Friday, November 7, 2008

Falling Under by Danielle Younge-Ullman (with interview and giveaway)

Miraculously, he loves you back.

Though you're not quite sure he would if he really knew you, if he knew the things you've done and the family you have and the sad, dark, panicky places that come out and haunt you at night. He would never understand how being happy makes you sad. How the happier you are the more you know the sky is about to explode into tiny, sparkling shards of glass that will pick up speed as they fall to the earth and slice right through you leaving your skin with little holes in it, leaving your heart bleeding.

. . .

And there are nice things that you've never had before, like hugs, kisses on the cheek, ice cream at 3 a.m. And laughter, lots of laughter. It bubbles up and spills over, stains you with regret for what you've missed.

You are young and in love and finding out what it feels like to smile for no reason, and draw pictures of bumble bees with Lucas's laughing face, and make love on sun-filled afternoons, and sleep with your head on his shoulder and strands of your hair falling across his chest. (from Falling Under, pages 242-243)

Danielle Younge-Ullman's writing is so beautiful, poetic, and honest that it's not surprising her debut novel, Falling Under, grabbed hold of me from page one and made me wish I took a day off from work to curl up on the couch and devour the book in one sitting.

Falling Under is the story of a troubled but talented artist, Mara Foster. She was traumatized at a young age by her parents' fights and eventual divorce, her mother's coldness and hostility, and her father's alcoholism. She goes from one troubled relationship to another, the only constant being her friendship with Bernadette, and even that wasn't trouble-free.

The book is mostly told in the first person, and Younge-Ullman does a wonderful job portraying Mara's vulnerability and the anxiety that has made her unable to leave her house some days. The narrative is not for the faint of heart; there is strong language and many descriptive sex scenes, but the rawness, the harshness is necessary to see and feel what it's like to be Mara.

Inserted between the first-person scenes in the present are scenes told in the second person, detailing Mara's past: her parents' break-up, her falling out with Bernadette, her affair with an older artist, her first love. Mara is haunted by her first love, and the tragedy that occurs prevents her from having a normal relationship with Hugo, a man she meets in a gay bar while Bernadette is trying to impress a former girlfriend. The scenes with Hugo, a normal guy trying to begin a relationship with a messed up girl, offer some comic relief, as Mara doesn't know how to handle the situation. But it's sad, too, because Mara is unable to just enjoy Hugo's company until she revisits the ghosts of her past, ghosts that also have prevented her from fully expressing herself in her art. Younge-Ullman also weaves in scenes with Eric, a man Mara sleeps with from time to time, and Sal, a former lover who buys and sells the paintings full of geometric shapes that Mara cranks out like a robot.

It's hard to put into words just how much I loved this book. I grew attached to Mara, rooting for her all the way. Younge-Ullman does an excellent job portraying Mara's pain, actually making me feel the hurt in some scenes. The character seemed so real to me, maybe because I identified with her, having known what it's like to be so depressed that you can't do the one thing you live for. (For Mara it was painting, for me it was writing. But that's all in the past now.) I couldn't believe this was Younge-Ullman's first novel, and I can't wait for her next one.

After interviewing Kate Veitch, author of Without a Backward Glance, she put me in touch with Danielle Younge-Ullman. (Thanks so much, Kate!) And I'm so happy she did because Danielle is a gem. Despite a busy schedule that involved a book festival and finishing her next novel, Danielle agreed to an interview, which I'll share with you all now.

What prompted you to write Falling Under? How did the character of Mara come about? Was she inspired by anyone?

There were a few things at play when I was working on the premise for Falling Under. My first attempt at a book was a lighter, funnier book, but with some darker, more serious subplots in it. It was those subplots that I liked best and that other people seemed to respond to, so that gave me a clue about the direction I wanted to go in with my next book.

At the time I was also pondering the effects of traumas experienced in childhood, specifically divorce, on a person when they become an adult and have to navigate adult relationships. The question I was mulling was how do you grow up to have any faith or trust in the world, in things turning out well, when from an early age you know everything and everyone you count on can fall apart? This is not a neurotic perception for a kid, or an adult--it's a fact.

As all of this was whirling around in me, I began to see Mara--this brilliant, talented young woman who was so overcome and trapped by her fears that she could barely leave her house. This is how the creative process seems to work for me--I just start asking myself questions, thinking about issues and events that I'm curious about and/or feel strongly about, and then, finally, I start to "see" and "hear" my story, my characters. When they finally appear it feels like magic, but it's the result of a process where I'm pulling things together and digging around inside. Mara kind of just appeared.

The one thing that is rather autobiographical about Mara is the way she worries--I'm a big worrier, and it's very easy with my vivid imagination for me to go to the worst-case-scenario. I function perfectly well in the world and have a good sense of humor about this aspect of my character, but as I was creating Mara, I imagined someone who had the same kind of anxiety and worry in her, but multiplied by a thousand and with a different, much more difficult personal history. So Mara is not based on anyone--as I said, she just appeared, but she does have this one central thing in common with me.

Was it hard to write from Mara's point of view? The story is so full of pain and vulnerability, it hurt to read some parts of it.

Honestly, that deep, raw stuff is . . . not exactly easy to write, but when I get in that zone it flows out. Before I ever realized I was a writer, I kept journals and poured my heart and soul out with no self-censoring. I did this on and off for years and unwittingly taught myself to write. To write from Mara's point of view, I really just had to get myself fully into her headspace and then do the same thing.

I will say, though, that I was bawling my eyes out as I wrote the final quarter of Falling Under. The story took some turns I really didn't expect, and I was just a mess.

What do you think about the cover of Falling Under? I loved it, from the image of the woman to the scratchy writing. I was drawn to it immediately, and after reading the book, I think it's a perfect fit.

I love the cover--I really think it suits the book well, and it's also very sexy and eye-catching!

How long did it take you to write the book? Could you describe your writing process?

It took a little under a year to write the first draft of Falling Under and then another three-ish months to edit before I shopped it to agents.

My writing process is still . . . in process. I think in the first question I gave an idea of how I start out, but after that I often write a first scene, then do an outline. I stick to the outline for a few chapters, then tend to go wildly off in a different direction and write until I'm so far off the outline that I'm stuck. Then I write a new outline based on what I've got so far, write until I've gone off it and am stuck again, etc. I do this until the book is done. It's a very messy process, and I wish I could write an outline that I could stick to, or just give up and write without one, but it doesn't seem to work that way. I need to write the outline, and I need to feel free to ignore it, too.

Are you writing another novel? Will it be different from Falling Under in terms of writing style?

Yes! I just finished the first draft of my new book, and I can't tell you how relieved I am to have it done. I don't think the style is drastically different, but I'm not using the second person POV as I did for half of Falling Under and I'm following two characters' POVs in this one, instead of one, so it's a bit more complicated.

I've seen a few bloggers listing books that made them cry. Has a book ever driven you to tears? The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and Marley and Me by John Grogan are a couple that did it to me.

Many books have made me cry! I first read Jane Eyre when I was 11 years old, and I remember it totally slayed me--blew my mind, made me bawl my eyes out, everything. I went straight to Wuthering Heights after that. What else . . . The Time Traveler's Wife, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Tigana, Fugitive Pieces . . . the list is much longer, but there are a few that stand out.

Thanks, Danielle, for making time for me! I can't wait for your next book. Wishing you much success!


Danielle is offering a copy of Falling Under to one lucky reader. If you're interested in this amazing book, please comment on this post. Remember to leave your email address, especially if you don't have a blog or your blog profile isn't available. If I don't have a way to contact you if you win, your entry won't be counted! The deadline for this giveaway is Friday, Nov. 14.


Falling Under also was reviewed by:

A Bookworm's World
J. Kaye's Book Blog
S. Krishna's Books
Bookroomreview's Weblog
Booking Mama
Book Addiction

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Falling Under from the author for review purposes.


Bookfool said...

You must have just posted because I know a giveaway is never devoid of comments. LOL Go ahead and add me. It sounds fabulous. :)

bookfoolery (at) yahoo (dot) com

Anonymous said...

Love the interview and the info on her next book. No need to enter me as I have already read it. Love Danielle Younge-Ullman!

Anna said...

Bookfool: You're right! I did just post it! And consider yourself entered!

J. Kaye: Isn't she great? :)

windycindy said...

What a touching debut book storyline!
In some small ways, I can identify with her main character. Learning to be happy and smile has been no easy task for me. Please enter me in your wonderful book drawing. I appreciate it very much.....Thanks, Cindi

Teddy Rose said...

I would love to win this book, it sounds wonderful.


Sheri S. said...

Please enter me - the books sounds amazing!


Ladytink_534 said...

Oh really great interview!!! This sounds like such an interesting story, I've read so many good things about it already.

Anonymous said...

1st thing - awesome review -u know i love this kind of emotional review -where i feel that I m gonna love this book - because u put so much emotion into it!!

2nd - the Author is a striking beauty nay? I swear I have never seen her before and she is so beautiful - those hair and everyhting...

the interview is very touching too... it soesn't sound out of the world... and i like the way she uses "bawl my eyes off" :D that makes it sound so normal-kinds no?!

ok love love everythng i have heard about it!

and if this giveaway is open internationally - i would love o enter!!
thanks girl


Anonymous said...

Ooh, I'd love to win this! I've tagged the post in my reader so I can read the interview later, more leisurely.

WordLily AT gmail

Bridget said...

I've posted this at Win a Book. Don't enter me in the contest.

Luanne said...

No need to enter me. I too loved this book! A fantastic new author!

gautami tripathy said...

Love the cover. Great interview!

Please enter me...


Amber said...

Please enter me and thanks for the contest!


Unknown said...

Wow this book really intrigues me! "He would never understand how being happy makes you sad." I found that to be very interesting. And the author interview was very nice to read. I'd love a chance to win this book thanks.

Sara said...

Great interview and review. Please enter me. Thanks!

Sararush at hotmail dot com

Re said...

i enjoyed reading the interview!! thanks for a chance to win

Wanda said...

Enjoyed the interview; would like a chance to win and enjoy the book as well!


The Bookworm said...

I've heard good things about this one before.
Great review and interview too!

Jeannie said...

Please enter me in the contest, Anna. :D

Never mind the fact that this book looks incredible and may actually help me understand my own childhood a bit more- I'd like to read it because you love it so much. We seem to be so alike in many ways. This book no doubt will bring us closer together, which would be just awesome!

P.S. Great interview too, BTW. I tend to discuss serious things with a bit of humor too, so it was nice to read that Ms. Younge-Ullman approached her book in this way.

teabird said...

This sounds like a wonderful book - thanks for the opportunity to win it!

teabird17 at yahoo dot com

Megan said...

Excellent review - love the passage that you shared. I'd love to have a chance to win it, but if I don't, it'll definitely be headed for my wish list. Thanks!

toadacious1 at yahoo dot com

Unknown said...

This book sounds wonderful. Also a great interview with Danielle. Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

jgbeads AT gmail DOT com

NatRed2 said...

I love your interviews and reviews Anna Don't ever stop!

You can enter me ;)

nat(dot)red2 (at) att(dot)net

darbyscloset said...

I remember when this book first came out and it had my interest then; I have not read this author and would love the opportunity to do so. Please enter me.
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Wrighty said...

That was a great interview but an even better review. Excellent job! It was obvious that this book touched you deeply. I'm hooked already! Please enter me too and thanks for all of your contests.

Anonymous said...

I would love to win this book! It sounds so amazing intriguing and gripping!


avalonne83 said...

Sounds such a great book!
Please count me in...thanks.

avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

Serena said...

I love the part where she says she writes and it flows out and she's so far off the outline and tries to write another one based on what she has written. Hilarious. I did that for a while, but I've given up on that notion.

No need to enter me as you know this book is in my TBR pile.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an amazing first novel. I'd love to read it. milou2ster(at)

Teddy Rose said...

I just wanted to let you know that I posted your giveaway on my blog here:

Ruth Schaller said...

the interview was great!!! I just love reading about authors and how they do things. Sometimes it helps me with my writing.

Sounds good. Enter me please.

ruthiesbookreviews AT yahoo DOT com

Danielle Younge-Ullman said...

Anna, thank you for your wonderful review and for asking such great questions. And good luck to all you contest entrants!

Sandra said...

*** I emailed you yesterday about your win of Guernica by Dave Boling at Fresh Ink Books. If you still want the book, could you please send me your mailing address. Thank you.

Gwendolyn B. said...

Wow! Lots of enthusiasm for this book! I enjoyed your review and the interview. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Anonymous said...

Wow! This sounds like a good book. I would love to be entered! Reading is my passion!

dsym_06 AT yahoo DOT com

Anna said...

Thanks to everyone who left kind words about my review and interview!

Danielle: Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! It was a pleasure interviewing you. I'm so glad you're pleased with the review.

Bridget & Teddy Rose: Thanks for helping spread the word about the giveaway!

Sandra: I've emailed you. Let me know if you don't receive it! Thanks!

S. Krishna said...

No need to enter me, but great review and interview! I loved this book as well.

Darlene said...

I'm not sure how I missed this since I've wanted to read this since I saw it at all the places you listed. lol. Anyhow please enter me and rreat review and interview Anna!

Icedream said...

I would love to be entered, I couldn't read the discussion because I knew I wanted to read this book and I didn't want to know what was going to happen. :D
Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

waitmantwillie AT hotmail DOT com

ikkinlala said...

I'd be interested in reading this book if Canadians may enter.

ikkinlala AT yahoo DOT ca

Bunny B said...

If you can ship internationally, I'd love to join in! Thanks :)

bunnybx at gmail . com

Shana said...

Great review & interview, Anna.

I loved this book too. I have it, obviously, so no need to enter me in the drawing. I wondered when you'd review it!

(Oh, and A Prayer for Owen Meany made me cry too!)


Jennifer said...

Please add me. The beginning description sounded as though I had written it (well it was far more poetic than I could ever be). Thank you for allowing me the chance.

knittingmomof3 AT gmail DOT com

Monique M said...

Me too, me too!!! Great interview, I would love to read it...maybe I'll get lucky like our Bunny!

Serena said...

i posted this in my sidebar as well.

Unknown said...

Please count me in! I love to read!
frog123 (at) cyipcom (dot) net

rb said...

Please count me in! Interesting interview. :D

Keyo said...

hmm..Interesting book. Nice interview. Pls count me in!

Anita Yancey said...

I would love to read this book. Please enter me.

Julie said...

I would also love to read this book, please enter me! I also put it on my blog-thanks!
julyso@grandecom DOT net

kaylee8 said...

I love to read books written in the first person!

Annie said...

Thank you. The book sounds wonderful (and I finally got my first bifocals, so I can read again)!

furygirl3132 said...

This sounds like a truly wonderful book that I would love to read. Thanks so much for such a great opportunity!


sweetsue said...

Great review and interview! I would love to read this book-it sounds wonderful.
smchester at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

I would love to win this book. Please enter me in the giveaway. Thanks. =)

Carmen T

Anonymous said...

Please enter me for your book giveaway. Thanks.

Sena said...

Great! I would love to win! Thanks!

Anna said...

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond to comments. I've been swamped. I just wanted to say thanks for all your kind words about the review and interview. I'm glad you enjoyed them!

Carolyn said...

The book that really touched me was a book of poems written during WWI by these young soldiers. What a dreadful war and how young some of the men were!
This book looks marvelous!

Unknown said...

Thanks for counting us in too.

avalonne83 said...

Great post -- congrats!
Please enter me in the contest. Thanks.

avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

Anonymous said...

Just by reading the preview this book sounds so interesting!

Elaine R

klp1965 said...


calgirl said...

Falling Under sounds wonderful.

Anna said...

Avalonne: Glad you enjoyed the post!

Peggy said...

Wonderful interview ,now I would love to read the book.

Anonymous said...

It sounds fabulous.

Asylumgirl said...

This book sounds great, would love to win it.

deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

Wendi said...

Anna - all of your interviews are just wonderful - thank you for sharing them with us!!

Take care ~ Wendi

Your interview has been added to

About the Author - An Author Interview Index

Anna said...

Wendi: Glad you enjoyed my interviews! Thanks for adding them to the index!