YEM Author Interview: Julia Walton hopes her readers learn to ask the awkward questions from reading her book “On the Subject of Unmentionable Things”

Julia Walton is the author of On the Subject of Unmentionable Things. On the Subject of Unmentionable Things is a novel that follows Phoebe Townsend, a rule follower…little did they know that she is also Pom – the anonymous teen who’s rewriting sex education on her blog and social media. The book explores sex, social media, and the courage to pursue truth when misinformation is rife. YEM was able to speak with Julia about what the writing process was like, how long it took to write the book, and where she got the inspiration for the book from.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first realize that you wanted to be an author?

Julia Walton: Third Grade. I had a teacher who told me I was a good writer and I latched onto the idea that maybe I could make up stories as a job someday. It sounded like magic.

YEM: How do you feel having your book On the Subject of Unmentionable Things coming out?

Julia: Happy. Excited. Nervous….I’m very proud of this book. I think it’s important to talk about Sex Education and to make sure that everyone has access to accurate information. But I’m also aware that there are people in this country who disagree. I didn’t write this book for them.

I dedicated the book to my kids, but I wrote it for my teen self who was too embarrassed to ask questions about sex.

YEM: What can you tell us about your book?

Julia: It’s about a girl who writes an anonymous sex education blog in a conservative town that gets tangled up in a local mayoral election. 

My protagonist, Phoebe, is very knowledgeable because of her research, but there are moments during the novel when she realizes that there is so much more to learn because there are questions she’s never asked.

Basically, you don’t know what you don’t know. There’s this expectation that you should know everything by a certain age, but if your resources are limited and you’re shy or you come from a family that doesn’t invite questions… it’s just awkward and the information is not readily available. And the information that is readily available isn’t always complete. So I hope the biggest takeaway from this book is to find the answers to your questions without worrying about how awkward it is.

YEM: What is your writing process like?

Julia: Chaotic. I have three kids and I can only really focus when they’re sleeping, but sleep doesn’t always happen when it should and when it does sometimes I FALL ASLEEP TOO. So it’s a constant struggle to write or sleep or eat or fold laundry. HAHAHA just kidding. The laundry never gets folded. Three quarters of it gets folded then I stare at the unsorted socks for another two days like they’re strangers living in my bedroom, until there’s a new batch of laundry to drop on top of them. I don’t know why I’m like this.

Oh yeah, the writing. I do a lot of it on my phone but I love to write in notebooks when I can. There’s something about trying to decipher my own terrible handwriting when typing it up later. I miss writing in quiet libraries the most.

And I like a nice outline, but nothing too rigid. I just need to know how a story ends when I get started.

YEM: Is there a particular thing that you learned about yourself during the writing process?

Julia: That it is definitely easier to draft a book if you let yourself have fun. This book was a joy from start to finish because I let myself have a good time with it. 

YEM: How long did it take to write the book?

Julia: Hmmm… about a year…ish. I wrote the draft over the course of about 7 months, then picked it apart for about three months after before I sent it to anyone.

YEM: What is a takeaway you would like your readers to have after reading On the Subject of Unmentionable Things?

Julia: Opps I answered this one already, but I’d have to say ASK THE AWKWARD QUESTIONS. And also, even if you do the research and know a lot, be willing to accept the fact that you might not know everything.

YEM: What is some advice you have for those who want to become an author?

Julia: I don’t have anything particularly profound to say here except: Write if you love writing.

For most authors, this is a long journey. It usually takes a lot of revision and rejection before anything happens so if you enjoy creating stories then keep going. 

I shelved three books before one got published. It can happen. Keep going.

YEM: Where did the inspiration for the book come from?

Julia: I never understood the outrage about young people learning about sex. It always felt like this weird obsession with making sure no one talked about it or knew too much. 

Every time it was discussed at school it felt like something dirty that needed to be controlled, so I guess that was how the story came about. I wanted to write about a girl who is fascinated by sex and felt empowered by learning as much as possible.

YEM: What is a book that made you fall in love with literature?

Julia: Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville.

I just had the pleasure of reading it again with my six year old and it did not disappoint. Such a lovely experience to share my favorite stories with my kids.

YEM: Is there a quote or a part of your book that is your favorite?

Julia: I love all the scenes with Jorge and Phoebe. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say the scene with Cora in the library is my favorite. It’s was so fun to write.

Favorite line would have to be: Create uncomfortable silence. And watch what happens.

YEM: Do you have more books coming out in the future?

Julia: Yes! Hopefully more YA!  Though I’d love to see an MG and a picture book in my future.

Follow YEM on Twitter to see Julia Walton take over our account!