My road has been steep yet scenic. I had a bunch of lives (various careers, offspring) before I started devoting myself to writing. At first, and for a very long time, I wasn’t oriented toward publishing. Some of that was about insecurity and some of it was about solidifying a vision for my work. Eventually I became less tightfisted about showing things, and thanks in great part to luck, as well as the generosity of friends and friends of friends, I wound up with a gifted editor and a brilliant agent.
What do you love about being an author?
Creating worlds and populating my dollhouses.
If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?
I’ve always admired Miss Price in Mary Norton’s Bedknob and Broomstick. She’s a kind woman at heart, but has a ruthless streak. And she is smart and brave. I would love to discuss the craft and lore of magic with her over a picnic of watercress sandwiches and sponge cake and ginger beer, preferably on a tropical isle.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?
Violet would have to be an unknown, ideally a girl who is part Anishinaabe. Her father would be someone good-looking and intense like Orlando Bloom. Aunt Phyllis is beautiful on the outside and less so on the inside; Kristen Bell would be perfect. Miss Nadia is Russian, but the fine French actress Marion Cotillard would be able to pull off the accent and the attitude. And though Buffy Sainte-Marie is known for music, she’s such a passionate performer that I can’t help seeing her as Mrs. Agosa.
If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?
I’ve always had an affinity for the 1920s, when Bessie Smith was belting the blues and surrealism was a new thing. Artists were busting out of conventionality, busting up language and sound after the horrors of the first world war splintered the collective psyche. It was a time of experimentation and daring: Woolf, Stein, Kafka, Picasso, the Harlem Renaissance. Dresses got shorter, corsets got tossed. It must have been a heady and exciting time. And Hollywood was just getting started, too. I’m working on a story set there in the ’20s. The research is a kick.
What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?
Stay out of other peoples’ bizness.
If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
Baba Yaga! She lives in a house with a fence of bones! Everyone’s afraid of her! She controls the dawn and the dark midnight!
Where do you write best?
In nature, especially where there’s few humans. I live in Los Angeles: leafblowers, helicopters, crazies shouting at bus drivers. It’s crucial for me to get away from the cacophonies every so often.
What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?
A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo. I’m working on a story set in the Vietnam era, and the war affects every character, as it affected everyone I knew then and know now who lived at that time. Caputo powerfully illustrates his own loss of innocence as a young soldier against the backdrop of the radical cultural and political changes taking place all over the world in the 1960s. The Vietnam war, like our War Between the States, is a terrible shadow on our country that continues to chill, divide, and grieve us.
If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?
I didn’t think about genre or the marketplace when I wrote Copper Magic, which is no doubt one of the reasons the story took so long to manifest into print. In the Tor catalogue it’s historical fiction; I call it mystical fantasy. One of the bookstores I’ll be visiting on my book tour says I’m “a new voice in crossover young adult/adult fiction.” This thrills me, especially because the book’s being marketed as middle-grade! I get that it’s important for publishers to target a readership, but I enjoyed all kinds of books as a fifth-grader, from babyish picture books to grownup sexy violent stuff. So I guess I don’t truly know what my genre is, but I’d love to write rollicking adventures, tearjerker romances, and bittersweet picture books.
Where can fans find you online?
juliamarygibson.com and @juliamarygibson.
Thank you so much, Nicky. I enjoyed answering these questions!