Julie describes herself as an English-Australian hybrid who is fuelled by espresso, calmed by knitting, unreasonably excited by photography, and madly in love with Colin Morgan and John Keats. We had an exciting time at UK Meet 2013, when lunchtime coincided with a tense ending to an Ashes match. We became friends over that last wicket stand.
So, Julie, what inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been an avid reader for all my life, or as much of it as I’ve been conscious of! And I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer. I had absolutely zero self-confidence, though, and managed to discourage myself at every fleeting opportunity. Finally, while in college studying accounting, I made friends with some creative writing students; they were kinder to me than I was myself, and slowly – very slowly! – I took off from there.
Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?
I do, for better or worse, have a rather demanding job as a technical writer. This mostly involves creating eLearning. It’s something I enjoy, that uses my narrative skills, that I trust people out there find useful – and it certainly helps pay the mortgage. However, I do look forward to the day when I can concentrate solely on writing, editing and publishing. Hopefully that will be somewhat before I reach the traditional retirement age!
My job, my home and my husband do tend to crowd out my writing, if I let them. I’ve learned the hard way that I’m happiest when I’m writing, and if that isn’t justification enough for me making it a priority on occasion, then it should be! Because everything else keeps me so busy, I’ve gotten into the habit of trying to write something every day, even if it’s only a sentence. Usually that sentence becomes a paragraph or even a scene, and the current project thereby keeps ticking over. This tends to happen last thing at night before I go to bed, mind you, but I have often surpised myself by managing something useful even while feeling completely zonked. I suppose the lesson I’ve learned is that the 99% perspiration will see you through just about anything other than the direst circumstances, if you’ve at least started with that 1% inspiration.
What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest? Did that change with later ones?
I think it’s always a mix of fear and excitement, though with the first book the fear predominated, and with latter books the excitement wins out. I feel very strongly that the reader is the other half of the writing equation, so I am always keen to see how readers respond to my work. It can be intriguing, whether or not they read the story in ways that I’d hoped and intended. I can’t imagine not feeling nervous about the whole thing, though. If I wasn’t nervous, it would be a sign that I didn’t care any more, and then it would definitely be time to move on!
Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
Definitely character driven. There are a few ‘core components’ of a story, I think, but characters are the most important. It is through them that we experience the plot, story, setting, meaning (if any!) and so on. If I have an idea for a new project, the first thing I start to think about is the characters, and what sort of people it would take to tell that kind of story or convey those kinds of intricacies.
If one of my characters starts developing under their own steam, that’s when I know the whole thing is working! If they have a life of their own, then I always listen to them. To describe that in a more prosaic way: It’s my writerly instincts knowing better than my intellect does – and the only thing to do is have the faith to step out of the way.
If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
Good question! Especially as it’s only one of my characters, and my guys tend to work as teams. So I can’t reply that it would be Fletch and Albert, or Dave and Nicholas; that would be cheating… I would love to say Dave Taylor from the Butterfly Hunter books – but then again, I like to think he’s rather similar to me, and perhaps it’s better to go with someone different. So I’ll choose Fletcher Ash, from The Definitive Albert J Sterne. He’s an FBI agent, so has a wide skill-set, including many skills I don’t have myself. He’s also strong in intelligence, empathy, idealism and persistence, so I don’t think he’d let me down, no matter what the problem was.
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
I am hoping to actually get around to this one day, despite constraints! However, the book that springs to mind in reply is my Arthurian novel. Back in my teens, I was madly into the Arthurian legends, and I thought that if I was ever lucky enough to become a writer I would need to write my own version thereof. Well, here we are all these decades later, and I still haven’t written that novel. I know what I want to do with it, and what story I want to tell, but I need to do plenty more reading and research before I get underway.
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?
It’s only very recently that I have allowed myself not to finish books… (I think there’s a word for that, and it begins with A.) So may I use this answer to instead ask for kudos for perseverance? The book I finished which I really probably shouldn’t have is Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin. Not that it was bad. It was just such an incredibly hard slog, and I don’t know that I got anything from it other than a sense of relief when it was done! (Though I see my sister has rated it 5 stars on Goodreads. Ahem.)
What’s your favourite gay fiction book? And why?
I’ve recently been reminded of one that is certainly in my Top Ten: A Dead Man in Deptford by Anthony Burgess. I have long been intrigued by the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, and this is an excellent novel about his life, love and death. It’s the best I’ve read about Marlowe himself (so far!), and unstintingly presents him as gay (not that they thought of it that way back then), but more broadly than that it’s also excellent in capturing the glories and squalor and voice of the age. A fine novel of Elizabethan times, with bonus buggery to boot.
What’s your current project?
I am in the throes of releasing the third and final novel of the Butterfly Hunter series into the wild. It is titled The Thousand Smiles of Nicholas Goring, and is set seven years after the last book. If I may, I’ll share the details with you! And thank you so much, Charlie, for letting me drop by your blog.
Dave and Nicholas, married for seven years now, are happily settled together – but as an Australian prime minister once observed, “Life wasn’t meant to be easy.” An unexpected threat to their beloved waterhole forces Dave to try asserting unofficial custodianship of the Dreamtime site, and a visit from Nicholas’s nephew Robin doesn’t help as he brings his own surprises. And there’s always the question of Nicholas’s health hanging over their heads…
Julie’s got a fabby Rafflecopter going on, to win a copy of the book.