Jill Wolfson Interview

Jill Wolfson, author of Furious, graciously agreed to be interviewed by SC Book Crew member, Ryan!

Wolfson, Jill

Ryan: Hi, I’m Ryan, I loved your book Furious! I have to say that it’s one of my favorites. I’m really glad you’ve agreed to an interview and I hope you are too!

Jill Wolfson: Hi Ryan, thanks for the nice words about Furious. So glad that you love it! Thanks also for asking me to be on the blog and for the interesting questions. I answered some of them, and also threw in a few of my own. Hope that’s okay.

What inspired you to write the book?

When my daughter, Gwen, was in high school (G.B. Kirby in Santa Cruz), she came home from school with a couple of girlfriends and announced a plan for their Halloween costumes. They had a Western Civ class that year and were studying Ancient Greece. They decided to go as “The Furies.”

When I looked up pictures on the Internet, I totally got it. Fury images in art are sometimes of ugly, hideous creatures; other times, the trio is sexy and gorgeous. But the figures are always slightly scary, powerful, hair flying, female energy venting its full righteous anger. Who wouldn’t want a costume like that?

I immediately knew that I wanted to write about them, but I didn’t want to portray generic monsters to be avoided or killed. I wanted to tell the story from the Furies’ points of view. My goal was to look deeper into who these creatures of vengeance are, why the Ancient Greeks created them and what they mean to us here in 2013.

My daughter and her friends never got their costumes together, but I got a great idea for plot and characters. Score!

Is there a message in Furious that you want readers to see?

I try not to be all preachy when I write. Preaching should be done from a pulpit, not in the pages of a novel. Instead of giving a message, I hope that the story gives readers things to think about. Beneath an exciting tale of gods gone wild, revenge, anger, injustice and high school love are questions that I ask myself all the time – age-old questions that I bet you have asked yourself, too: Why is life sometimes so unfair? Why do some people get away with being cruel, selfish and hateful? What would you do about injustice if you had unlimited power? Would you use it wisely? Or would you go out of control and let the power use you?

Are the characters based on real people?

I can’t point to any one person and say, That’s Meg or that’s Alix or Stephanie. But like a lot of writers, I draw from a combination of family, people I know and, of course, myself. There’s some of me in each Fury. I have Stephanie’s passion for environmental action and social justice; I have Alix’s love of children and the ocean; I have some of Meg’s shyness and desire for family. Plus, like the furies, my hair is really frizzy.

What was the hardest part in writing Furious?

The hardest part was writing the fantastical sections. I started my writing career as a journalist – no making up anything. Then, I wrote three books of realistic fiction. So it was a stretch to let my characters really take off and even throw a lightening bolt or two.

What books or authors have influenced your writing?

I read a lot of fiction by authors who write for children, teens and adults. Here are some of my favorites right now: Paul Fleishchman (He lives in Santa Cruz, too), Roald Dahl, George Saunders, Lois Lowry, Libba Bray, John Green, Katherine Paterson, The Brothers Grimm, Sherman Alexie, S.E. Hinton. That’s for right now. The list could change tomorrow. My favorite writing mixes dark and light, heavy topics with humor.

Being bullied is a theme of Furious? Were you bullied?

There’s a character Raymond who mentions that he was shoved into his locker in middle school and then it was superglued shut.

That came from somewhere. Enough said.

Is your settings based on a real place?

The town in which Furious is set is never named, but it’s a beach town with the statue of a surfer on a cliff. There are redwoods nearby and a downtown with street musicians. So, locals will find it pretty familiar. I decided not to call it Santa Cruz, because that would lock me into keeping things exact. I wanted to the freedom to change stuff, like moving Steamer’s Lane a little further up the coast.

Is your writing influenced by music?

Yes! I’ve even put together a playlist for Furious – music that I listened to while writing or songs that capture the feeling of the book. Here it is:

Heads Will Roll – Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs.

Tickin’ Bomb – Shovels & Rope

Pipeline – Stevie Ray Vaughn

You Don’t Own Me – Lesley Gore

Fire Ant – Alex Winston

Where’s My Bow? – Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer [Imagine Raymond playing this on his violin]

Feeling Good – Carly Rose Sonenclair

Criminal – Fiona Apple

Jill Wolfson: I hope you enjoy Furious and the music that goes with it. I’d love to hear your opinion of the book and suggestions for songs about anger and revenge.

Ryan: Thank you!