The “Lucky” Ones – an interview with bestselling author and journalist Julian Guthrie

After a long hiatus, I’m excited to finally bring back The “Lucky” Ones series, which—incredibly—began around this time last year. In case you’re new to Witty Title Here, The “Lucky” Ones is an interview series featuring words from creative types who are lucky enough to be doing something they love. Though their backgrounds vary, the interviewees all share one thing in common—hard work. Which is why it actually has very little to do with luck. These interviews shed light on what makes people tick and reveal the story behind each unique individual.

Currently, I’m on the hunt for more interviewees to keep the series going. I’m looking for people with a specific niche, whether that niche is museum gallery curation or circus performance. If you or someone you know might be a good fit, shoot me an email! In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to my latest interviewee, Julian Guthrie.

Julian Guthrie

Photo by Chris Hardy

 Julian Guthrie has had the kind of journalism career that most budding writers dream of. A journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle, she’s won several awards, including the Best of the West Award and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Public Service Award. Julian’s writing has even been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize on multiple occasions.

Julian’s more than 15-year career boasts stories published by the Huffington Post,, The Wall Street Journal and more. She’s the author of two books—most recently, The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing’s Greatest Race, The America’s Cup. The national bestseller was published this summer and tells a story of devastating setbacks, lessons learned, and an unlikely partnership between two men. The book is available on IndieBound and Amazon, and you can follow Julian on Twitter.


Welcome, Julian!

Tell us a bit about your start in journalism. When and how did the bug get you?

I always loved reading, which drew me into writing. I loved journalism because you get to ask any question that comes to mind.

How did you not only gain access to but also earn the trust of an incredibly wealthy man who once refused to speak to the press all together? 

I had a great story to tell, and he saw that. It has lot of different elements to it, from business to sports. Larry loves sailing, and he spent a decade going after the America’s Cup. He lost twice before winning it, so there are a lot of mistakes made and lessons learned. It took a lot to convince Larry to talk with me, but in the end, he saw that this story was a great story, and that it would benefit from his input.

What about the relationship between these two men intrigued you to tell their story? What is it about anyone who motivates you to learn more about them? 

The title says it all: The Billionaire and the Mechanic. I loved the idea of their unlikely partnership, but I also really liked it that they end up having a great deal in common.

I’m interested in ordinary people who do extraordinary things. That’s Norbert [the mechanic]. And I’m interested in how a kid from the south side of Chicago grows up and finds a way to change the business world. That’s Larry [the billionaire].

Billionaire and the Mechanic

Aside from your most recent book’s subjects, which interviewees have been your favorite to profile/feature?

It’s always the one I did last. So in this case, it’s a profile on George Gascon, the district attorney of San Francisco, who has a remarkable story of fleeing Cuba to find a better life in America.

As a San Francisco writer, what edge do you have on getting a good story? How do you think it compares to being a writer in other major cities? 

I’m a journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle, so I’m up on who’s doing really interesting things. And San Francisco is an epicenter of innovation, so that helps.

Journalism is still very much in an awkward place. What is the best piece of advice you could give a fledgling journalist (ahem, me) about navigating the ever-changing territory where pageview journalism is so rampant?

I would say that it’s very important to diversify as a writer. Write fiction, nonfiction, magazine pieces, newspaper pieces, and—to a lesser extent—use Twitter and other social media.

To be a writer, you not only have to be an expert at your craft, but an expert on your topic as well. How do you manage that with deadlines putting on the pressure? And what are some of the coolest things you’ve learned about in your research?

I learn something very cool with every story, which is the beauty of being a journalist. I only operate on deadlines, and they do get easier to manage. Now I can only operate under deadlines.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your profession?

Keeping print journalism alive. So much content has gone to the web. I still think there’s great impact to be had in the tangible written word.

You’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of praise and accolades. What would be the ultimate milestone of success for you?

I have achieved success and accolades, which is fantastic. I love being a writer. Now, though, I’m most interested in just finding incredible stories to tell, stories that are original and have themes that transcend place and time.


Julian, thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. They’re inspiring, to say the least, as someone who’s forging her own path in the world of journalism. If you enjoyed Julian’s interview, let her know in the comments!