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Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan: Interview!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people's senses. 

It's a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it's a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned--crime pays.

Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding--though from what or whom?

Worse, Julia suspects that there's a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she'd ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price.

Goodreads Summary


If you had Julia’s ability for a day what would you do?

When I was younger I’m sure I would have used Julia’s power to eavesdrop on all kinds of conversations and situations – I used to be endlessly curious about other people’s drama. But now, having spent a little longer as a human in the world, I sometimes feel like I’ve heard more than I want to.

It’s not a power I covet anymore, but maybe I’d use it to go see Hamilton, since I can’t get tickets, and watch from the front row (or, the aisle next to the front row). And I’d mail a check to the box office, because I might be willing to cheat full seats but I’m no art thief.

Give us 5 quick reasons why readers should buy your book!

1. Because fantasy spy thrillers set in wintery Dickensian cities with monsters and witches are perfect for summer reading, no?

2. Because how will you understand all the twists and turns in the sequels if you haven’t read JULIA VANISHES first?

3. Because you’ll like your boss a lot better after Julia finally meets hers.

4. Because then you can invent a cocktail or a dessert called The Gethin or The Flaming Kahge to take to your book club.

5. Because I wrote it for you.

Are aspects of Julia’s character based off of you or anyone in particular?

Julia isn’t meant to be like me or anyone other than herself. I wrote the first book when my kids were wee and I was feeling very confined and anxious and domestic. I wanted to write an adventure, a thriller, and I wanted to write about a character who was daring and self-assured and free. Of course, what can you do with a character like that but put them in danger, trap them, and fill them with doubts! Still, in spite of all she goes through in this book, Julia was a joy to write, and the story was pure escapism for me. I hope it works that way for the reader as well.

What are 3 characteristics that would describe Julia and why?

This is a tricky one, since the book is about Julia at a turning point, but here are three character traits that are true of Julia a the start of the book and are basically still true at the end.

1.      Hedonistic

All Julia really wants is to have a good time. She’s someone who enjoys life, and within limits she enjoys danger, too. She wants to be with her boyfriend, Wyn, and have money to eat well and dress well and go out and enjoy herself. When her friend Liddy starts talking about what matters in life, Julia isn’t interested (at that point) in larger questions beyond her own joyful days and nights. I think this quote from page 79 sums up her attitude:

If I go to the river Syne to stare at Death, I go to [Wyn’s] bed to drink my fill of Life. I want love and good food and adventure. I want my days to hold the possibility of surprise and joy. I want to see the sea someday. I don’t care about the patterns Liddy is talking about, as long as I don’t have to break my back working for pennies, as long as my life gives me room to breathe, something to laugh about, a lovely boy to keep me warm when winter sets in.

2.      Loyal

That might be a funny word to use to describe a spy who betrays so many people over the course of this book, but Julia is devoted to the key people in her life, and her brother Dek in particular. If I had to think, what would Julia never do, the first thing that comes to mind is that she would never betray her brother or let him come to harm. She’s not an upright conscientious type, but she loves deeply and truly. I hope that shines through in this scene with her brother on page 135:

He pulls himself up, hefting his crutch under his arm, and sets about lighting the stove. Soon our room smells of frying eggs and sausages. I curl up in his chair and watch him, feeling I might burst with love. He used to make me breakfast when we were small. I always woke early, and hungry, and he’d fry some bread in butter if we had it or boil me an egg while our mother slept and our father was who knows where. He hums while he gets the food ready, and I doze right off in his chair, into a sudden, dreamless sleep, waking only when he sets my plate in my lap.

3.      Honest… with herself
Another odd one, since of course she makes a dishonest living and lies her way through most of the book. But even though she struggles to ignore the facts when they are painful, she’s not a person to stay in denial or to cling to self-justifications. Eventually she makes herself look at the truth head on, whether it’s the truth about somebody she wanted to believe in, or the awful truth about herself and her choices. Here is a snippet of Julia facing up to one of the hard truths she has to accept in this book, on page 203:

I watch them the way I watch every Cleansing. I do not leave until the fire is down to embers and they are sleeping underneath their furs. It is not in my nature to turn away. Not I – I look my nightmares in the eye. And if my nightmares should look back, they see nothing but shadow. I am not there.

Who was your favorite secondary character to write about and why?

Pia. I love writing villains. Done well, isn’t the villain everybody’s favorite, really? I had my first vision of Pia before I ever started this book. I wrote a mini-scene about her stealing something – she was hanging upside down from a ceiling, like a giant spider, all in black, her mechanical goggles whirring and a knife between her teeth. I knew I needed to spend more time with her. I needed to put her in a book. Pia’s viciousness, her complicated arc, and her relationship with Julia over the course of three books have been some of my favorite things about writing this trilogy.

Are you currently working on another book or can we expect a sequel?

I’m always sort of working on two things: the book I’m busy writing (on my computer) and the book I’m going to write next (in my head). So right now, I’m wrapping up my draft of the third and final book about Julia, while brainstorming something new and exciting.

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