Less than two years after finishing her undergraduate degree, 23-year-old Julia Edelman has published an internationally selling book, Love Voltaire Us Apart: A Philosopher’s Guide to Relationships. The book recently made it to the top of Amazon’s charts, went to number one on Reddit, and has gained her some super famous fans. We sat down to talk to her about the success of her book and her experience as a young comedy author in New York City.
Sarah MacArthur: Can you tell us a little about how you came to write Love Voltaire Us Apart?
Julia Edelman: Sure! When I was studying philosophy at McGill, I read in a biography on Immanuel Kant that, “Kant would have been the greatest phenomena of mankind if he had been able to feel love.” I remember finding it really heartbreaking and funny that Kant could be so brilliant, but still have such a hard time dating, and after I imagined what Kant’s love life must have been like, I started thinking about the love lives of other philosophers. I wrote a short piece on philosophers’ break-up letters throughout history, covering philosophers like Marx and Nietzsche, and a few months later it was published in The New Yorker. Then a week later, Icon Books, a publisher based in London, reached out to me. They liked the idea, and wanted me to expand the article into a book, but a whole book of break-up letters seemed very depressing to me, so I added imagined love letters, advice columns, and quizzes, turning it into more of a ‘guide to relationships.’
SM: Prior to publishing this book, you’d already been writing awesome stuff for many major publications including The New Yorker, NY Mag, The Atlantic, McSweeney’s, and College Humor. At the age of 23, that’s crazy impressive. Is there anything in particular that you feel has attributed to your success? Do you have any advice for young who want to write?
JE: I’ve been writing since I was ten, and always wanted to write a book, but it was definitely much more challenging than I thought it would be, so I think the trick is to write over and over again until you hate yourself and never want to write again, make a snack, then get over it and write some more. My advice for young women would be to find out what you enjoy, and then go out and do it until you want to try something else. Also, always carry a tampon?
SM: As a young person, especially in the sometimes fickle comedy world, do you ever feel insecure or suffer from imposter syndrome? How do you find the courage to go after the things you really, deeply want?
JE: All the time, but I try not to overthink it because I know everyone feels this way at some point, so if we’re all imposters it doesn’t feel so bad. But it helps to have friends and family who encourage and support you when you mess up.
SM: Any big career moments that have made you pinch yourself?
JE: After I wrote an article with Jason Adam Katzenstein for The New Yorker, called “Where Is Tom Hanks Going and Can We Make It Into a Movie? Some Pitches,” Tom Hanks read it and contacted me telling me he liked it. When I thought it was a joke at first, I responded with a casual “haha thanks who is this” and he replied, “Tom Hanks, the man you wrote about….” I realized it was actually him, and then a few months later he emailed me a photo of himself holding my book. I got it when I was about to get on the subway and started jumping up and down. A guy next to me noticed and asked what happened so I showed him the picture, and he gave me a high-five right as I got on the train. It was one of those nice New York moments that somehow didn’t involve rats or trash!
SM: What is your writing outfit?
JE: Usually whatever’s comfortable, jeans or a dress that’s inappropriate for winter and I instantly regret, but Carrie Bradshaw inspires me to up my writing outfit game. Maybe one day.
SM: Writer’s block aid…coffee or alcohol? (or something else?)
JE: Going on walks usually clears my head, and checking out dogs in sweaters.
SM: Now that you’re almost finished touring/promotion for Love Voltaire Us Apart, what’s your next venture?
JE: I’ve started working on a scripted comedy podcast, which has been fun since that’s all pretty new to me, and I’ve been working on another book, only this time I’m taking a break from philosophy.