Q&A With Julie Medow Gerstenblatt
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Q&A With Julie Medow Gerstenblatt
My latest Q&A is with essayist, educator and debut author Julie Medow Gerstenblatt. Julie’s essays have appeared in The Huffington Post, Kveller, Cognoscenti & Grown & Flown. Julie’s debut novel is Daughters of Nantucket which is out now.
Q: Julie would you like to tell the readers of the blog and me a little bit about your debut novel Daughters of Nantucket? How did you come up with the concept for your debut novel?
A: Sure! I have been traveling to Nantucket with my family since the late 1970’s, but I didn’t know about the Great Fire of 1846 until I read about it in a history of the island written by Nathaniel Philbrick. There is only a mention of it, but it got me hooked right away. So I found a self-published history of the entire fire written by VB Goudie, read it cover to cover, and after that, I was hooked and had to write this story!
Q: What was it like having your essay’s published in famous publications such as The Huffington Post? What advice would you give to anyone wanting to submit an essay to a publication such as The Huffington Post?
A: I had been writing a column for years in my town’s local newspaper, but once it got picked up by the Huffington Post, It was exciting to see my writing published on a platform that is so widely regarded and widely known. It meant that more people had access to my work, which helped me build an audience and find the confidence to continue to write more essays and to hone my voice and writing skills. My advice would be to know your audience; what are you trying to say and who are you writing this for? You have to understand the market and pitch the right kinds of stories to publications that have those shared interests. Also, try to limit essays to 800 words or less. Say what you need to say in a way that is engaging, insightful, and get to the point.
Q: What were the topics that you wrote about for The Huffington Post?
A: I wrote about parenting, relationships, motherhood, and other humorous personal essays. They are still archived there if anyone wants to look for the – which is both the beauty and the curse of the Internet, because nothing ever really disappears.
Q: When did you know that being a writer whether it’s for a news publication or a novel was something you wanted to do that it was your calling?
A: I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but after I graduated from college with a degree in English, I went back to school to become a teacher. Writing doesn’t pay the bills! You have to really want it and be comfortable with a lot of side-hustle gig work to make ends meet, and I decided to go into a steady profession instead; this is in part why it took me so long to get published, although some people write their whole lives without any guarantee of publishing success. Being an artist isn’t for everyone – it takes perseverance and there can be a lot of failure along the way.
Q: Are you writing your second novel right now? If so, is itso is it a sequel to Daughters of Nantucket, or a stand-alone novel?
A: Yes, I am working on a second novel that will be a part of the Daughters universe but will not be a sequel, if that’s a good way to describe it. The second novel begins 5 years after the end of the first story. Merchant husband-and-wife team Nell and Peter Starbuck are packing for a global shopping spree and taking their 20-year-old daughter Winifred with them. They will embark from Nantucket by clipper ship, round Cape Horn, head to San Francisco at the height of the gold rush, and then go on to China where calamity ensues. Characters from the first book will make an appearance – including one who will join most of the journey.
Q: Did you ever struggle with writer’s block while writing Daughters of Nantucket? If so, what was that like for you since it was the first novel you wrote?
A: Daughter of Nantucket was not actually the first novel I wrote – it was just the first one to be traditionally published. I have probably written 4-5 novels over the years. I do not struggle with writer’s block because I try to be gentle and forgiving with myself – so, if a scene isn’t working, I’ll try something else. I also find that when I’m stuck with something, that’s a sign that I need to get up from the computer and stretch or take a walk. Then the ideas flow again. I also plan out many scenes as touchpoints, so I don’t have an outline of everything, but I do have a map of places I want to get to, which keeps me very busy and away from writer’s block.
Q: Is it fair to say the characters in Daughters of Nantucket are loosely taken bits of people you know in real life? It’s always amazing when authors can take bits of real life whether it be a place or a person and create fictional worlds and people.
A: I would say yes and no. Since this is a historical novel, I really had to work much harder than I did in previous books to invent truly unique and realistic characters for the time period, which made me rely less on people I know today. However, the way people act is always filled with certain basics – want, need, desire, jealousy, love, fear, greed – and so I tapped into those from true-life examples to make sure the characters felt authentic and multi-dimensional. But I would not say any of them are “like” particular people from my life.
Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to Daughters of Nantucket? Hollywood is lacking in the creative department?
A: Haha – no, no one from Hollywood has called my agent yet!