Books Magazine

Q&A with Karen Karbo, Author of Julia Child Rules

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

Karen Karbo, author of Julia Child Rules to be released on October 1, joins us today to answer some questions.

cover of Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo
Julia Child is the subject of your fourth book in the Kick Ass Women series after Katharine Hepburn, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Coco Chanel. Why Julia?

I’ve had an abiding interest in Julia Child since I was a kid and used to watch The French Chef with my mother in the ’60s. But more than that, I’ve long admired the complexity of her personality, and her ability to make a name and a life for herself despite the fact she was neither extraordinarily gifted nor conventionally beautiful. She was also a complete outsider, being neither French nor male (nor, as some of her detractors were fond of pointing out, much of a chef.) Also, throughout her long and productive life, Julia was never not herself, an accomplishment that’s more extraordinary than it seems. Like my other kick ass women Julia changed the face of 20th century culture, was long lived, and lived by her own rules.

I had so much fun participating in your Live Like Julia event where you invited bloggers to choose a rule from Julia Child Rules and test drive it for a week. From your perspective, how have the various test drives gone? Any surprises?

I was thrilled to see the various ways bloggers interpreted the rules and applied them to their own lives and moved by how much thought and effort went into each post. Although the posts are still coming in, I’m surprised to see how much we all want to “learn to be amused,” by making an effort to enjoy the good things, even when our lives are far from perfect.

As a librarian, I love hearing how authors research their books. What were the challenging aspects of researching a book about Julia Child? How was the research similar to or different from the research for the other books in your Kick Ass Women series?

I’m not an academic, as I freely admit, and my research techniques are pretty free form. I begin by reading all the basic biographies, and when I stumble upon something I find exciting, I read everything around that. Sometimes it’s a specific incident, or a person in the woman’s life. As you know, my focus is the way these women lived their lives, their choices, attitudes, and ways of coping.  For example, we all know that Julia and Paul move to Paris in 1948. In our popular imagination Paris seems timeless and immutable, but when Paul and Julia arrived, the city was ruined, depressed, and crawling from the wreckage of World War II. I wanted to know more about that, and found myself reading some of Janet Flanner’s reporting about Paris during those years, to get a further sense of what Julia was really up against. Her life with Paul seemed so glamorous and romantic, but it was actually difficult. And Julia, as I came to learn, loved life most when it was difficult.

Thanks, Karen, for stopping by! I loved learning more about your experience with Julia Child while writing Julia Child Rules

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For more on Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo, check last week’s post: Book Review: Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo.

I will link this post to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads tomorrow and to Dreaming of France at An Accidental Blog on Monday. Check the link lists at those two blogs for more great content about food and France!

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