I am so pleased to welcome Juliana Brant to Cynsations today to chat about her writing habits, creative life, and how she finds balance. She is the author of The Wolf of Cape Fen (Sourcebooks, 2020) and A Wilder Magic (Sourcebooks, 2021), which was released last week!
Welcome to Cynsations, Juliana!
Could you tell us about your new release?
A Wilder Magic is based on the history of dam creation in Appalachia. After the Great Depression, many dams were created throughout the Appalachian Mountains, displacing thousands of families and flooding entire towns. I hoped to honor that deeply emotional past with this book.
Sybaline, my main character, experiences this – her family is forced to move because water from a dam is flooding her home. She has magic though, and with that magic, she makes it possible for herself and her cousin to stay. This decision seems like a positive one (they don’t have to leave their beloved home!) until they realize they’ve essentially created a prison for themselves beneath the flooding lake. The story then becomes one where they must figure out how to escape while keeping their lives intact and also while finding peace in saying goodbye to their home.
What do you love most about the creative life/being an author? Why?
My creative life as an author is often how I de-stress and escape the worries of the real world. My job as a kindergarten teacher can often be filled with stress, especially in this last year of pandemic. For me, when I get home and need to re-center myself, I turn to writing. It’s an outlet that provides me with joy and helps me return to teaching the next day as the best version of myself. I know that reading is a form of escapism for people. For me, writing provides as much escapism as reading does!
When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?
I often write in the afternoons. When I get home from work, I often take a walk and then sit down to write. I’ve tried writing in the morning, like with the 5 a.m. writers club on Twitter, but my mind is still in too much of a fog at that hour!
Over the years, the time that I’m most productive as an author has changed depending on the job I have. As a teacher, afternoons seem to work best for me.
As for where I write, I move around my house quite a lot. I have a little tray I sit my laptop on that goes over my lap. This means I can comfortably sit in most any chair or couch or at a table. I often like to move with the sun. If it’s the weekend and I’m writing in the morning instead of the afternoon, I sit in a different part of the house than in the afternoons so that I have access to sunlight.
Truly, I try to squeeze in writing as often and as much as I can. My very favorite place to write is up in Northern Minnesota at our family cabin. It’s a very calm place to gather thoughts and be productive!
Reflecting on your personal journey (creatively, career-wise, and your writer’s heart), what bumps did you encounter and how have you managed to defy the odds to achieve continued success?
My debut novel was the fourteenth manuscript I wrote! Publishing is not for the faint of heart. I know many authors who have had similar experiences of writing several novels before becoming published.
Writing all of those books that ultimately weren’t published was very difficult at times. I desperately loved writing though, so I kept creating new stories and improving my craft. Even though I took a much longer, much more winding path to publication than I ever thought I would, it made me a much stronger writer. It also prepared me well for working with deadlines and pushing through edits.
Do you have any tips for debut authors about balancing the roles of author and writer?
My absolute biggest tip is to do author-related things that bring you joy. Do the events and projects that make you happy and allow you to experience joy. When I become overly worried or stressed or when I stop balancing the “job” of author with my work as a writer, it’s because I’ve lost focus or I’ve asked too much of my author self and haven’t given enough of my energy to my writer self. My work as a writer and producing my next books comes first!
For me, focusing on joy often helps guide my decision-making and keeps me balanced and healthy.
Juliana Brandt is an author and kindergarten teacher with a passion for storytelling that guides her in both of her jobs. She lives in her childhood home of Minnesota, and her writing is heavily influenced by travels around the country and decade living in the South. When not working, she is usually exploring the great outdoors. Her debut novel, The Wolf of Cape Fen, was published in 2020, and her sophomore novel, A Wilder Magic, will publish May 2021.
Stephani Martinell Eaton holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she won the Candlewick Picture Book Award and the Marion Dane Bauer Award for middle grade fiction. She is represented by Lori Steel at Raven Quill Literary Agency.