Today, I'm pleased to have Julia Swift and Andrew Landis, the writing partners behind the YA novel Bold, stopping by for an interview!
by Julia Swift and Andrew Landis
Published: July 4th, 2013
Sasha, a shy, 15-year-old girl who hides from the world, almost dies in a car crash and vows that if she survives, she will be bold and live life to the fullest. Her newfound courage is tested when she meets Will, who just moved to her Air Force desert town after his journalist father’s disappearance. Will is fascinated by Sasha’s brush with and secret knowledge of death.
Sasha and Will push each other to take chances and break out of their sheltered suburban world. But will they discover there is a difference between being bold and being stupid before they put themselves, or someone else, in danger?
Did you always want to be an author?
J: I always dreamed of being a writer, but I thought it would never happen. I knew so few people made a living writing, and it was hard to believe I could be so lucky. I was in film school when I sold my first poem to a literary magazine -- I made $40. That first check meant the world to me, someone I didn’t know read my words and thought they were good enough to pay me. Even now, after making a living as a writer for over a decade, I still have to pinch myself. I always fear we will fail, but Andrew always convinces me we will succeed -- and thank goodness I’ve been wrong and he’s been right.
A: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but never figured I could make a career out of it. My first career took me to Washington, D.C., where I ended up penning correspondence for politicians on Capitol Hill. After a couple years, I felt unfulfilled creatively, and so I wrote my first screenplay and used it to get into U.S.C. Film School where I earned my Masters in Screenwriting and, more importantly, met Julia. She had more of the confidence and that pushed me. Without her, I’m not sure I’d have been able to make the leap from wannabe writer to published and produced writer.
Tell us a bit about your novel.
Bold is about a shy, 15-year-old girl, Sasha, who hides from the world, and almost dies in a car crash. She vows that if she survives, she will be bold and live life to the fullest. Her newfound courage, however, is tested when she meets Will, who moved to town after his journalist father’s disappearance. Will is fascinated by Sasha’s brush with and secret knowledge of death. Sasha and Will push each other to take chances and break out of their sheltered world. But can they discover the difference between being bold and being reckless before they put themselves, or someone else, in danger?
How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
We came up with the idea for Bold from a conversation we were having one day about how society looks at things that are appropriate/inappropriate for boys versus girls. Crying came up as something that is more okay for girls to do in public, but for boys, it shows weakness. Then we realized that if we saw a boy crying, it would make us want to know more about him -- like proof he had a sensitive soul. So we thought what if a girl saw a guy crying, assumed that meant he had a sweet side, but then later found out he was faking crying. But by then he had become more sensitive just because that’s what she expected/allowed him to be. So we used that situation as a springboard for how two unlikely characters meet and then their relationship ends up changing each other’s lives.
If you got the chance to spend a day with any character from your books, who would it be and why?
A: I would want to spend the day with Will because he has reached the age where he’s starting to figure out that there are more important things in the world than sports, and he’s strong enough internally to realize that he should do what interests him even though it doesn’t line up with what his circle of friends want. Plus, he has deep emotions, he just doesn’t always share them.
J: I would definitely want to hang out with Sasha, we would be friends. I would have loved to have a friend like Sasha who could understand me and really listen, and push me out of my shell.
What do you hope readers will obtain from your book?
All of us always imagine everyone else is judging us, but what if instead we could imagine everyone else is rooting for us? What would we do differently? What chances would we take? Our dream is that a shy kid somewhere will read this and realize they are not alone and try to open themselves up more to life. In the long run, people don’t regret embarrassing things they’ve done, they only regret what they were too scared to do.
Where do you like to do your writing?
A: I like to write first drafts mostly at home, either in the living room or bedroom. But I prefer to re-write someplace different, either a coffee shop or the library. I think it’s the feeling of being somewhere away from my usual comfort zone that maybe empowers me with a slight altered point of view. Plus, there often are fewer distractions.
J: I write on my bed with my dog curled around me and the windows wide open so I can see outside. When I have to get up to get more caffeine (I’m addicted to diet soda), I disturb my sleeping pup. To avoid inconveniencing my sleeping pup, I try not to move, which is a great way to make myself stay put and write more. Nothing makes me feel as happy and free as writing, but even so, sometimes it’s hard to get started. Having a warm bed and ball of furry love makes starting the whole process more enticing.
Do you have any other works published and how do they compare genre/style wise with your current work?
We have been very fortunate to have television scripts produced, which is an awesome experience because we are empowered with the responsibility to change lives through our words, and that’s something we definitely strive for no matter what we write. Whether we are writing about superheroes like Clark Kent on “ Smallville” or teenagers Sasha and Will in Bold, we tell resonating stories about the underdog or outsider who searches for an authentic human connection in the world.
Do you have any current writing projects? Can you tell us a bit about them?
We are finishing up our second novel about a 17-year-old girl, Mya, who grew up in a mob family and has plans to go to college to escape from that world. She was never like her family, she always followed the rules and worked hard for everything. When her whole world comes tumbling down right before she’s to leave for college and her brother and sister need her, Mya must decide whether she’ll start the new life in a new city that she’s always dreamt about, or if she’ll let herself be sucked back into the life she always hated. And then next year, we will release a follow-up to Bold.
Julia is amazing at keeping other people's secrets but completely incapable of guarding her own. Every embarrassing moment ends up in her writing. While at film school at the University of Southern California, Julia met her writing partner, Andrew Landis, and realized having two writers makes it harder for people to identify the autobiographical elements from her crazy past, present... and fantasies.
Over the last decade, Julia and Andrew have written for television, features, theater, game design and now, her ultimate dream, a novel.
Raised in Los Angeles, with summers in Las Vegas and college at Columbia University in New York City, Julia now happily lives in the suburbs with her three great loves -- her husband, son and sweet, sad-faced rescue dog.
Born in South Korea, Andrew spent his first seven months staring at other babies in an orphanage, wondering where everyone would end up, until he was adopted by an American couple. Raised by a minister and a teacher in rural Pennsylvania, Andrew was never quite sure whether he stood out because he was a pastor's kid or because he didn't look like everyone else.
In high school, Andrew spent a year as an exchange student in Brazil. Arriving with no knowledge of Portuguese, he found life in the city overwhelming until his host family's encouragement enabled him to overcome his fears, immerse himself in the culture and eventually enjoy dreaming in Portuguese. More importantly, Andrew found himself "adopted" by a second family, with whom he still maintains close contact.
Andrew wanted to continue living in a city and ended up at N.Y.U. An internship at The United Nations Association of the United States of America helped inspire him to move to Washington, D.C. after college. Although he is proud of the work accomplished on Capitol Hill, as soon as Andrew finished his first creative writing class at Georgetown, he was ready to leave political doublespeak behind and begin to tell stories important to him.
Moving to L.A., Andrew earned his M.F.A. in screenwriting from U.S.C., where he met his writing partner, Julia Swift. Together, they have written for dramas such as Smallville, The Book of Daniel and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Not surprisingly, the stories they tell often deal with families or sticking up for the underdog. Bold is their first novel.
Andrew has completed 12 marathons and lives in L.A. with his husband and their dog.