Jules Johnson: a name you’ve probably never heard of before but you soon will. A published author at seventeen, take a look at my interview with her and how she talks about her debut book The Living List.
–Jules– please introduce yourself!
Well, I’m Jules, I’m a published author now, which is still really weird to say-and I am sitting on my couch with my 100 pound dog on top of me at the moment.
–I’d first like to start of by saying that I found you via a film thread on twitter and instantly followed. You stay quite active on twitter and are clearly very fond of cinema, am I right in saying that?
Definitely! I’m a senior, and homeschooled, and my mind never shuts off, so I have a lot of time during the day where I’m just bored and I’ll go to twitter to dump out my brain or watch a movie to calm it down for an hour or so. I think I’m in the majority when I say movies keep me sane.
–How do you think film has shaped you as a writer, if at all?
Everything I do is because of film. I actually wrote this book so it could become a movie one day. When I started writing it at 15, I figured that would be the easier route. I didn’t realize it would take two years at the time, but I am still daydreaming about the day I can be behind the camera and making my words come to life.
–Are there any specific films or directors that you can easily point to as influences to your writing?
Oh god, yes. The Life Aquatic by Wes Anderson is one of the big ones- as you can tell by my book, I love determined journeys of self discovery. That’s definitely in my top 3 favorite movies, as well as any other coming of age film- 20th century women, the edge of seventeen, even The Breakfast Club really helped me write this.
–Speaking of writing, your first book, The Living List, was recently published. Congratulations! Can you give us a little summary of what it’s about?
Well, it’s essentially about two kids, 17 and 18, who suffer from depression/other mental illnesses and they realize that they don’t deserve to live like that anymore, and they take on the life they think they deserve with a spontaneous road trip.
–What/ who are your inspirations for your lead characters?
Myself and the people around me. Their friends in this book are 100% inspired by people I know in real life, I even named some of them after my closest friends. In my mind, though, the two main characters are a part of me. Kat is me in everything she thinks, says and does, while Alex is the exact person I’m not, but wish I could be sometimes- flaws and all.
–Are there stories behind their names?
I’m so glad you asked this! They’re named after “great” renowned historical leaders and conquerors on purpose, (Kat being named after Catherine The Great of Russia, Alex being named after Alexander The Great of Greece,) to show how powerful and strong teenagers with mental illness are. A big theme in this story is conquering your mind, taking it back from vicious neuro-invaders- so it seemed fitting.
–You mention how they are different than other typical characters we’ve seen in books and have possibly grown tired of. What are these stereotypes and how do you think you’ve morphed your characters into ones that stray from the normality of characters that seem to appear all the time in teen stories?
I think most people write teenagers in a sort of idealized way- you got the manic pixie dream girl, the quintessential hipster boy, whatever it may be- but it’s not necessarily real. I don’t know those type of people in real life, and I can’t see myself in those characters. So I want to make characters that people can read about or watch and go like “YES! THAT’S ME! I’M NOT ALONE!”
–How long did it take you to write The Living List? Did you write it at a particularly different time in your life?
The day I finished it, it was pretty surreal, I was just like, “I’m done,” and then went to go see Lady Bird (which is another film that changed my life and another story for another time.) It took about two years, give or take a few months. I started writing it when I was 15 years old, and although I was a completely different person than I am now- I still have the same values, and I’m proud of the person I’ve become. I’d like to think there’s a 15 year old version of me still out there and if she were to meet me, she’d be so proud and happy.
–On your twitter, you discuss how the format of this book is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Could you elaborate on this?
The format is double spaced and not indented to look like the whole thing is a list, hence the title, The Living List. As I was writing it, I realized the lists seemed less prominent in the story and I couldn’t really give it another title, so I was like, screw it, I’m gonna make the whole thing look like a list! I hope people actually catch on to that.
–You also are clearly passionate about music and mention it throughout the book, can you give us a few of the albums and artists that heavily influenced your writing?
Definitely! Lorde inspires me in everything she does, but her debut album Pure Heroine helped in writing this story a lot, especially the song Ribs. I think that may be my favorite song in the world. Then, of course, there’s Hippo Campus and their album Landmark which came to me at the most perfect time. Earlier this year, I was about ready to give up on this book, I was in yet another month long depressive episode and I saw no point to it anymore. I found that album, and I could relate to all of the songs on it, and it truly reached out to me, in turn giving me back the inspiration to continue on creating my own art that could hopefully reach out to people in the same way.
–How has writing this book affected your life seeing as though you’ll be heading into early adulthood soon as a published teen author?
That aspect of it didn’t actually hit me until you said that. If we’re getting deep here, I feel like I finally have a sense of purpose now. It’s been my goal to get this done since the beginning of last year, and I finally did it. I accomplished something that I’ve been working towards for what feels like forever and it feels extremely gratifying even though my mind is already swarming with ideas of what I’m gonna do next. I can’t take a break when there’s another honest coming of age story knocking at the forefront of my brain waiting to be released.
Well there you have it folks, Jules Johnson is an inspiration to us all in her down to earth answers to every question. Her passion for writing (and soon to be directing) is blatantly displayed in the way she speaks of her motivations for writing and how she built a world many readers will find a home in. You can purchase The Living List through the link below.
Follow her on twitter: @filmkid