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Answers to your questions

Julie Buxbaum, the author of The Opposite of Love, spent some time answering a few of the Huggies Reading Group questions. Below is a transcript of the Q & A session.

You can review questions that Julie has already answered below.

I would love to read about Emily having kids. Andrew would make a great dad. Can you write another book for a fan?

Georgia

Author’s answer:

Thanks, Georgia! Maybe one day!

Julie, congrats on your success. i loved your work – could not put it down – you deserve all the praise! I have a random question. What’s your favourite baby name?? (don’t worry, i won’t steal it – unless its a really good one!)

Anonymous

Author’s answer:

Hmm, that’s a tough one. Emily names her baby Charlotte in the book, after her mother. I have a Sophie in my new book, and I really love that name. (Maybe because I love the character?) I do have a fondness for Lucas for a boy. (Though my brother did recently remind me that it rhymes with mucus, which may be a tough thing to do to a kid.) And feel free to steal. I also like Sadie. Wow, who knew? I could go on all day on this one…

The character Grandpa Jack was such a great support for Emily, which made his illness all the more upsetting. Was Grandpa Jacks character based on someone in your own life?

Anonymous

Author’s answer:

No. Grandpa Jack is pure fiction. But I do love him as a character, and Ruth too, come to think of it. I would love to have a Ruth or a Grandpa Jack (or both!) in my life. I could use a bit of their wisdom…

At the end of the book, Emily and Andrew get back together, do you believe that their relationship will now be forever?

Anonymous

Author’s answer:

I don’t know, but I hope so! (I am one of those strange writers who like to believe their characters exist in some alternate universe. Living their own lives, doing their own thing.) The prologue to the novel shows Emily happily married to an un-named man and pregnant, and they certainly seem destined for a happy future. At the same time, Emily—despite all of the character growth she undergoes during the novel—is still Emily, and while her husband sleeps, she still stays up late at night and worries about what’s going to happen. I think she says something like she rides the line “between excitement and fear.” So, I’m not sure exactly where they’ll go from the prologue, which of course, takes place after the events of the rest of the novel. Maybe one day, I’ll get the pleasure of revisiting them.

How hard was it for you to write your first novel and how long did it take you?

Anonymous

Author’s answer:

My first novel was a surprisingly organic process. It flowed in a way I never could have expected. I had a clean draft that I felt was ready to start sending out in about eight months. (I should say during those eight months, all I did was eat, breath, live the novel. I thought of pretty much nothing else.) With my second book, which I’m working on now, I am having a much harder time. It is sort of getting second child treatment—a lot of my attention and time is still wrapped up in THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE, and I’m having trouble focusing the way I did the first time around. I may have to lock myself in a room, get rid of my internet access, unplug the phone—drastic measures for me!—and buckle down. I think I need to be completely obsessed with what I’m writing to do my best work, and my current schedule hasn’t really allowed that yet. Hopefully, I’ll find that focus soon. I am sort of looking forward to lock down mode!

Did you know how the story was going to end when you started writting or did it evolve as you went along?

Mum of 2

Author’s answer:

With THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE, I’ve always known my beginning and ending. I had a very clear picture in my head of how those scenes were going to play out. My middle, not so much. With my second novel, which I am working on now, I’m still struggling to figure out how to end the story. I have painted my character into a corner—which was necessary for the plot—but I’m now struggling myself how to figure out how to get my character out of that corner. Or maybe I should just leave her there and take the easy way out? Leave it unresolved. Let the reader do my dirty work…

Congratulations on your first novel! It’s very thoughtful and well written. Initially, I thought Emily was cynical and mildly annoying, but I grew to like her and empathise with the loss of her mother by the end. How did you choose to write in 1st person or 3rd person? Was it easier to write in 1st person to be able to see it from Emily’s personal perspective?

Reading from Rowville VIC

Author’s answer:

Thanks! I am so glad you enjoyed it. I think my natural writing voice is in the first person. (I hope this doesn’t say terrible things about my character and mean I am self-centered.) But I’ve always felt more comfortable with the first person perspective, and its limitations. (For example, you can only see things from that character’s viewpoint.) When writing Emily, it felt a lot like acting. I had to constantly remind myself to think like her, to make my words sound like her (and not me), to allow her to make the mistakes that she would make. (And admittedly, she frustrated me at times. But you have to allow your characters to do what they want/need to do.) One more thought—I think when choosing which perspective to write in, you have to think about what best serves the story you are going to tell. With Emily, so much of her story is internal, or the internal contrasted with the external, I think first person was the only (or best way) to show that.

Hi Julie. Great to have you online! I was wondering if Emily believes in God. At the graveyard, she says that her mother is just underground and dirt is dirt, but she seems to hint that she believes in something higher, or would like to believe in something beyond herself. Is this a statement Emily is making or am I reading too much into this?

Amarosa S

Author’s answer:

Wow, that’s such an interesting question. I do think Emily, at a very young age, abandons the idea of God. I believe in the scene when she is describing her mother’s death, she says she shouts at God, “though by then I had already stopped believing.” (I may be misquoting here…) Since she looks to her father for her own model of grieving, and since her father is not the type to be a true believer (at one point in the novel he says grace only for show at the country club), I didn’t think Emily would be a believer. But as she undergoes this journey to start dealing with her loss, I think you are right, that she would like to believe in something beyond herself. I am not sure Emily would be comfortable articulating that as God, necessarily—she may have too much agnostic twenty something cynicism to put it that way—but definitely as something outside herself. In the scene you are referring to, she does start out feeling like she is talking only to herself. But then she reforms her position on bringing flowers. She wishes she had; She thinks the gesture would have meant something. This is a tip off to the reader: If she truly believes she is only talking to herself, why would bringing flowers matter?

Greetings Julie! Did you grow up in New York? Is it pretty much the way Emily described it in the book? I’ve never been there and it sounds nice. How did you decide to pick New York as the setting for the book? Did you need to do a lot of research about the place?

Anonymous

Author’s answer:

I grew up in a suburb of NY called Rockland County, but I lived in NY for a few years after law school. I think New York is very much like how Emily described it in the novel, though I do think it is a place that changes based on who you are. I picked it as a natural place for Emily to choose to live, because it is an atmosphere where it’s very easy to lose yourself—not hear your natural voice—and where you can be completely anonymous. Since Emily begins the novel sort of numbed by the loss of her mother (and maybe even more so, by her not having faced any of those feelings), and NY provides a natural place for her to hide from herself.

Dear Julie, do you have any future plans for a sequel? I really wanted it to all work out for Emily and I’m glad things did in the end. I would love to continue reading about Emily’s life, i.e. having her own family. We don’t know much about Emily’s mum, so perhaps when she is a mother herself, we get to know her better.

NZ Mum

Author’s answer:

No plans for a sequel yet, but maybe one day. I feel like I left Emily in a really good place, and I should let her be for a while. But I can see in a few years wanting to check back in with her. I too would be interested in seeing how she fares as a mother herself. I will say this though—my second novel involves the family of a very tangential character in THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE.

I think it’s lovely that he waited for her and they ended up together in the end but do you really think men stick around till you figure yourself out in real life?

Great book

Author’s answer:

I do think so! (I hope so, at least.) If I had switched the characters, made Emily a man, and Andrew a woman, I’m not sure we would think to question whether she would have stuck around for him. And I like to think those stereotypes don’t always hold in real life. From the experiences of my friends and family, I don’t see them holding up. I think that’s the most interesting part of Andrew’s character—that his pride doesn’t keep him from happiness.

How did you plan the Emily character? Did you want to represent her as a strong female figure? She is highly educated, and stood up against sexual harassment. She seems to have both gen X & gen Y traits, do you intend generation Y audience to relate to her, or represent her as a modern woman?

Hibiscus Coast (visit New Zealand!)

Author’s answer:

I did want her to be a modern woman, and to not necessarily fall into the traps of stereotypes. Often women’s fiction involves women obsessing about how they look, and whether they will ever find a man. With Emily, I wanted to flip that on its head. I wanted her to undergo an internal makeover—I intentionally left out any external insecurities (probably the only way in which she is an aspirational character)—and to be afraid of commitment (something ordinarily left to male characters). I hope that makes her a little bit more recognizable to gen X and gen Y.

Hi Julie! I loved your book and loved the characters. What an amazing debut. It took me on a bit of a whirlwind of emotions, and while reading it I discovered that my baby kicks when I laugh hysterically! My question is how were you able to make your characters so real? Are they based on friends or family? I often read books in which the characters seem like book characters rather than real people.

Cindy

Author’s answer:

Thanks so much! No, I didn’t base them on anyone I knew. Instead, I started with images in my head, and then spent a lot of time getting to know them more fully before I started actually writing. I think that’s the most important part of the process—really understanding the strengths and flaws, motivations, fears, etc, of your characters. Once you do that, the cliche is absolutely true: They do write themselves.

Hi Julie! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Opposite of Love. What are you writing next and when can we expect to see it in Oz?

Anonymous

Author’s answer:

I am currently at work on Novel #2. It involves the daughter of a tangential character in THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE, but is in no way a sequel. I am not sure when the book will be out. (I’m still writing away.) Hopefully, sometime next year? Wow, I need to stop procrastinating and get to work!

This book would make a great movie! I would love to see it. Any chance this becoming a movie? BTW, your first novel is fantastic. I wish I can write…

Qld Chickee

Author’s answer:

Thanks! As of now, the book has not yet been optioned, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. To be honest, though, I can’t really imagine seeing Emily on the big screen. It would be beyond surreal. I have spent so much time with this material, and these characters, that it would be bizarre, and absolutely fascinating, to see them reinterpreted in a film.

I thought it would be nice of we get to know some of the likeable characters more, grandpa Jack or Ruth. Did you stop yourself from exploring these characters further? I thought it might sidetrack the story, but they are lovely. It would be great to have grandpa Jack character in any family.

DarwinianMum3

Author’s answer:

I would have loved to explore them more, but I do think it would have distracted the reader. This was supposed to be Emily’s story and her journey. But maybe in another book? I would love to get to know Ruth better, to see her in the first person, and not through Emily’s rose colored glasses. I am also curious about her family and her husband, and the amazing life she has led thus far.

Dear Julie, I found your book to be incredibly insightful, rewarding and just full of beautifully written prose. I was wondering how autobiographical your novel is. In particular, how much of you is in Emily? By the way, you’re too young to be so smart! Congratulations on a successful first. Can’t wait for more to come. I hope you keep writing until you’re really really old!!

Anonymous

Author’s answer:

Thanks! I answered this question in another post, so won’t re-answer here. But will say I hope to be writing till I’m really old too! I’m completely hooked.

Coming from a legal background myself and having ditched a legal career early on and seeing friends experience very similar career crisis quite early on in their legal careers, I can completely relate to Emilys sense of professional restlessness. My question to you is whether you think the main character would have faced these same issues with the same sense of desperation if she was in another profession, maybe medical or accounting? Or do you think irrespective of profession, Emily would have faced these same issues to the same extent?

Bree

Author’s answer:

I think she would have faced some of the same issues, though I do think her choice of profession (and her willingness to keep doing it for much of the novel) was an intentional choice I made about her character. She seeks refuge in the mind numbing nature of her job. She’s running away by working 80 hour weeks. This one of the many ways in which her grief plays out in a subtle and day to day way. So, I guess it was important for her to have an unsatisfying and monotonous job; and the law provided an easy fit.

How did you decide to quit law to become a writer? or how did you into law in the first place? Such drastic changes!

Anonymous

Author’s answer:

Very drastic changes. To be honest, I was bored to death as a lawyer, and completely unsatisfied professionally. I had always dreamed of writing a novel, and one day I just got fed up. Basically, I quit as part of a New Year’s Resolution, and so far, it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. (And one of the few resolutions I’ve ever kept, come to think of it.)

For more information see The Opposite of Love or Parenting .

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