Tuesday, June 28, 2016


UNTETHERED tells the story of Char Hawthorn, the stepmother to a fifteen-year-old, Allie. Before the book begins, Char’s husband dies, leaving open the question of who Allie should live with--Char, the devoted stepmom who has raised Allie full-time for the past five years but has no legal rights to her, or Allie's self-involved bio mom, who lives across the country and has never been interested in parenting, yet who now has sole legal rights to the teenager. While this situation plays out, Char and Allie get swept up in the life of a ten-year-old girl, Morgan, who was adopted out of foster care and then subsequently “rehomed” by her adoptive parents.

"Timmer handles the sensitive, emotionally charged nature of her plot with reverence and openness, avoiding harsh judgments. Untethered is a beautiful mosaic of love’s many fragments, no matter how shattered." Library Journal (starred review)

"[A] thoughtfully written and ultimately uplifting celebration of families that are not bound by blood or by law but by love." Kirkus Reviews

"Harper Lee famously wrote that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. In Untethered, Julie Lawson Timmer makes mincemeat of this old chestnut, proving that a modern family can indeed consist of people who find their own way to each other, however circuitously. The pulse of the story is in the journey, and the triumph is in the unexpectedness of the destination. If you’re inclined to gently strong-arm your book club, Timmer’s is a poignant page-turner worth going to the mat for." Elizabeth Egan, author of A Window.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.

I am a just-turned-50 mom/stepmom to 4 teens. I live with my husband, Dan, and two of those teens (two are in college) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I grew up in Stratford, Ontario, but have now been living in the states for longer than I lived in Canada.
I made some lazy efforts to write at various stages of my life, but the year I was turning 45, I decided I needed to buckle down and really make it happen. A few months before my birthday, I decided I would not turn 45 without a completed draft of a novel. Having that deadline in mind was a huge help. Also at that time, I lost a friend to cancer, and her death inspired me to write my debut novel, FIVE DAYS LEFT (I dedicated the book to her). Having my friend as a guiding light was incredibly motivating. Any time I considered giving up, I thought about her, and pictured the dedication page which I knew from the start would have her name on it, and that was enough for me to sit back at the computer and keep writing.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love reading and spending time with Dan and the kids. I’m interested in personal fitness, and spend time taking classes (spinning, barre, Pilates, yoga, etc) at a terrific gym in town. I’m a recovering CrossFitter and often do “TimmerFit” with Dan, who has rigged our basement up into his own personal CrossFit gym. I also love spending time at my favorite place on earth, our cottage north of Ann Arbor. We have no Internet or TV up there so we completely unplug--relaxing, reading, sleeping in. It makes me smile just to type that! 

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

Yes. I’m a lawyer, and I work as in-house legal counsel for an automotive company. In 2015, I went part-time at work, and this has made a huge difference in my life! I used to write from 4am-6am every morning, and now, thanks to the additional days at home, I can sleep until a much more sane hour.

Where do you get your ideas?

Some materialize in my head based on a fleeting notion about a character--I tend to start with characters and build stories around them. But some ideas have come from friends, and one in particular (also a writer) who has a wonderful habit of sending me articles she thinks I should base stories around. My newest book, UNTETHERED, came from one such article.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

Margaret Atwood. When I was just out of law school, I read CAT’S EYE, about a regular girl growing up in Southwest Ontario. Until then, I hadn’t thought that I, a regular girl who grew up in Southwest Ontario, had anything to write about. Reading that novel made me see that it’s not so much in the story--explosions! Disaster! Mystery!--but in the telling, and the characters, and finding a common human emotion or experience that readers can identify with.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Oy! I queried easily 100 literary agents before I landed my agent. I was shopping around FIVE DAYS LEFT, my debut novel. That took about 2 years, during which I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote the book so thoroughly that its final form bears almost no resemblance to the first draft. My journey from agent to publication was short--21 days!--so no complaints from me there. It was the querying that was exhausting. I became an expert in receiving rejection.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

I would be sure to celebrate every single step more, and to worry less about the steps to come. This is the advice I give to people who have a first book coming out: cherish the exciting moments and try not to let yourself be consumed with the stress of impending deadlines, publicity requirements, etc. This is a lifelong dream for most of us, yet we can manage to turn it into drudgery if we fail to remind ourselves to stop, breathe, smile, celebrate.

How do you market your work?

Ha - not very well! I’m the worst when it comes to selling my book. Usually, in response to the question, “What’s your book about?” I’ll answer by talking about someone else’s book, and hand selling that. I’m much more comfortable promoting other authors than I am in promoting myself. For this reason, I rely on the publisher’s marketing and publicity, and with UNTETHERED, I’ve also used an outside publicist. 

What are you working on now?

I’m doing publicity for my second book, UNTETHERED, which came out in June, and I’m about to start edits on my third book, MRS. SAINT AND THE DEFECTIVES, which comes out summer 2017.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?

Yes. UNTETHERED is told from the point of view of a stepmom, and I’m a stepmom. It also tells about the practice of “rehoming,” which is, sadly, a real-life phenomenon involving adoptive parents giving away their adopted children through ads they place on the Internet.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

Good question. I always tend to like endings, as they wrap everything up, and I feel UNTETHERED ends in a satisfying way.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Be careful about taking writing advice from other people, including me! We all have to find what works for us. I hear about a lot of writing “rules” and I fear some aspiring writers take those to heart. I’m a believer in making up your own rules based on trial and error. I don’t write every day, for example, and that is often the #1 rule in any list. It doesn’t work for me, so I don’t do it. 

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

A downside I’m really feeling this summer is the sense that I never have a day, or even an hour, off. “I should be writing” is a phrase that haunts me every time I sit down to watch a movie or read a book or do anything that’s not writing. That’s a problem when, as I’ve said above, writing daily doesn’t really work for me. But it also doesn’t work for me to feel guilty on days I take off. I’m trying to figure out a way to assign myself days off and take them without guilt.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

I am so grateful for readers, fans, book bloggers, booksellers, librarians and (to the extent not covered by those categories) family and friends. Support from these groups is not something I ever take for granted. Every email or phone call or post on social media from someone who enjoyed what I wrote is an absolute gift.

Julie's Social Media:

Twitter: @JulieLTimmer
Instagram: JulieLawsonTimmer (https://www.instagram.com/julielawsontimmer/)