Author Spotlight: Julia Debski

Julia Debski was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1996. Growing up, Julia and her family moved around a lot. They have lived in Poland, France, California, South Carolina, and finally Tennessee (though not in that order). She had a love of reading and stories from a very early age, which included reading till the early hours of the morning on a school night and playing make-believe with characters and complicated plots.
It wasn’t until the 8th grade that she found her passion for writing. It was thanks to a particularly inspiring English teacher and a story that needed to be told. So she began to write, and she never stopped.

This week, I had the opportunity to talk with this talented young author about her debut novel, The Hazel Tree, which she self-published a few short weeks ago. It is set in a world of werewolves and power struggles, a world in which the main character, Ivy, finds herself forced to make difficult choices that may prove deadly.

First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to have your first novel out in the world?

Unreal. I feel like I should still be going back and writing the next chapter or editing. On the other hand, I’m very happy it is published—I’ve been looking forward to starting my next project.

How did you come up with the idea for The Hazel Tree?

There was a revamp of fairy tales and that sort of thing recently, like Once Upon A Time, and on shows like Supernatural. It was a very appealing idea to retell a story that we had all grown up with, and retelling it with a supernatural twist to it, and making it darker and far more suspenseful. That is what the Hazel Tree was originally based on—Cinderella. The plot from it doesn’t play as big of a role in the story as it did in the first draft, but it is still pretty evident.

Where did your inspiration for your settings come from?

I have a soft spot for the Canadian and Northeastern United States landscape. I love the thick green forests and the mountains and the cold. The woods in North Carolina really stuck with me as well, which is why the Orarius packland is set in the Appalachian Mountains.

Which character do you feel is most like you?

Well my favorite character is Judice. Who doesn’t love a big, tall, redheaded woman who’s one of the best—if not the best—warriors in the world? If I was to write a sequel, she would be a big part of it.

What do you feel is the strongest aspect of your book, and why?

Personally I think that the characters are. The Hazel Tree has quite a cast and I think there’s someone every reader can relate to and come to love. I’m also very proud of the mythology and lore I incorporated into the story and the plot. Anyone who knows me knows I love mythology, folklore, and the supernatural, and that is why I tend to write fantasy. So I love the Celtic mythology entwined in the story.

What would you say was the hardest part of writing/publishing The Hazel Tree?

Everything. Nothing about writing a novel is easy—that’s why you have to love it and love what you are creating. The absolute hardest part was staying motivated. I worked on The Hazel Tree for nearly two years, from the moment I began plotting the idea to when I self-published it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I am awful at keeping deadlines, and several times I had to work on one chapter for over 12 hours just so I could stay even remotely on track. During the editing process, I was so fed up with the story I found it hard to care about doing a good job. Luckily I had my best friend and my mum to keep me going. It is always hardest to create a story if you don’t love it, so you have to find reasons to love it again.

What are you reading right now?

Stephen King’s On Writing and his novel Carrie, and Greg Wilkey’s Mortimer Drake series. They’re all brilliant.

What is one book that you are dying to read?

Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. (And Wolf Hall—it’s part of a trilogy.)

Okay, just for funsies, give us a random fact about yourself.

And just for funsies, I’ll give you two: I lived in France for 3 years, and I have two dogs, Issi and Mika, and three cats, Walle, Wabu, and Wiki (short for Wikipedia), aaaand two horses, Sharlie and Casper.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on some short stories. I’m hoping to publish a collection of them sometime in the spring, and then begin working on my next novel. I have several ideas to choose from. Also, I hope to get The Hazel Tree published by a traditional publisher, but it isn’t a priority right now.

I wish you the best of luck! Thank you for talking with me, it’s been a pleasure!

Thank you for having me! It was lovely. Cheers!

The Hazel Tree is available on Nook and Kindle for $1.99, and you can also order a paperback copy for under $12. I must say, the paperback is lovely; it feels nice and solid in your hands.
You can find my official review of The Hazel Tree here, and if you’d like to get to know the author better, you can check out her blog, her website, her Twitter, her Goodreads, or her Facebook page!

Review: The Hazel Tree by Julia Debski

How did I get it? The author kindly lent me a copy

Genre: YA, fantasy

Synopsis: Ivy Lune has lived in isolation the majority of her life. Imprisoned by her aunt and cousins, she longs to escape the shackles of her prison-like life. Unknown to her, there are dangerous forces at work; old blood ties and murderous plots threaten her chance at happiness beyond her current life.

Review: I’ll admit, I was let down by The Hazel Tree. I love fairytale retellings, and I was very hopeful that this werewolf twist on Cinderella would live up to my expectations. Unfortunately, that didn’t really happen.

I had a decent time reading this novel, and the rather unconventional formatting of the paperback copy actually grew on me as time went on, but I didn’t feel connected to the story or the characters. The plot was ever-so-slightly dull, and the only character I had any sort of emotion for was Rob, Ivy’s not-very-involved cousin who only makes an appearance in three or four chapters. In addition, the romance was very…odd. As in, there was no build-up. The two meet, go “omg you’re my soulmate”, and suddenly they’re thick as thieves and sleeping in the same bed. It was a bit bizarre to me, considering 90% of the plot is hinged on their deep, profound love for each other, yet it’s sort of glossed over. I felt a bit cheated.

With that being said, I did like the glimpse of the world Ms. Debski crafted, and the book certainly wasn’t torture to read. Minus the ending (cliffhangers are for chapter endings, not the actual ending of the book itself, that was just cruel) the novel had a good pace and nice writing and a few bits of humor tucked in. Overall, the story has a lot of potential, but it wasn’t what it could have been.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Recommend it? Meh. Maybe.

Stacking the Shelves #2

***Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. It’s a chance to share any books you’ve bought, borrowed, or received in the past 7 days. All of the books on this list are linked to Goodreads.
I’ve recently sold my soul to Netgalley, so I’ve got a few new additions to my shelf to share, though fortunately (at least for my wallet) not as many as last time. Although I don’t plan to review all of these books (except the ARCs of course), if you see anything in particular you’d like me to review, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do!


Mafia Girl by Deborah Blumenthal (thanks @ Albert Whitman & Company)

Endless by Amanda Gray (thanks @ Month9Books)

The Curse Keepers by Denise Grover Swank (thanks @ 47North)

Through the Door by Jodi McIsaac (thanks @ 47North)

The Hazel Tree by Julia Debski* (thanks @ Julia Debski)

Mind Bond by Julie Haydon (thanks  @ Feather in Cap Publishing)

Damselfly by Jennie Bates Bozic (thanks @ Patchwork Press)

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke** (thanks @ Angry Robot)

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish (thanks @ Orbit Books)

*If you’ve seen my update post, you probably already know that Julia is a very good friend of mine who just self-published her first novel, The Hazel Tree. From what I’ve seen, it looks like a pretty fabulous book. I’ll be reviewing it most likely in early November, so stay tuned for that as well.

**I’ve actually already read this gorgeous novel, so if you’d like to know my thoughts on it, check back on Monday for my official review.

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Emma by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It by Dennis Merritt Jones

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

Hopefully, the gods will grant me the self-control not to go book-hunting for a little while considering the sheer size of my TBR pile at the moment. I would offer you a picture of said pile, but I don’t want to frighten you so I’ll refrain.

See you Monday!

Update Chat

So, the month of October has been general insanity, especially with college applications, senior project, midterms, deadlines, and general mayhem.

Shockingly, this has resulted in very little writing time.

I have, however, had the chance to hone my editing skills as my BFF and partner in madness, Ms. Julia Debski, asked me to be the butcher—er, editor—of her debut novel, The Hazel Tree. That book is now published (*quiet flailing*) so I would love for you go check it out. It’s on Kindle for $1.99 and you can also get it in paperback for $9.50, so seriously, go take a look. It’s awesome and full of werewolves and romance and super-creepy Alphas and super-sexy cousins (*cough*ROB*cough*). As soon as the gods bless me with $10, I will be reading and reviewing this beauty, so stay tuned.

In other news, I am doing my best to write while still clinging to the last vestiges of my sanity (which never existed in the first place according to my loved ones). I’m taking my own advice and writing the best bullshit I can, but I’ll be honest—my personality does not deal well with imperfection, so I’m not chucking out as much nonsense as I’d like. Still, progress.

This coming week is also my fall break (THANK YOU JESUS) so I’ll hopefully have a lot more time for writing, reading, stressing over college, and obsessing over CW’s new TV show “Reign”. Seriously, ridiculous historical inaccuracies aside, it is my most delicious guilty pleasure show this season. But, yes, writing is hopefully happening, along with chipping away at my positively gargantuan TBR pile, starting with a book about the Mongol Queens and John Green’s The Fault in Our Starsas well as finishing “‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore” and The Tao of Pooh. I decided to join this year’s Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon mostly because Halloween is fantastic and this is great motivation for me to put more effort into reading.

As part of this update post, I’d like to include a list of things I’m doing/obsessing over that I’d love for you to check out, which I may or may not have already mentioned above, but we’ll ignore that because I like to make lists. It soothes me.

1. The Hazel Tree

2. Emma Approved (a vlog series by Hank Green)

3. Reign, CW’s new supermegafoxyawesomehot TV show

4. Composing a SSAATB choral piece based on Secret Garden’s Sleepsong

5. New theme which I can’t remember the name of but love purely because a chubby, smiling apple is involved.

6. Einstein Bros. Bagels

7. Beautiful fall weather, nice and cool and fantastic. Absolute favorite season ever because sweaters and hot cider and pretty colors and Halloween.

8. Is anyone else emotionally traumatized by that bizarre “Girls Don’t Poop” ad with the ’50s redhead with a British accent posing on a toilet and referring to her poop at least a dozen times in the space of 20 seconds? That poor actress will probably never have another job offer EVER AGAIN.

That concludes this little post. If you are reading/watching/being traumatized by anything I’ve mentioned, please comment so I can join in your joy/pleasure/horror. And don’t forget to check out the fabulous Julia Debski’s new novel The Hazel Tree!