Friday, June 15, 2012

Julie K. Rose's Books of a Lifetime (includes giveaway)

Today we welcome Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna to Historical Tapestry to share her Books of a Lifetime.

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When you look back on your life, it's sometimes surprising to remember who you were.  At least it is for me.
I know conceptually that I was a child, a teenager, a young woman. The flashes of memory are still there, images and smells, snatches of song, feelings, photos, family stories worn around the edges with use. But it's disconnected now, not a continuous line of consciousness over the course of 14,660-odd days (some more odd than others).
Certain things have held this life together, given it structure and meaning, a through-line: my husband, friends, and family. Music, art, wonder at the world. Writing.  But it's books, always books, that give me something to hang onto, to anchor me in a point of time.
  
And it all really started with Little Women. It was the first "grown up" book my parents read to me, when I was quite young. The March girls imprinted themselves in my brain, especially fellow tomboy and voracious reader (and writer) Jo. This was the first book that book taught me the joy of being transported to another place and time; watching my mom's face as she read to me, I knew she was transported too.  Our shared love of reading and Little Women gave me a connection with my mom. When the 1994 movie came out, we saw it together, crying, and laughing because we were crying, like the sentimental saps we were. It was the only time we went to the movies together as adults; I remember it like it was yesterday.
Rewind to another crucial point in life marked by a book: the dreaded, dire teenage years. When I was 14, mom loaned me her copy of Trade Wind by M.M. Kaye. With the wonderfully named Hero Athena Hollis, yet another tomboyish, independent heroine, and a completely different time and place (19th century Zanzibar), the book fired both my imagination and my wanderlust. It stoked my courage. It reinforced my independent streak.  And when I wrote a fan letter to Mollie Kaye, and got a response back, it sowed the seeds for what I would become almost 20 years later: a writer.
But well before that, I went to college, and the book that really rocked my world didn't have a single spunky heroine. Instead, it was an existentialist classic of the mid-20th century: The Plague by Albert Camus, a terribly grim, beautifully written story. What struck me then, and has stuck with me in the years since, is the deep, aching humanity of the book. No matter what faith you profess, or what your beliefs are, when it comes down to it, it is up to us. We are all here together, and we must always, always take care of each other.  And, despite circumstances and the look of things, there is always hope. It's the book that really marked my passage, intellectually and emotionally speaking, into adulthood.
And frankly, adulthood just sucks sometimes. There was a point about ten years ago where I lost my way, when I lost sight of hope.  As a response to the darkness, I began writing fiction, and the path began to clear. And then a year later, I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. The obvious love Tolkien had for the land helped restore my sense of peace (and influenced my writing as well). But what was even more important was being reminded that you have to press on, you have to have heart, that anyone and everyone can be a hero. Those three books helped me recover my courage and hope and now I re-read the books once a year, to remind me that the light will always win out over the dark, in the end.
I can vividly remember reading each of these books for the first time, the expansiveness I felt when I was immersed in their worlds. Books are one of the through-lines, the anchor points in my life, reminding me who I was, and showing me who I have become, and maybe even giving me a preview of who I will be in the future.
“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called 'leaves') imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic.”
― Carl Sagan

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About Julie K. Rose
I'm an author of unique historic and contemporary fiction, and I'm particularly interested in the intersection of the spiritual and secular, the supernatural and the everyday, the past and the present, and the deep, instinctual draw of the land.

Oleanna, short-listed for finalists in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition, is my second novel.  The Pilgrim Glass, a finalist in the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom and semi-finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, was published in 2010.

I am a current co-chair of the Historical Novel Society, Northern California chapter and former reviewer for the Historical Novels Review. I live in the Bay Area with my husband and our cat Pandora, and love reading, following the San Francisco Giants, watching episodes of Doctor Who, and enjoying the amazing natural beauty of Northern California.
About Oleanna

Set during the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, this richly detailed novel of love and loss was inspired by the life of my great-great-aunts.
Oleanna and her sister Elisabeth are the last of their family working their farm deep in the western fjordland. A new century has begun, and the world outside is changing, but in the Sunnfjord their world is as small and secluded as the verdant banks of a high mountain lake. With their parents dead and their brothers all gone to America, the sisters have resigned themselves to a simple life tied to the land and to the ghosts of those who have departed.
The arrival of Anders, a cotter living just across the farm's border, unsettles Oleanna's peaceful but isolated existence. Sharing a common bond of loneliness and grief, Anders stirs within her the wildness and wanderlust she has worked so hard to tame. When she is confronted with another crippling loss, Oleanna must decide once and for all how to face her past, claim her future, and find her place in a wide new world.
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We have 2 copies of Oleanna to give away. Open worldwide. Please leave a comment on this post to enter. The winners will be announced on July 1st. And don't forget to return tomorrow for our review of Oleanna.

37 comments:

  1. Enjoyed this post. I certainly identified with your experience with Little Women. It was one of the first "big" books I read as a child, and I remember seeing the movie in 1949 with June Allyson and Peter Lawford. Oleanna has been on my wish list since I first read about it on another blog. Thanks for the giveaway.

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    1. Did you know that there are at least 17 different adaptations of Little Women. The first version (that I can find!) is a silent from 1917!

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  2. Hi Julie, I'd like to enter! I too loved every one of the books you've mentioned, except the plague. The only Camus I ever read was 'The Stranger' and I hated it. I remember my mother reading me the Little House books, and Phantom Tollbooth, which made us laugh till we cried. The book that first swept me into reading for myself was in 4th grade, a historical fiction horse book, Marguerite Henry's 'King of the Wind'. (And let's not forget the gorgeous illustrations by Wesley Denis, which were the reason I had to find out about the story they showed.) Little Women was sent to me for Christmas by my librarian aunt and sent me into a phase of 19th-century classics. And LOTR--it was a bright spot in ninth grade, which was my personal Mordor, full of adolescent orcs. Read and re-read it, still do. Amazing the M.M. Kaye answered you-- I hope you kept that letter.
    Fun memories!

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    1. Oh man, I loved the Little House books as well.

      Don't let The Stranger put you off Camus. The Plague is very grim, I won't lie, but it is very beautiful in its way, too.

      And I do have the M.M. Kaye letter, posted on the whiteboard above my desk!

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  3. Interesting choices, and beautifully written Julie. I'm specially interested at the moment in books that have different impacts at different times of life. I read LOTR at 12, and it works well for that age-group, and I re-read it a couple of times for fun, and once more for my thesis (I was writing about John Buchan's influence on Tolkien). Lately I have come back to Tolkien and Buchan in my forties and seen very different layers there: very much the layers that moved you so much, Julie. They are books about hope in darkness. I read recently that the intended theme of LOTR is actually death. It is a Pilgrim's Progress, as many of Buchan's books were. I think that is one of the reasons they have the emotional impact they do. Effectively they are adventure stories given a metaphysical applicability. Which may sound like an over-complication, but you have to recall that Buchan and Tolkien were very smart people who were well aware of other modern literature.

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    1. Oh interesting, I hadn't heard that theory (re: LOTR being about death) -- can you send me a link? Very curious about that. And no, I don't see the metaphysical angle as an over-complication; I've always seen them as metaphysical first, adventure stories second (so maybe I'm just overcomplicated, LOL!)

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  4. I can't remember not reading, and the first books I remember devouring were HF on the childhoods of famous historical figures. Don't laugh at this, because it did what it was supposed to: I read the comic book (graphic novel) of Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," which stimulated the imagination to insert myself into historic events. My parents read biographies, and my mom was doing genealogy: while she researched names and dates, I was reading 17th-century town records for the individual stories. By the time I was 13, the James Herriott Yorkshire vet novels were being released, and I was hooked for life. I also liked James Michener's epics (his "Caravans," written 50 years ago, accurately prophesied the Russian and American invasions of Afghanistan). So here I am, writing HF about real 17th-century people whose actions affected the civil rights of millions around the world. Go figure. Please enter me in the draw for Oleanna.

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    1. Oh, no, I would never laugh at comic books or graphic novels--they are awesome in their own right, and as a gateway to other lit. I love the mix of influences in your background--very cool!

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  5. Julie,
    A well-thought out blog post that caused me to pause and reflect on the important books in my life. The Dick & Jane books are the first remembrances I have and, surely, date me! I don't recall being read to, but have read extensively as far back as I can remember. Thanks for stimulating me to consider the idea.
    And, of course, I would love to win a copy of Oleanna.

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    1. Thanks Arletta! What was the first book that really sticks out for you?

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  6. It's amazing how some books stick out in your mind and become tied to a specific period of your life. As a voracious reader, I can still recall books that made their mark, that stirred an emotion or helped me through a difficult time. Thank you for recalling that power in your post!

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  7. Great post! I've got M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions on my list but now I'm adding Trade Winds, too! Please enter me in the giveaway! JDQ1175@aol.com

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    1. I'd love to hear what you think of The Far Pavilions. I've always meant to read it, but you know how the TBR pile can get...

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  8. I am a lifelong reader who especially loves history and how reading and understanding history makes us feel less alone in the world. No matter where we've been someone has already walked that road, one way or another. Thanks so much for a post that gave me a heads' up on works I hadn't heard of before, I look forward to your books and also to a few on your list.

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    1. Yes, yes, this exactly! Books and reading help you feel connected, and understood, both as a reader and a writer.

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  9. Oleanna sounds interesting - I don't think I've read any historical fiction set in Scandinavia. Consider me entered! marie1200 at gmail dot com.

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    1. I'd definitely recommend the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy by Sigrid Undset. It's set in Norway in the middle ages, and she won a Nobel Prize for her work. Excellent stuff!

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  10. I just read the review of Oleanna. It sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for the chance to win it. susan at susancoventry dot com

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    1. Thank you :) It was a pleasure to write.

      Good luck!

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  11. This book sounds wonderful! It is also set in a part of the world that I have not read anything about yet so it really peaks my interest! Thanks!

    Margaret
    singitm(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. I'd really recommend Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, set in Norway in the middle ages.

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  12. I always wonder what books have inspired authors, and I thought Julie K. Rose's connection to the Lord of the Rings trilogy was especially moving.

    Oleanna sounds interesting - I love historical fiction based on family lore. Thanks for the chance to win a copy! e.mieko.24 at gmail dot com

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    1. I love reading about author inspiration too, so of course I jumped at this chance!

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  13. I thought this post was beautifully written and shows how books can attach themselves to important things in our lives.

    I'd like to enter to win:

    lafra86 at gmail dot com

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    1. What is the most important book in your life?

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  14. Loved the way that you talked about the role that books played in your life! Thanks so much for guest posting for us!

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    1. Thank you so much for having me! It was a real joy.

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  15. I read Little Women as a young girl. I really should get a copy and reread it. M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions is a book I read many years ago and also needs to be reread. I don't remember too much about it now except that I enjoyed it. I would love to read Oleanna! Thank you for the giveaway!

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    1. Little Women is such an important part of American girlhood, isn't it? And I've heard they made a West End musical of The Far Pavilions!

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  16. I'm really interested in the Oleanna book. I've been wanting to read this for a while. I'm a follower of Rose's blog on Tumblr.

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  17. This sounds very interesting. I will make sure I read it even if I don't win a copy!

    Kay R. (whatmeread)

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    1. Good luck! I hope you get a chance to read some of the books I mention here as well!

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  18. Oleanna would be wonderful to win. My husband's mother's side of the family came from Norway to North Dakota and then to Northern Minnesota. I have learned a lot about working on his genealogy.
    -------------------------------------------------
    I hope to do not mind and please tell me if you do. These are some books I have read and reviewed and may be of interest to you and the readers:
    http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=5606522629700191895#editor/target=post;postID=3174750351980443946
    J.R.R. Tolkien
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    http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=5606522629700191895#editor/target=post;postID=4129333895584355628
    Little Women Letters (Modern times)

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    http://mnleona.blogspot.com/2012/06/book-of-madness-and-cures.htm
    Is in the 1590s and starts in Venice.
    -----------------------------------------

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    1. It's amazing how much of North Dakota is made up of Norwegian-Americans! In fact, one of the characters in Oleanna emigrates to North Dakota.

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  19. I meant to say I hope YOU do not mind. Sorry about that.
    Leona

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