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Winter Blog Blast Tour: Julie Halpern

November 7, 2007

Jolene’s been traumatized by wisdom teeth extraction so I’m posting her interview with Julie Halpern, author of Get Well Soon.  -gayle 

First of all I really enjoyed your book. It reminded me of “Girl Interrupted” and “Prozac Nation” except way less depressing (ironic huh?) and much wittier . Was that your intention when writing the novel to show the lighter side of teen depression?

I consider “Prozac Nation” and “Girl Interrupted” to be “pity me” depression books.  I’m definitely “pity me” about some things, but depression is not one of them.  I always thought my experience at the hospital was so bizarre-how they focused so much on everything that went on in the hospital that we never talked about our lives outside of the hospital; how the kids would do the littlest thing and get in trouble; and how there were so many kids that were dealing with satanic issues.  When I looked back it seemed funny.  Plus, I like to read books that make me laugh, like the Georgia Nicholsen books.  YA books can be very depressing, and I love the ones that can cover serious topics and infuse them with a little humor. 

The book is based on your real life experiences. How were you able to overcome depression during your adolescence?

I think it was a combination of antidepressants, therapy, and a change in the way I looked at other people and myself.  I started to see that I was capable of really great things, and that everyone is flawed, not just me.  College was a wonderful experience for me because I explored a lot of new things- film, feminism, haircuts- and I saw that even when I would go through periods of depression (which I still do), I could come out of them and succeed.  It also helped to have great friends and good music to listen to.

In the novel you cite a couple of punk bands like the Ramones, Green Day, and Descendents. What would be the soundtrack for Get Well Soon?

“I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones.  “Basketcase” by Green Day. Some James Taylor for the Relaxation scenes.  Some hip-hop for Free Time (but old skool, like Slick Rick or something else that tells a good story).  And of course The Doors.

By the way I really loved your essay on Degrassi. (I think Kevin Smith secretly wants to be Canadian. Casts Alanis Morissete as God in Dogma then lands a role on Nex-gen Degrassi. That’s like a 1,000 Canadian points.) In any case, if you could write an episode for Degrassi what would be the plotline?

It would involve me as an obnoxious, glamorous American coming onto the scene.  I think it would take place back with the original Degrassi cast.  It’s so hard for me to talk about Degrassi without feeling a little creepy. I mean, I am in my thirties.  I would only guest star as a teenager, not as I am now acting like a teenager.  If I were to actually write an episode for Degrassi TNG, it would involve something really deservedly bad happening to Peter.  And Jay would be in it because I love Jay.  And maybe JT would come back from the dead!  And Teri would come back.  What ever happened to Teri?  People should never ask me Degrassi questions.  I could blather on about it for hours.

Your book is based on your personal experiences, what made you decide to write a fictional book for teens rather than an autobiography?

That’s a good question.  I think a big part of it is that I didn’t remember every detail enough to write an autobiography.  Many of the characters in the book are based on real people, but I had to make up a lot of information about them.  I also did not want to write about my family, since I knew it would really upset my mom.  I tried to fictionalize the family as much as possible.  My real life wasn’t as instantly revelatory as in the book, and there also wasn’t as much romance.  But a lot of the really weird stuff, particularly the satanic business, actually did happen.  It was a lot of fun to intersperse truth with fiction.  But now it’s hard for me to remember which real details I included in the book and which ones I made up!

I really enjoyed the love story between Anna and Justin, are you planning on a sequel for their story?

Since the real life “romance” pretty much ended when I left the hospital, I never thought about a sequel.  It would be interesting to explore how relationships like that work outside of the controlled, extremely close quarters of the hospital ward.  If there were a large demand from readers, I would definitely think about writing a sequel.

Now that you’ve published a children’s book and YA novel, what other genres would like to try? Graphic novel, tween book, or non-fiction?

I’d like to keep writing for teens for a while because I have quite a few story ideas.  Plus, since I work with teens, it’s fun to have their instant feedback on my books.  I have kicked around the idea of a graphic novel, since I am a big fan of the genre.  My husband is actually working on one right now, and I see how much work it is.  I am not an illustrator, though, so that would be a whole giant dimension that I am missing.  I’d love for my husband to do it, but he’s got enough of his own stuff to worry about.  Maybe someday…

If you weren’t an author/librarian what other profession would you have chosen?

Either a travel agent or a hair stylist.

Your website mentions you were an extra on “High Fidelity.” Is Cusack cute up close?

You know, he was much larger and more manly than I expected.  I guess I was still hoping for the gawky Sixteen Candles/Better Off Dead John Cusack.  This was a very cigarette-worn John Cusack. 

There’s an entire section about zines on your website. How did you get started writing zines? Do you have any tips for creating a successful zine?

I started writing zines after a friend introduced me to The Scaredy Cat Stalker, a hilarious zine that has now turned into a blog.  I had done so much writing growing up, but once I was out of college there was no one forcing me to do it.  Creating a zine was a great excuse to give myself deadlines and actually publish my writing.

Tips for creating a successful zine:

-Write about what you are interested in. 

-Be sincere.

-Care about the way it looks, and people will care to read it.

-Don’t be afraid to express yourself, but do remember that people are out there reading it.

-Don’t use your home address.  There are freaks out there.  I speak from experience.

-Share your zine with other zinesters.  Send it to everyone.  Leave it with your tip at funky restaurants.  People will spread the word.

What’s it like being on the YALSA Selected Audiobooks committee? And will Get Well Soon be recorded as an audiobook? (Because Trisha thinks it would be a great audiobook.)

I love it.  I am the slowest reader with the longest commute, so it’s the perfect committee for me.  I love the other librarians on my committee and look forward to seeing them at all of the conferences.  I was really worried the first time we met to create our list that it would be scary and shouty, but it was actually filled with great discussions and respect.

I do believe there will be a Get Well Soon Audiobook.  I am off the YALSA committee as of January, so nothing can really happen until I finish with that.  My dream is to read the audio myself, but it would be neat to hear an expert reader read it, as well.  Maybe with an Australian accent!  Which would make no sense, but I lived in Australia for a while and do love the accent. Someday, I’d like to move back there for a while with my family.  There and Degrassi Street.  My husband and I visited Degrassi Street in Toronto a couple summers ago, and I checked out the cost of homes.  I think it’ll happen someday.  Um, you were saying something about audiobooks?

Thanks Julie! 

Today’s other WBBT interviews:

Lisa Ann Sandell at Interactive Reader
Christopher Barzak at Chasing Ray
Micol Ostow at Shaken & Stirred
Rick Yancey at Hip Writer Mama
Jane Yolen at Fuse Number 8
Shannon Hale at Bookshelves of Doom
Maureen Johnson at Bildungsroman
David Lubar at Writing & Ruminating
Sherman Alexie at Finding Wonderland

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 7, 2007 9:59 am

    That was SO fun to read! Julie sounds really cool – can’t wait to read the book!

    “You know, he was much larger and more manly than I expected. I guess I was still hoping for the gawky Sixteen Candles/Better Off Dead John Cusack. This was a very cigarette-worn John Cusack.”

    I don’t know if I can deal with the disillusionment. sigh.

  2. November 7, 2007 2:59 pm

    Really fab interview! I loved reading it.

  3. November 8, 2007 2:51 am

    I haven’t read Get Well Soon and I’m bummed at how slowly American books make it to the UK!!! I think this author has a certain something that is going to make her one of those one-to-watch types that we’ll hear about years later winning the National Book Award. For serious. I really like her style, and what she has to say. Great interview.

  4. November 8, 2007 7:01 am

    I have it on my nightstand and I’m going to grab it just as soon as I’ve finished processing Long May She Reign. What a book.


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