Monday, 23 May 2011

Interview: Julia Karr (XVI)

So today I have Julia Karr here at Writing from the Tub, talking about her life as a writer and her debut novel, XVI. Without further ado, on with the interview!

In case any readers haven’t read the book yet, can you tell me a little bit about XVI?

Answer: XVI is a YA dytopian thriller. Here's the blurb from my website: "In the year 2150, being a girl isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when your sixteenth (read sex-teenth) birthday is fast approaching. That in itself would be enough to make anyone more than a little nuts, what with the tattoo and all – but Nina Oberon’s life has taken a definite turn for the worse. Her mother is brutally stabbed and left for dead. Before dying, she entrusts a secret book to Nina, telling her to deliver it to Nina's father. But, first Nina has to find him; since for fifteen years he's been officially dead. Complications arise when she rescues Sal, a mysterious, and ultra hot guy. He seems to like Nina, but also seems to know more about her father than he’s letting on. Then there’s that murderous ex-government agent who’s stalking her, and just happens to be her little sister’s dad."

XVI is your first novel – can you describe how you felt in the moment when you first heard that it had been accepted for publication?

Answer: Yes, I remember that moment quite well. I was at work when I got the email from my agent. I screamed. Jumped out of my chair and ran into a friend's office babbling hysterically that XVI was finally going to be a real book. Fortunately, she knew what I was talking about!

Do you own a Kindle or other e-reader? What’s your opinion on them?

Answer: I don't own one, but am thinking about getting one. I will read just about anything, anywhere. I do love books, and have a ton of them. Sometimes, especially when moving - that's a real problem! So, I'd have to say, I think they are good things.

When reading for pleasure do you prefer to read standalones or series? Why?

Answer: I love series! I can never get enough of the characters and I want to read about them basically until they die! Many years ago I read The Three Musketeers. I didn't know it was just the first book in what is called the d'Artagnan Romances. Well, I found out about the other books and ended up tracking them all down and reading them. There are five books in all (depending on how they are printed, that number changes.) Anyway - I do love the series books!

The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets XVI apart from the pack?

Answer: I hope the fact that it is a book that raises questions and invites conversation. There are no easy answers in XVI. And, I feel like it is thought-provking and brings up real issues that should be looked at.

Some writers relate take great inspiration from music while they’re writing. Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what artists/bands do you like to listen to while you write?

Answer: I can't listen to music when I'm writing. I tend to give whatever I'm engrossed in my full attention. And, music is something that always grabs me. So, I'd never get anything written if I had music in the background. When I'm not writing, if I'm looking for writing inspiration I listen to groups that were popular when I was sixteen. It puts me in that frame of mind and gives me lots of memories to contemplate.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you always been this way?

Answer: I'm a pantser when it comes to getting down the first draft. Lately I've been doing some plotting on a book I'm thinking of writing. So, maybe I'm a little of both.

Can you tell me a bit about your journey with XVI? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being accepted for publication?

Answer: I joke about been a five-year overnight success story! I started XVI in November 2005. It sat for a month, then I did a quick edit and let it sit again for several months. I was working on another story with my critique group, but decided to have them look at XVI. After they did, I realized I needed to do a major rewrite - which I did. Then I started looking for an agent. (That was spring 2007.) I signed with my agent (Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary fame!) in spring, 2008. Based on input from an editor who was considering XVI, I did another major rewrite. The book sold to that editor in summer, 2009. My release date was January 6, 2011 - a little more than five years after I put the first words down!

How important do you think social media (i.e. Twitter/Facebook/blogging) is in today’s market for a writer?

Answer: I think social media is important, but, the most important thing is to write a good book! I'd say that trumps everything.

What advice would you give to writers who want to make the leap from writing as a hobby to actively pursuing a career in writing?

Answer: Hopefully they are already writing every day and reading voraciously. That said - I think having critique partners is helpful. I found my crit partner on the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) discussion board & I think SCBWI is a good organization with a lot of very helpful regional chapters/events. Verla Kay's message board (at is an awesome resource for children's writers. There is probably more good advice about writing for children (and awesome people!) on Verla's than anywhere else on the web.

Is naming characters important to you? What processes do you go through to come up with names for your characters?

Answer: It is important, but most especially for certain characters. I do think that the name can give the reader an advance look at who the character is going to be. I spend my fair share of time on name-meanings sites!

I love the cover art for XVI. Did you have much of a say in the design?

Answer: I had no say in the design at all. I was asked if I had any ideas, which I did. And my editor, my agent, and I all had a similar vision (think girl in danger with XVI showing on her wrist.) However, the design team at Penguin had other ideas. And, honestly - I love my cover!

What books do you think we should be looking out for in 2011?

Answer: Oh - so many good ones coming up! I'm part of The Elevensies (a group of 2011 debut authors) and also The Class of 2K11. I haven't had a chance to read too many of their books (darn!) but the ones I have are fabulous! Memento Nora by Angie Smibert is amazing! As is Illegal by Bettina Restrepo. And, of course, Across the Universe by Beth Revis. I'd say those two groups have the books to watch for!

Thank you so much for your time, Julia. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?

Answer: Thanks so much for having me! Great questions and I love the opportunity to be on your blog. As far as other projects, I am currently working on the sequel to XVI and possibly a companion novel. Other than that, I have several YA's in various stages of completion.


So, have any of you guys read XVI, what did you think? It was great to speak to Julia and I'd like to say a big thanks to her for stopping by :).


  1. Great interview! I love reading about how author's write... with music, without music... longhand, or typed... plotter or pantser... it's so interesting to me! :)
    - Alyssa of Redhead Heroines

  2. Hey Carly,

    Got your link from the ArmchairBEA blog and thought I'd stop by and say hello. I guess this isn't the same as BEA, but this has been a lot of fun.

    If you feel like your missing out on all the free books you'd get at BEA, I'd be happy to send you mine. Just drop me a line.



Thank you kindly for the comment, you sweet thing.