Welcome Julia Lynn Rubin to Introvert Problems! Julia lives the writer’s life in Brooklyn, where she has recently finished an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults at The New School. Her short stories have appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Sierra Nevada Review, and Riprap Literary Journal, among others. She currently serves as a writing mentor for Girls Write Now, New York City’s premiere writing program for high school girls. Read on to learn about her debut novel, BURRO HILLS!
1. Congratulations on the upcoming release of BURRO HILLS! Describe your road to publication.
Thank you so much!! I’m so excited for it to be in the world and in the hands of readers. My road to publication was filled with ups and downs, some curve balls, and a lot of hard work and resiliency. It took me several years to finish a full draft of this book as I was working in between, but once I committed to getting an agent, I was all in. I spent about eight months querying agents before I got an offer of representation from the amazing Saritza Hernandez! Before that, I spent months revising my query, getting help from people on a number of writing forums, getting beta reads, and doing critique partner swaps.
During those eight months, I’d also revised the book based on feedback I was getting from agents. Then Saritza and I went into revisions for several months, during which I cut out a POV (BURRO HILLS was originally a dual POV), and we went on submission. Diversion Books made an offer in November 2016, and in February 2017, I signed a deal! But it took a lot of rejections and waiting and being terrified and anxious to get there. The submission process was brutal. Luckily, my agent was optimistic about the book and really believed in it.
2. What inspired BURRO HILLS?
It all started with this strong sense of place, this crumbling town built of broken dreams in Southern California, and it evolved from there. The story follows Jack, a 17-year-old high school student who falls for the new boy in school named Connor. He hides the truth about his sexuality from everyone, including his best friend Jess and his childhood rival and drug dealing partner, Toby. Keeping your head down, Jack knows, is the best way to survive. But his relationship with Connor grows stronger, and sets into a motion a series of events with lasting consequences.
As tensions rise and more secrets come to a head, Jack cuts off ties with Toby. Hungry for revenge, Toby comes after Jack, jeopardizing his budding romance with Connor and the life he’s tried so hard to salvage in Burro Hills.
3. What are the themes of your book, and what voices are you amplifying through your work?
I’m bisexual, so I’m hoping to amplify LGBTQ+ voices, or more specifically, my bisexual character, Connor. I really want to see more out and proud bi boys in YA! My book also touches on themes of toxic masculinity – which is a major theme throughout and affects every male character to some degree – as well as drug use & addiction, coming out, coming of age, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. Depression is so complex, as is anxiety, and I wanted to show the ways in which toxic masculinity damages young boys and men physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
4. Who reads your first draft?
My amazing MFA in Writing for Children cohort! We’re all alumni of the program now, but they tend to see my first draft, along with my agent. My mom actually was a beta for a very early draft of my first book, so she has a look too sometimes. And then, of course, more beta readers, critique partners, and sensitivity readers!
5. What’s next for you?
I’m currently on submission with a project that I’m really excited about! It’s an LGBTQ+ YA thriller with magical realism elements, in which a teen girl gets sent to a residential treatment center in Nevada against her will, and she and two other kids escape and go on this HEART OF DARKNESS journey home through the American southwest. It’s intense and gritty like my first book, but also has a very large and diverse cast of characters that I love, and a great female villain!
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