Today I’d like to welcome Judith Klausner to the blog, the woman behind the narwhal that will soon be your favorite creature under the sea!
Noah the Narwhal tells the story of an Under-Sea spoonie struggling with the day-to-day of a chronic invisible disability, and the process of my community learning to understand and support me.
Sound up your alley? I highly recommend you preorder on B&N!
Q: Hello, Judith!
Hi Ceillie, thanks so much for having me on!
Q: First things first, since you’re new here, introduce yourself!
Oh goodness, an open-ended question, my kryptonite!
I’ll do my best. Let’s see, you covered the name part…
Maybe I’ll start with what drew me to your profile, that being bunch of self-identifiers we have in common that made me want to be friends! I too identify as a queer neurodivergent Hufflepuff. For me, my neurodiversity stems from chronic migraines (and the smorgasbord of neurological symptoms that I’m told stem from the same brain issues, some of which I’m really just taking the doctors’ word on, because ?!?!?) and also from an unfortunately enthusiastic anxiety disorder. The Hufflepuff part is because as much as I have always been quite academically-minded, the driving passion in my life has always been the people in it. I would rather be a loving friend than anything else in the world. I have some serious Feelings (with a capital “F”) about how JK Rowling had basically none of the Hufflepuffs stay for the Battle of Hogwarts. Feelings. Anyhow. Moving on.
I am originally (and still) a sculptor. I have worked with all kinds of non-traditional materials, from insects (I love bugs!) to packaged food, to medical ephemera. I hope to someday illustrate one of my picture books entirely with sculptures.
I love dressing up fancy, and just plain dressing up. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and my job in college was as a sewist for the theater department costume shop. I love tea parties, and I throw a costume tea party for my birthday every year!
Q: Tell us about your book, Noah the Narwhal! What inspired you to write this?
Noah the Narwhal is actually a semi-autobiographical book, despite being about a horned sea mammal! The book follows the ups and downs of a week in the life of Noah – a friendly narwhal who deals with chronic migraines, and the uncertainties this condition brings for himself and his community. I myself have suffered since childhood from disabling chronic migraines, and I have spent the last two decades figuring out how to build my life around unpredictable debilitation. It is an ongoing process of learning how to interact with the world and the people in my life in effective and positive ways. In writing “Noah,” I hope that I can help others with similar conditions to feel less isolated, and provide insight those who make up their communities.
Q: What does your writing space look like?
Because of my chronic pain and the other neurological issues that come along with it (frequent nausea, dizziness, etc), I have found that it is usually most successful for me to work in an environment where I can set myself up at various levels of reclined, propped on pillows. Luckily my living room is also the room in my house that I have done the most to decorate and make the most “me,” so it is a good place for me to spend a lot of time! I think of my style as a comfortable version of victorian parlor/curiosity shop. This is my view when I write (I sit on a giant red tufted sofa out of frame, which I believe to be the most comfortable sofa in the world.)
It…is not usually this tidy.
Q: What are your favorite writing tools?
It’s unromantic I know, but honestly I write on my laptop. It has the flexibility I need in terms of the angles I sometimes need to be in while writing, and it makes editing so much easier than anything else. I’ve realized that working in Google Drive lets me access my manuscript basically wherever I am because of my smartphone, so I can add pieces to a story whenever an idea strikes me. I actually wrote most of the first draft of “Noah” on my phone while waiting for a friend. The concept was something I had been working through in my head for a while as I processed my own situation with regards to disability, but I actually began to write the story in a burst of inspiration before leaving the house that day and I just couldn’t stop writing. So, while my friend tried on clothes, I sat outside the dressing rooms typing away madly on my phone until its battery heated up so much I thought it was going to burst into flames. Thus the first rough version of “Noah” was born! (Luckily, this particular friend takes *forever* to try on clothes ;-).) The rest was written more traditionally in the livingroom from the previous question.
Q: What’s the first book you remember falling in love with?
Oof, that’s a hard one! I don’t know if it’s the very first, but one of my favorite childhood books that has remained a favorite throughout my life is Mark Alan Stamaty’s “Who Needs Donuts?” It is the single piece that has taught me—more than any other—that a work of art can be silly, absurdist, heartfelt, and still be subversive simply by reflecting people’s experiences. The hours I have spent pouring over each illustration in that book have never failed to be an education and at each stage of my life, I have learned something new from them.
I actually read “Who Needs Donuts?” aloud at my wedding (we had cider donuts instead of cake, one of my best life decisions to date.)
All of this makes it SO SO EXCITING that Mark Alan Stamaty honored me with my first ever book blurb. I may have jumped up and down. (It was very dignified, I assure you.)
Q: What should readers know about you before reading your work?
Noah is basically me. But he can pull off a turtleneck better.
Q: If you had a burger named after you, what kind of burger would it be, and what would you want to be on it?
Hmm…I think it would actually be a vegetarian burger-like sandwich I made up that I cook for dinner sometimes. It consists of asian-flavor-inspired barbecue mushrooms with pickled radish and a runny-yolk fried egg on a brioche bun.
Q: What’s your favorite emoji?
The one I use by far the most frequently is the purple heart. Purple is my favorite color (most of what I wear is purple, my hair is purple-ish, I use purple extensively in decorating my home and person.) I am also a very openly affectionate person, and I find a heart is useful in expressing that affection succinctly in digital communications. Thus, purple heart!
I am also quite partial to the ant. I love insects, and I am particularly fond of ants! I find them fascinating and adorable.
Q: What authors are auto-buys for you?
I think I am less book-owning-oriented than most authors (I feel like that makes me not a real author somehow?) I was lucky enough to grow up with a fantastic and accessible public library system. As this is still the case, I’ve never really broken the habit of being pretty library-centric as far as my sourcing of books. My taste in books is pretty all-over-the-place: historical fiction, scifi/fantasy, graphic novels, YA…it has a lot to do with what friends recommend! I think I am most naturally inclined towards historical fiction.
Disclaimer: All links to Indiebound and Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money off of it.