This week’s author interview is with romance author, Julia Bell. I met Julia at the UK Indie Lit Fest a few week’s ago. If you enjoy romance with a twist, then read on…
Q. You’ve written ten books so far. Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
A. My eleventh book is a historical romance set in Yorkshire. Well, I am from Yorkshire. I’ve made the working title Harriet Grace and although I could change it, often I stick with the title I first come up with. I’m only ten chapters in, so the characters are slowly forming and no doubt will tell me where they want to go with the story. At the moment, Harriet is struggling with manning a railway signal box that should be her grandfather’s responsibility, but he’s now blind. In order to keep his employment, Harriet is doing the job for him, but keeping it secret as women in the late nineteenth century did not man signal boxes. And then her secret is discovered.
Q. Your books are romantic fiction. What do you most enjoy about writing in this genre?
A. A romance is character based and I love writing about people; their hopes, dreams, despairs and troubles. I think it’s one thing we have in common, no matter our culture or religion. Our emotions are what make us human. And a bit of passion doesn’t go amiss in a story.
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. Goodness, from everywhere. The life stories my friends tell me; eavesdropping on the bus and train. Incidents from my life and strange occurrences that happen in daily life. For example when my supervisor found a creepy set of stone steps and followed them to nowhere, I thought that a good starting point for my time travel story. Only my stone steps did lead somewhere as you can imagine.
Q. Your books all have a twist at the end. How hard is it to keep coming up with a surprise the reader doesn’t expect?
A. I do try and have a twist in my stories, although the ending is usually hopeful if not happy. I can’t abide reading stories or watching films that don’t tie up loose ends and give a satisfying ending. I like to feel content at the end of a story, so I try and make my stories that way. The twist will come two thirds of the way through normally, when a secret is revealed, a lie discovered or a mystery uncovered. This secret, lie or mystery will be the thread through the story; keeping the reader interested. My stories are never just boy meets girl.
Q. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
A. I started writing after my twenty-three year marriage ended and I was devastated. Writing proved therapeutic and my characters felt the same sorrow and distress that I felt and by giving them also hope, I too felt hope for the future.
My first three novels were rubbish and I ended up dismantling them. I then wrote a story set in two eras (not time travel; more time split). I sent it off to a publisher and although they said it was well written they didn’t think it suited the market at that time. I carried on regardless. And when Amazon brought out Kindle Direct Publishing I jumped on board and now all my stories are eBooks. I have four in paperback and I hope all ten will be paperback in due course.
Q. Which is your favourite book you’ve written and why?
A. Without doubt my favourite book is Songbird (eventually becoming Songbird: (The Songbird Story – Book One) since I wrote a sequel, A Tangle of Echoes which carried the story into the next generations.
I couldn’t stop writing as the story seemed to flow out of my fingertips. I knew where I wanted the story to go, although the characters guided my way. Since it’s based on a woman who wants to train as an opera singer at the Royal Academy of Music in London, I played a lot of Katherine Jenkins songs. However, my heroine, Isabelle, will do anything to follow her dream. Readers have told me that the opening line of the story intrigued them and kept them reading.
I felt quite sad when I reached the end which is probably why I wrote a sequel. I’m not really into sequels and it’s my only one. I like to write stand alone novels with a beginning, a middle and an end.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you find about being a writer?
A. Finding the time! And it’s getting worse as I’m getting older. I often find I’m easily distracted. My only solution is to get up very early and going straight into my writing, avoiding social media as long as possible. I still have a day job, albeit two days a week (I’m 68 and I really should be retired), but my work colleagues inspire me. However, that does take two days out of my week. And I have two children and five grandchildren. But no excuses. I promise to do better.
Q. Do you get time to read yourself and if you do, what books do you read?
A. I read every night before I sleep, with my kindle perched on my bosom. I tend to read historical fiction although at the moment I’ve slipped into supernatural and paranormal themes. I enjoyed a story by Jason Ayres who wrote a story about a man who was living his life backwards. That is, his life started from his death. I found it very cleverly written and intriguing and I couldn’t put it down. I ended up reading into the small hours, which is not like me at all.
I read traditionally published authors as well as Indies. I often find the quality of writing equally as good in both.
Q. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A. Ooh, spare time! What’s that, then? Do any of us have spare time these days; it makes me wonder since the pace of life is frenetic. I blame Sunday opening hours.
I think that when I relax I like to watch TV. I like to watch true crimes (where the criminal is safely behind bars) and especially historical crimes. I also enjoy historical dramas, such as Poldark and also historical documentaries. I love the documentaries presented by Dr Lucy Worsley. I find her fascinating and entertaining.
Q. Finally, what piece of advice can you give to writers who are struggling to get that first book written and published?
A. With the advent of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, most authors can get their story out into the public domain. However, it’s a tough world and putting your ‘baby’ out there means you’ll be subjecting yourself to some harsh criticism. If readers give you a bad review for all your hard work it will be demoralising. But it’s all part of the apprenticeship. If you can’t take the criticism then perhaps writing is not for you. But if you can tolerate the occasional one or two star review and learn from it then you can improve your writing. No matter how clever your story, you must be able to put it down on paper in good English. This often has to be learned. Sometimes it will take three or four books before you get it right.
Competition is tight for being accepted with a traditional publisher and sometimes it might not be your writing that rejects you, but the storyline. Fashions come and go and what is popular today might not be so next year.
Keep writing and publishing with either Ingram Spark or Amazon. Use them as your starting point while you learn your trade.
Don’t give up. You could be the next Barbara Taylor Bradford or Stephen King. Even they had to start somewhere.