Monday, August 24, 2009

(71) After You by Julie Buxbaum

With her new book, After You, Julie Buxbaum has solidified her position as the new voice of women's literature. She has written characters that will find their way into your heart and touch you in ways you never thought possible.

Ellie risks losing everything when she receives word that her best friend, Lucy, was brutally murdered walking her daughter to school on the quiet streets of Notting Hill. Ellie takes her duties as Godmother very seriously and takes on the role as surrogate mother, forsaking her husband and her job to help Sophie heal. But are her motives as pure as they sound or is Ellie using her friend's tragedy to escape the tragedies of her own life?

After You is a resonating story of a healing love. The relationship between Ellie and Sophie is based on pure love. They rely heavily upon each other, and The Secret Garden to get through the darkest days after Lucy's death. When the haze of grief starts to lift, Ellie is forced to take a hard look at her life and how her actions have impacted those she cares about the most.

It is easy for me to say critics and readers to dismiss Julie Buxbaum as just another "Chick Lit" author, but I strongly disagree. There is nothing "fluffy" about her intelligently written book about a woman struggling to do what is right.

I had the great pleasure to ask Ms. Buxbaum a few questions about her new book, in my very first author interview.

1. You currently reside in London. Did you move to London to research your book or did your book evolve after your move? Do you find yourself staying in London permanently or returning to the States?

Oddly enough, the book being set in London and my moving to London were two completely independent events. I decided to set the book in Notting Hill long before I knew I was moving. Sometime after I started working on AFTER YOU, my husband got a great job opportunity here that he couldn't pass up. Though I do love living in London, I hope to return to the States in a few years. I have to admit to being a little homesick.

2 In After You, you write about best friends. Two women that have been friends since they were four years old. Ellie risks everything when she goes to go to London for Lucy's family. What is the most extreme thing you have done for a best friend?

What a great question! Fortunately, I have never found myself in the sort of catch-22 Ellie faces. I've definitely dropped everything and flown to visit friends during some tough times--I can think of one instance in particular when a very close friend was going through an unexpected divorce--but in my mind that doesn't qualify as extreme. I think that's just what friends do for each other.

3. Ellie discovers some of Lucy's secrets after she passed. How do you think a secret of that magnitude would have impacted their friendship?

I like to think that Ellie and Lucy's friendship would have recovered from any secrets they held back from each other, but I do think it would have taken time and a lot of healing. Without giving too much away to those who haven't read the book yet, the impact of Lucy's revelation would have been greater because of how Ellie was struggling in her own life at the time. I do believe, though, that the kind of bond Ellie and Lucy had could have withstood greater honesty, and that their friendship, ultimately, would have been stronger for it.

Ellie measures the milestones of her life by the books she was reading. Do you do the same? What books mark the milestone events in your life?
Surprisingly, I don't measure my life in books, which is odd because they are, of course, such a big part of my life. (Maybe it's because I read so much that it's too difficult to keep track?) I think I'm more like Lucy in that I have lots of song associations. I have an entire movie score in my head that matches all of my big milestones. Come to think of it, I should make an iTunes playlist!

What are some of the songs on the Soundtrack to your life?
As for actual songs, there are almost too many to name. But here are a few: Bob Dylan's Tangled Up in Blue takes me back to cozy and lazy afternoons in college. When I hear Blues Traveler's The Mountains Win Again I am back in high school, right around graduation time, driving to the Jersey Shore with a bunch of friends. And I'll forever associate Colors by Amos Lee with writing AFTER YOU.

The Secret Garden plays an integral part in Ellie & Sophie's healing process. What other books were on your childhood shelves? What are the "healing" books that sit on your shelves now?

No doubt The Secret Garden still gets number one pride of place for "healing books" for me. Other than that, I loved Shel Silverstein as a kid, and still have a bunch of my childhood copies of his work. And I'm also a big fan of Francis Hodgson Burnett's other classic, The Little Princess, which is almost as beautiful and magical as The Secret Garden.

After You is a story that really touches the heart. What message do you most want your readers to take away from reading After You?
I am not sure there is an absolute message, but every writer hopes they get their readers thinking about their own lives and relationships. After You was my attempt to look at the question of how well we really know the people we love, and what happens when we lose those who most define us.

Forgive me for this fluff question, but I am curious. Ellie watches a lot of Big Brother UK . Why did you choose that show to be a source of escape for Ellie? Do you watch the show yourself? Are you following Big Brother USA this summer and if so, who are you rooting for?

So funny that you noticed that! Yes, since moving to the UK I've become fully and one hundred percent addicted to Big Brother UK. (Fortunately, we don't get the US version here, or otherwise, I'd be wasting even more time watching.) I absolutely love the fish bowl element to it all, and of course the pure awkwardness that sometimes comes out of human interaction. For the purposes of the book, I felt the show in some ways mirrored Ellie's experiences of living with Greg and Sophie, how her life suddenly became all about this very real, and at the same time artificially created temporary family. If there happen to be any Big Brother UK fans reading this: Go Siavash!

Thank you, so much Julie for answering my questions. I absolutely adored the book and can not wait for the rest of the world to discover the story of Ellie and Sophie.

Readers, don't forget to enter to win the Win A Book Weekend. for a chance to win an autographed copy of Julie's first book, The Opposite Of Love. The contest ends tonight at midnight. You can pick up After You in bookstores this week.


Beth said...

After reading your review I must read the book. thanks for sharing this:)

Brandie said...

I loved this book. It is so awesome that you got to interview Julie for your blog. Great questions!

Jo said...

Great interview. I'd never heard of Julie Buxbaum but will add her to my must-read list.

Charlotte's Web of Books said...

Thank you all for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved After You -- such a gorgeous, poignant novel! One of my favorite read this year. I really enjoyed your interview with Julie, too!

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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