HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK?
My debut crime novel Daisy Chain took just over four months. My work colleagues had read a short story that I’d written and felt it would make a good novel, wanting to know more about the detective in the story. The ideas began to fizz in my brain and I merged the basic idea with characters of a cold case team that I had written many years before. The words just poured out as I had daily encouragement, which was a massive help. The editing was a brutal process but invaluable. Book two, Grave Issue, took around seven months but I edited as I went along and revisited scenes and ideas.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS FOR YOUR BOOKS?
I watch a lot of TV and read widely. I’m interested in many subjects ; fairy tales, folklore, mythology, historical novels and period drama along with a lot of crime. My research into my family tree had uncovered a wealth of interesting people – I’m related to Percy Shelley and Lady Godiva – and reading snippets from old newspapers has sparked a lot of ideas.
WHAT WAS ONE OF THE MOST SURPRISING THINGS YOU LEARNED IN CREATING YOUR BOOKS?
I learned I could be ruthless and objective. I like that paragraph but does it move the story forward? No. Then take it out. I’ve also become quite adept at spotting continuity errors – it’s one of things I like to do when watching TV. I’ve had characters in certain locations and then, forty pages on, had them somewhere else at the same time! I also discovered I could actually write a whole novel when previously the thought of doing so was a paralysing notion.
WHAT ARE COMMON TRAPS FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
The traps are many and I’ve accumulated a few through the years and worked through them. Trying to find your ‘voice’ can be a long process. You’ve also got to love what you’re writing otherwise it becomes a chore and not an adventure. Then there’s the underlying fear that it’s all been done before and you have nothing new to say. Your voice makes it your story. Trying to write like another author is not authentic.
DID YOU EVER CONSIDER WRITING UNDER A PSEUDONYM?
I did but ultimately dismissed the idea for my crime novels. I have a few tucked away in notebooks as I do like to write in different genres. It’s useful to publish different works under different names. It allows new readers to discover your work.
IF YOU COULD TELL YOUR YOUNGER WRITING SELF ANYTHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I’d tell the younger me to just get on and do it! Finish all those half-written stories, articles and novels. The fear of writing rubbish often overtook me, my scraps of paper and ideas books pushed to the back of drawers. Procrastination was my best friend when I was younger. I’ve unfriended it now.
HOW DID PUBLISHING YOUR FIRST BOOK CHANGE YOUR PROCESS OF WRITING?
Book two was a more linear process. To get over the enormity of writing a full length novel (Daisy Chain) which had always been a huge stumbling block for me, I wrote random scenes and saved them to add to the manuscript later. With Grave Issue I found I started at the beginning and progressed through to the final page. The journey was more A to B than going via the scenic route!
HOW DO YOU SELECT THE NAMES OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Some names I pick just because I like them. Sometimes the character comes first. I choose a name just so I can start writing and then I can change it as the story/character grows. I’m interested in mythology and folklore so there’s lots of inspiration there. My family tree has thrown up some interesting names too – I have a great aunt from the 1800s called Herodias. Now that is a name! I’ve also found that I seem to favour certain letters of the alphabet – I’ve discovered I’ve written four people all starting with the same initials and had to change some of them. It’s a common gripe with readers so I want to avoid it.
DO YOU READ YOUR BOOK REVIEWS? HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH GOOD OR BAD ONES?
I do read my reviews. I’ve been very blessed so far to have great feedback for Daisy Chain. People have enjoyed the characters, the story and the unexpected twists and revelations! If I do see that someone hasn’t enjoyed it, well that will be okay. It won’t bother me. If there is constructive criticism, I’ll take that on board. If I’m not enjoying a book after a few pages I don’t plod through it. There are too many books to read to endure something you have no interest in. You really can’t please all of the people all of the time…
DO YOU BELIEVE IN WRITER’S BLOCK?
We hear a lot about this. I think now, more than ever, real life gets in the way and can overwhelm the creative process and I’m sure everyone has their own way of coping with it. Self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome can worm their way into a writer’s brain forcing a state of suspended animation for the ideas factory. Some push through, others leave projects alone and go back to them later. I think it’s very real and doesn’t just apply to writers. All creators of art forms are prone to this roadblock.
Both of Julia’s novels, Daisy Chain and Grave Issue, are available in ebook and paperback now.
You can find out more about Julia and connect with her over on Twitter.