and go upstairs to continue reading it right now. If only I didn't have three kids and other daily responsibilities, I would so hit the couch and read, read, read until I was through, but then again, maybe not because I really like the characters A LOT and don't want to get to the end of the book... kinda like that Sesame Stree book... The Monster At The End of this Book... Allison, you know what I'm talking about, you have got to have that book in your house too!


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed hearing how Julie made the decision to quit her job, her writing process -- all the stuff behind the actual writing, which can be a lot harder than the actual writing.

It's what I appreciate most about your blog, Allison.