Monday, December 17, 2012

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Julie Rose

I would like to introduce Author Julie Rose, winner of the BRAG Medallion for her novel, "Oleanna."

Julie, please tell us about your story, Oleanna.

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. 

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.

Who or what inspired you to write this story?

The book was inspired by the lives of my great-great-aunts and the lives they led after they lost so many of their family members—to death, and to emigration to America.

Oleanna is set during the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, and it's an imagining of Elisabeth and Oleanna's lives. Who were these women? What were their stories?  Why were Oleanna and Elisabeth still living together, alone on the farm, until their deaths (94 and 92, respectively)? Why did they never leave Norway? What were their lives like? What was it like to be left behind? 

Is there a character in your story you relate to?

Oh, definitely. I think you have to, or else readers won't relate to the character, either. I definitely relate to Anders' idealism, and Elisabeth's frustrations, but I really relate most to Oleanna. My own journey through grief influenced hers, and I have to say, vice versa. I started writing Oleanna six months after my own mother died, so we helped each other through the process.

Were there any challenges writing your story?

I'd say the main challenge was how emotional it was for me. Because the themes and emotions of the book were so close to the bone for me, I had to take time to step away and get recalibrated. It took about five years to get a solid seven or eight drafts done, during which time I wrote (and edited, and rewrote) another novel, and made a start on two others.

What is your next book project?

I have two going at the moment.  The first is called DIDO'S CROWN, a kind of literary-historical-thriller, set in England, France, and Tunisia in the early 20th century (more information on this project can be found here: ).

I'm in the middle of the first draft of the other project, so I won't say too much about it, except to say it's set in California, also early in the 20th century.

What are you currently reading?

I'm reading America 1900: The Turning Point by Judy Crichton (non-fiction) and The Soul Thief by Cecelia Holland (Viking-era Ireland and England).

What do you plan on reading next?

We'll see what Santa brings me! I have so many books on the to-be-read list, but I really want to read A Thing Done by Tinney S. Heath, The Year-God's Daughter by Rebecca Lochlann, The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, and The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of English Language by Mark Forsyth.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Follow your heart. I know it's a cliché, but in this case, I strongly believe it's true. You have to write what interests you, what you are compelled to write, without regard for markets and trends. The publishing and the agents and the readers and the reviews will work themselves out—or not. Really, you have so little control over those kinds of things.

For me, writing is a kind of spiritual practice, and expressing yourself only works if you're being true to yourself.

How did you discover BRAG?

I discovered the Book Readers Appreciation Group on Twitter, and I'm so grateful for the BRAG Medallion awarded to Oleanna, and the support you provide to authors!

Author Bio

Julie K. Rose is an author of unique historic and contemporary fiction. Oleanna, short-listed for finalists in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition, is her 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.

She is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, current co-chair of the Historical Novel Society - Northern California chapter, and former reviewer for theHistorical Novels Review. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and loves reading, following the San Francisco Giants, watching episodes of Doctor Who, and enjoying the amazing natural beauty of Northern California.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Julie Rose who is the author of, Oleanna, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Oleanna merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Thank you!


  1. Great interview -- I adored Oleanna (it made my top ten of 2012 -- I'll be squeeing abt it on Thurs!). Loved seeing more about how Rose crafted her novel -- that sense of loss can be so clearly felt in her book but it isn't crippling -- just so moving. I am beeeeeeeeeeeeeyond eager for her next books!

  2. Oleanna is a fine and touching novel, most deserving of the B.R.A.G. Medallion.

  3. Handsome Bio. Good to see novels that have been recognized by worthy contests. I will share this novel with my Swedish friend.

  4. Stephanie & Julie,

    Thank you for this interview. I purchased this book for my mother for Christmas and I can't wait for her to read it. I/we come from a Norwegian background and adore stories about Norway. I will be passing on the blog link here to others who I think have interest in the story: Oleanna. I am also curious to know, if you have contacted the Sons and Daughters of Norway groups around the USA to inform them of the book?

    Regards & Happy Holidays to you both,

    Stephanie Renee dos Santos

    Historical Writer/Reader

    1. Thank you so much, Stephanie! I really hope she enjoys it.

      I've advertised in Viking (though it's too expensive to do often) and have contacted my local SoN Lodge. I'm definitely having a booth again at the 2013 Norway Day event in San Francisco; it was very good for me in 2012.

  5. Thanks for giving us more information about Julie Rose. I hope you will let us know when Dido's Crown is published because I'm a fan and want to read anything Julie writes. One of the most influential books for me during college was Loneliness by Clark E.Moustakas. In it he outlines how to embrace our alone moments to dig deeper and find ourselves. Julie captured Oleanna's isolation so well and created such a vivid picture of Oleanna's discovery of herself. Julie truly writes from the heart as she advises; consequently her work has an authentic voice for me.