We offer our first and exclusive Q&A Interview with Julia R. DeStefano, a writer whose literary works have been featured on our Spillwords pages as well as being Author of the Month of August 2021.
What does it mean to be selected as Author of The Month?
It is an honor to be chosen as Author of the Month. But it is especially rewarding to have been selected for the title during a pandemic era. As our world slips in and out of the pandemic like clockwork, continued interest remains in writing that provides pleasure and intrigue, offers hope, and reckons with truth – in short, writing that allows us to unapologetically feel. To win this coveted title is to humbly realize that – in the eyes of the Spillwords Press community – my works embody these attributes. I like to think of my writing as an uncommon love dripping in garnet – striving to simultaneously encourage myself and others to step forward with faith. Because I say what I need to say, not what is supposed to be said, it brings me true joy to see so many readers connecting to my words and to the intensely personal thoughts that have even me blushing at times.
How have your friends and/or family influenced your writing?
My friends and family often remark that I should have a “Dear Red Queen” column, and that remains a longstanding fantasy of mine. I have always loved the idea of the mystery woman (or man) behind the pen who imparts on-demand advice on love, relationships, and the like. While I often contribute prose to lifestyle publications, it would be a dream to secure something permanent that would afford me the opportunity to write on whatever may be on my mind or heart. I especially value those writing opportunities that allow the author to remain true to herself while being of benefit to others. My best friend often suggests that I have lived before and that I took that life with me. Though I’m not so sure about that, I cannot deny that the idea moves me. Honestly, I think I’m just a girl with butterflies cocooned within her and hope perched upon her shoulder. But if I have indeed lived before, then even back then, I knew what made life worth living – love.
What inspires you to write?
Writing is my respite from a world that often feels poisonous and much too cold for my warm blood. I am inspired by the ways in which people relate and connect to each other and the sanctity of feeling within oneself. I am inspired by the notion of strength in vulnerability and the idea of strong-surrender that allows one to share the deepest parts of who they are. Loss of control simultaneously terrifies and inspires me, as does the moment when either love or fear could prevail. Abstract concepts aside, I am inspired by moments of peace, laughter, and romance with a lover who “gets me,” the vastness of the ocean, the phases of the moon – particularly the crescent – and the stillness of the night.
What was your writing catalyst?
My writing catalyst is the ebb and flow of relationships, particularly love or lack thereof. I write on my observations of the world around me, with connection being a primary theme. I am driven to write on my thoughts and feelings in what I have come to regard as a “bursting of truth.” I write because I live from my heart – and also wake up and go to sleep in it. To truly feel and embrace my feelings in this way mesmerizes me. To be able to fully and sensually experience pleasurable feelings and document them to my heart’s content, equally so.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process?
I begin in the Center of Feeling, my safe haven of a writing room. Inspired by the poem of the same name, it offers me peace and understanding when generosity isn’t the world’s strong suit. It is here where I attempt to come to terms with the emotions flowing through my body at any given point in time, though I find that I write best at night. My pen is my wand. My spells are my poems. To write is to enter into a space where I can reassert control. Sometimes, I find myself coloring my thoughts whichever way I choose – painting myself a rose-tinted reality. Conversely, I can be productive about my pain and write on it — thereby pumping the world’s pollution from my veins. Whichever path I choose, the intimacy sets off fireworks in my mind. My pen is an extractor, a purifier. My poems make suitable bedfellows, offer immortality, and in some miracle promise to love me.
What would you say is most fulfilling about writing?
The most fulfilling thing about writing is the ability to deeply savor a moment in time, an experience, or a feeling. I have always felt that writers acquiesce to an unspoken pact with the universe. They must accept the existence of thoughts that will never make it onto paper and are thus, never preserved. It is a bitter pill to swallow, this quiet-knowing that some emotions and experiences are unable to be preserved in the glistening amber of language. But knowing this makes the resulting writing every bit more sweet.
Does the addition of imagery help to tell your story?
Aside from the imagery of sensuality and darkness that permeates my writing, each of my poetry collections – Whirling Into Flame and Leave Everything – contain visual imagery in the form of my original photography. I have always dabbled in photography, and have showcased and sold prints of my work over the years. But it was a completely new experience to assign specific photographs to my poems in the hope of further capturing a mood or a feeling. What I found was that the photographs add a new layer in that they allow readers to fully immerse themselves in the experience that is each individual poem.
What is your favorite reading genre?
My favorite genre is the detective mystery, credited to Edgar Allan Poe for its inception. But there is a big difference between loving the genre and living it. I’ve always gotten a thrill when contemplating the unknown, but I become a sour girl when trapped in its quicksand. These days, I find myself desirous for a glimpse of the way forward. As I wish my heart were a crystal ball, I have begun to wonder what it might be like to exist in a romance novella where I may peacefully rest my head upon love’s shoulder.
What human being has inspired you the most?
At the time of this interview, distance plagues me and the individual who has inspired me for over a decade. I am, essentially, without my living muse. As I write primarily on relationships, I am largely inspired by history’s great loves. I have always loved John and Abigail Adams’ extraordinary partnership – namely, how they influenced each other with their strengths, and the sheer comfort that they experienced simply by being together, even when circumstances forced them physically apart for a time. Recently, I have been reading Letters to Vera, which centers on Vladimir Nabokov’s half-century long love story with his wife Véra. She is strong-surrender personified in that she was a truly empowered woman who knew how to love herself and love another completely. I am enamored by her fierce intellect, independence, sense of humor, and admittance of her unending love for Vladimir. In one of his letters to her, Vladimir writes: “You are the only person I can talk with about the shade of a cloud, about the song of a thought….” As my thoughts travel to the distant one mentioned above, I think to myself: “We should all be so lucky to have a friendship set on fire like that.” Because once you get off that ’45 and graduate to true vinyl, you don’t want to go back to that ’45 again – you’ve claimed power and sovereignty over your heart.
What message would you have for the Spillwords Press community that voted for you?
I am humbled to know that my writing could touch so many. I have always written for myself and struggled for a long time at the thought of appearing so bare to the world. Because I know and fully accept that I teeter on the razor’s edge of reason and passion, it is truly a gift to be embraced for my emboldened words. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for this honor.
What would you like your legacy as a writer to be?
For better or for worse, I am a woman who feels very deeply but doesn’t need fixing or solving, or the chasing away of monsters real or imagined – only caring. In life, there are truths we are often unwilling to see. Whether we believe them too painful to grapple with, or have blinded ourselves to their existence, they remain waiting in the wings. As a writer and Red Queen, I believe in feelings and conversations that go even deeper and in the strengthening of desire. I hope to continue saying the things that are fearful to be said and in doing so, inspire others to exist in a space of choosing truth over illusion. I would like to be remembered as a writer who wrote love and hope into every line, even if love and hope did not always love her.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Once I was a girl merely existing and so fearful of drowning, but always digging to reach the heart of some matter I knew not of. I know now that I may never fully reach the heart of the matter. But I thank you for accompanying me on my quest as I spin thoughts like threads on Circe’s loom.
Julia R. DeStefano is a confessional poet who captures moments to preserve them in the glistening amber of language. She is a woman driven by love and healed by intimacy whose writing paints vivid pictures of darkness and sensuality. Julia's poetry collection, 'Leave Everything,' was published in 2016 and reached #11 in "Poetry by Women" at Amazon. Her latest release, 'Whirling Into Flame,' was published in December 2020. Julia's writing has been hailed as teetering on the "razor's edge of reason and passion." It unapologetically challenges perceptions. Her poem, "The Sands," was chosen as a Featured Post by Medium curators. She is regularly published on SpillWords, and due to readership and popular vote, her Spotlight interview received their "Publication of the Month" award in June 2020. Julia's words and photographs have appeared in local and national publications. She is a lifetime New Englander who draws on the urban and rural vistas for her inspiration. Look for this Red Queen atop her throne of books.