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A Conversation With Julie Salamon

Arts & Culture | November 13, 2014

Authors in the literary world are often defined by their genre. Whether romance or science fiction or fantasy, authors tend to find a genre that they succeed in and stick to it. Julie Salamon is an exception; she follows no trend. Instead, throughout her writing career, she has found relatable themes to inspire her in her work—and an impressive array of novels and narrative non-fiction works have come forth.

After graduating from Tufts in 1975, Salamon began an illustrious career, first as a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, then as an author of nine books. Topics, so far, have ranged from the business of Hollywood to the life of Pulitzer Prize-winner Wendy Wasserstein to, most recently, the tale of Cat in the City. However, such variance in topics is unusual for any author.

“From a pragmatic point of view,” Salamon explained, “if you want to develop a huge audience, you write mysteries and then you keep writing mysteries because people want to read them. But for me as a writer … the whole writing process is almost like a personal journey, and so, at different points in my life, I’m thinking about different things.” Salamon credits her inspiration for her works to either “serendipity” or “the emotional desire to explore something that I’m either obsessed by or interested in.” And there seems to be really no better way to explore something than to write about it. Salamon finds themes that are relevant to her own life and explores them in creative ways, embarking on a new “personal journey” each time.

For example, when Salamon learned about Maimonides Medical Center, which predominantly serves an immigrant community, she found that it touched upon her Jewish, immigrant roots, and this connection took shape in 2008’s Hospital. After this, Salamon was approached with the opportunity to write a biography about Wendy Wasserstein, and she said that, within her research, “I found a lot of themes that really resonated with me.” The result was 2011’s Wendy and the Lost Boys. Even Cat in the City, a children’s novel centered on a cat’s transition to New York City, was based on Salamon’s own transition to sending both of her children to college. She discussed how forming her new community mirrored the way the cat formed a community in New York City, and how many of the characters were based on people in her and her children’s lives. Writing Cat in the City allowed Salamon, she said, “a certain pause for reflection.”

Not only are Salamon’s works reflective, but they also share a high level of success—in fact, her 1996 fiction novel, The Christmas Tree, was named a New York Times bestseller. It is important to note, though, that Salamon does not have success through a brand or a series. Instead, her success is rooted in the truth of the topics that she explores in her writing. She comments it’s a “privilege” to have gotten so much support for her books, both from publishers and from readers, allowing her to write for reasons more personally important than profits. Ultimately, when talking about her career, Salamon said, “I love books. I love creating books. It’s my passion.” And through her writing, that passion, not only for writing but also for delving into unique life experiences, really shines through.

To hear more about Salamon’s life and experiences, check out the podcast, produced by Greta Jochem:

Header image via JulieSalamon.com