JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Julia Press Simmons, author of Strawberry Mansion: A Philadelphia Story
(Queen Midas Books)
Set in a small section of North Philadelphia, in the spring of 1996, “Strawberry Mansion” depicts three teenage girls’ who must rely on their connection to each other to weather tragic storms.
Tabitha, 19, lost her freedom in high school when she hooked up with a boy who would impregnate her and make her his punching bag. Lisa, 17, is deemed “the strong one” by her friends, but her own past of sexual abuse and pregnancy at the hands of her step father keeps her one second from falling apart as the drama builds. Shanice, 14, is a hellion, ready and willing to let any boy have her just to get the affection she believes her mother has withheld.
As their world spirals out of control, they cling fast to one another in the hope that love, friendship and strength will not only keep them together, but will also move them to a better place in their lives.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write “Strawberry Mansion: A Philadelphia Story”?
Julia Press Simmons: I was 16 years old when I first became a victim of domestic violence. My innocence was completely shattered, and I watched my girlfriends experience similar pain. I decided that I was going to shed light on what I kept in the dark for so many years. I decided to speak out in the only way I knew how. “Strawberry Mansion” was born.
JP: What sets “Strawberry Mansion: A Philadelphia Story” apart from other novels in its genre?
JPS: “Strawberry Mansion” is woman’s fiction. However, it is peppered with urban grit. It tells a story based on a strong, often dismissed notion: the sins of the parents can and often do embed themselves in the children, creating devastating effects.
Told from the perspective of teenage girls, “Strawberry Mansion” highlights their pain and lends a voice to their struggles. Ever wonder who’s hurting your daughter? “Strawberry Mansion” will give you the answer.
JP: Why did you decided to cover rape, incest and promiscuity from a teenager’s perspective?
JPS: Great question! In a survey of over four thousand 9th through 12th graders, approximately 1 in 5 females reported physical and/or sexual abuse by a dating partner. Females between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of domestic violence, and forty percent of teenage girls know of someone who has been beaten by a boyfriend.
Their story needs to be told. This situation needs to be addressed. As a mother, a wife, a former victim, keeping silent was not an option.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take for you to start and finish “Strawberry Mansion: A Philadelphia Story”?
JPS: The very first attempt of writing this story was burned by my abuser in our backyard. It took me 15 years to gain the courage to finish “Strawberry Mansion”, but after I committed to finishing, I was done in 6 months.
JP: What’s next for Julia Press Simmons?
JPS: Growth, hopefully! I am currently working on my sophomore novel, “Begonia Brown: A Philadelphia Story”. My dream is that I grow as a writer with each book I pen, and that the development is apparent in my work!