My writing ritual: stopping for an interview on my book blog tour

One of the stops on my recent book blog tour was at  Bforbookreview.wordpress.com

and it was an interview. Here is a transcript:

– When and where do you prefer to write?

Two main places: I do actually have my own study (husband banned, except for kindly plying me with coffee!) and I work at my antique desk with all my research books and papers handily in the big bookshelf next to me.  For A Shape on the Air, as with all my books, I have a ‘mood board’ on the wall beside me, with pics of inspirations for the main characters (it’s Rachel Weiss and James Norton) and pics that represent Dr Viv’s apartment, the mere and Anglo-Saxon life and times. I also like to write in the conservatory so that I can look out at the garden which gives me peace and inspiration. I write most weekdays as I resigned from the university in order to write fulltime and I try to write a session in the mornings and again in the afternoons, so I keep to ‘office times’ as far as  poss. It doesn’t always work out, though, because if it’s a nice day I want to be outside, walking in the countryside  or gardening!

– Do you have a certain ritual?

My main ritual really is that I go swimming first thing in the mornings (I do 20-30 lengths) and usually have a session in the gym while I’m there. Then when I get back home at about 9.30 I can feel ‘noble’ after my exercise and set my mind to my work. I ALWAYS take my first coffee of the day with me to the study. I check my emails first in case there’s anything I need to address, but I try to avoid social media until I’ve met my target for the day.

Is there a drink or some food that keeps you company while you write?

I’m afraid that I drink far too much fresh coffee while I’m working; I have a coffee pot constantly on the go. But I compensate with camomile tea at other times! I don’t eat while I’m on my computer but I do stop for breaks and usually have fresh fruit – or if I’ve been baking I grab a ginger flapjack or almond macaroon or whatever!

What is your favourite book?

It changes, because I’m an avid reader and the latest one is usually my current favourite. But some stand the test of time in my heart: I love anything by Kate Atkinson and Pamela Hartshorne. I love historicals and time-slips (because this is my ‘brand’ too)!

Would you consider writing a different genre in the future?

I have written in several genres already (contemporary and historical romance, children’s, etc) but at present I see my ‘brand’ as medieval time-slip mystery romance, which is what A Shape on the Air is – and also my WIP (working title The Dragon Tree)which is a sequel.

Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?

I guess most writers base characters on people they know in some way (we’re terrible people-watchers) but mine are generally amalgamations of different people. I pick characteristics and merge them into my characters, so they are, hopefully, unique.  Possibly some of the characters in the Drumbeats Trilogy were nearer to known people than usual. But characters in A Shape in the Air mix up various friends of mine (don’t tell them!).

 Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?

I have a glorious collection of beautiful notebooks (constantly added to!) and I do usually have one in my bag, along with some of my collection of gorgeous pens. The only thing is that I tend to get ideas at awkward moments when I can’t pull the notebook out to write them down! I desperately try to keep the ideas in my head until I can scribble them down.

– Which genre do you not like at all?

I like most genres. I love crime, police procedurals and psychological thrillers, but I couldn’t ever write them (I don’t feel qualified enough). I don’t like anything gory or OTT blood-thirsty and I’m not keen on erotica or inflicted pain. I hated Fifty Shades!

– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?

Barbara Erskine or Susanna Kearsley, because we’re on the same wave-length I think:  medieval -ish time-slip Or maybe my friend Lizzie Lamb: although we write entirely different sorts of books, she’s excellent at marketing and promotion, so I’d feed off her!

If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?

Strangely enough, I’ve just been doing research in Madeira.  My latest WIP is set there and involves its medieval history, 14th and 16th centuries. It’s a time-slip again so there’s present day Madeira to imbibe too. It’s provisionally called The Dragon Tree and it has the same main protagonists as A Shape on the Air: Dr Viv and Rev Rory, because I liked them so much I couldn’t let them go! My next will be the third in the series but they will be back in England at the Derbyshire rectory and my other favourite character (Tilly) will be back.

A Shape on the Air is available from Amazon at

http://myBook.to/ASOTA

 

Which books make me cry? And 10 fun facts about me – hmm!

My book tour continues! Today I’m interviewed by Jasmine at http://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com

She asks me about the books that made me cry and if you scroll down there are also ten fun facts about me that you never knew!

  1. What is the first book that made you cry?

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) because I was mad with Jo and I thought that the gorgeous male protagonist married the wrong person (trying not to give spoilers). I was very young! Then One Day (David Nicholls) and latterly A Single Thread (Tracy Chevalier). I cry very easily, at just about everything! I even cry at my own books; A Shape on the Air, for example – what happened with Dr Viv’s partner, her mother, betrayal, Lady Vivianne’s betrothal, the mystery they had to solve … I’m almost in tears now!

  1. How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

I usually reckon 6 months for research and 6 months to write the book. Even if I know the historical research base well (as with early medieval/Anglo-Saxon England which was my original research field), I have to research specifics for that particular book. For A Shape on the Air I had to research minute details of daily life in 499 AD. The same with my Drumbeats Trilogy, which begins in Ghana, West Africa in the 1960s, even though I had lived there I had to research the locations and what was happening at that time (music, books, politics, current events, etc). I love reading about how people lived in a different historical period so it’s a joy to do the research. My problem is where to stop!

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

Oddly the names often arrive in my head before the complete plot. I tend to have a character and inciting incident/initial situation/conflict before I start. I always have a ‘mood board’ for each novel WIP on my pinboard beside my desk and when I have a picture of my character on it, the name follows pretty quickly. Maybe because when I sit in a restaurant/bus/train and do my naughty ‘people watching’ I give them names as well as jobs and situations. For A Shape on the Air, I chose a picture of Rachel Weiss and thought of Dr Viv, and James Norton and thought of Rev Rory. Don’t ask me why! But it’s also true that I had to find similar names that fitted both time periods: Dr Viv in the present and Lady Vivianne in 499 AD, Rev Rory/Sir Roland, Tilly/Tilda, and so on. I decided not to use completely authentic  names for 499 AD as the characters were from different ‘tribes’ or ethnicities (Roman, Celtic, Briton, Saxon etc) and some would not be so easy to read for the modern reader. For myself, I always found it hard to read names I have to really concentrate on to remember.

  1. What creature do you consider your “spirit animal” to be?

I’d like it to be a wise owl or an elegant horse or gazelle, but it’s probably a cat (curled up by the fire and looking piercingly at what’s going on around).

  1. What fictional character would you want to be friends with in real life?

Cormoran Strike (Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling). I think he’s fascinating, hard but a softy at heart. He’s had such interesting experiences and I think he’d be full of anecdotes. I feel he’d keep me laughing as well.

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t give up; keep at it and believe in yourself. Read through your finished draft as though you are the reader, not the writer; if it doesn’t capture your attention throughout, then it won’t for anyone else. Make a great opening that grabs the reader’s attention and a great ending that makes them rave about your book. Create memorable characters and get to know them inside out: make a profile of them, what do they look like (very important), what are their little foibles, what are their likes/dislikes, what’s their history? And for heavens’ sake, do your research!

  1. What book do you wish you had written?

Kate Atkinson’s Time After Time.  Brilliant. What an intriguing concept: what if there were different ‘realities’  and history could repeat itself, but change for the better (hopefully). It’s a bit like a time-slip, I guess, but one that actually alters history – something we normally try not to do in time-slips – for the benefit of mankind.

  1. Tell us 10 fun facts about yourself! 🙂
  • I love rhubarb and ginger gin and hate beer
  • I like rugby (watching!) and hate football
  • I love walking in the countryside and hate running (mainly because I have a spinal injury)
  • I love baking for family and friends: my current specialisms are ginger flapjacks (there seems to be a ginger theme going on here!) and almond macaroons, granary bread, and cauliflower & blue stilton cheese soup
  • I love crime novels, police procedurals and psychological thrillers, but I could never write them
  • I like gardening and growing my own vegetables and fruit
  • I’m really into healthy eating – all things fresh and homemade, not shop-bought, plastic wrapped and transport-miles
  • I actually have a PhD! In socio-linguistics, how men and women talk to each other. The research was fascinating!
  • I’m a qualified yoga teacher
  • I love clothes but hate shopping and changing rooms

And there we have it! That’s it for today. Let’s see what tomorrow has in store …

Can you feel the heat?

So here I am, on my big book blog tour throughout Great Britain and beyond … and all from my desk in my PJs! Thanks to @rararesources I am on tour just a day after my shoulder operation. Truth be known, I didn’t start promotion until yesterday, Day 3, as I was hardly compos mentis for the first 48 hours after my op and am typing with one hand!

I thought I’d share with you my first guest post published on Sunday, Day 2, on the lovely blog The Magic of Worlds with many thanks to this book blogger and all the others who are taking part in my 42 stop tour  https://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

SCROLL DOWN TO JANUARY 27th!!

Can you feel it – the heat, the sounds, sights, smells of tropical Ghana? Here’s the guest post …

Today I’m celebrating the publication of my three Drumbeats novels in one Omnibus/box set edition for kindle books by my lovely publisher, Endeavour Media. It’s great to see the whole Drumbeats Trilogy all together in one – and at a bargain price too (currently £5.99 for the three books together)! It’s a saga of love, betrayal and second chances, and most particularly it’s about one woman’s (Jess) strength and spirit rising above adversity. You can find it at: http://mybook.to/DrumbeatsOmnibus

I’ve been working on the three books for about four years, with a couple of other books published in between! Finally, the long-awaited third and last novel of the trilogy was published this summer, called Finding Jess, http://mybook.to/FindingJess, and it’s set in Ghana (West Africa) and starts with: “Outside, the sun is beating down pitilessly, that sweet-sour stink of rotten meat and putrefying vegetables in the open drains at the side of the road. Yes, she knows that intense heat, that smell, the sound of the kpanlogo djembe and the donde, those kente-clad mammies, from all those years before …”

Jess is haunted by her experiences in Ghana when she was an 18 year old on a gap year, the basis of the first of the trilogy, Drumbeats, http://myBook.to/Drumbeatstrilogy where she is fascinated as a girl in 1965, by the whole idea of Africa: she looks around her in wonderment: “The streets were incredibly noisy, smelly, and bustling with people calling out to each other across the streets, jostling Jess. Swarms of little boys were again surrounding her, pushing at her for attention. The hot thick air stank of rotting vegetables, spices, melting tarmac. Jess pressed herself against the safety of the wall as plump women swathed in bright Ghanaian cloth swept haughtily past her. Their babies swaddled on their backs blinked passively at her with glassy eyes and long black eyelashes. Shallow platters piled high with tomatoes and mangoes were balanced on turban-bound heads, as the women made their way gracefully up and down the dusty streets, taking no notice of the foul open drains and the begging children around their feet.”

Ever since I spent time working in Ghana, I’ve been driven by the desire to write about this fascinating country. It’s a country of contrasts: poverty but richness of generosity, the arid landscape of the sub-Saharan north but the lushness of the rainforests and coastline. Then there’s the climate: intense heat of the dry season and the welcome deluges of the rainy season.

As a writer, I like to create stories set in a particular time and location, as those are the books I love to read myself, such as Dinah Jefferies’s far eastern novels and Kate Mosse’s Languedoc series. Wonderfully evocative! So, Drumbeats #1 starts in a specific time (1965) and place, the intriguing African country of Ghana.

I try to use all the senses to make the reader feel as though they are actually there, to make it as vivid as possible. I was therefore thrilled to have reviews that said: “beautifully written, conjuring up the colour and culture of the country”, and “feel the searing heat of Ghana burning off the pages.” How lovely! Then I had: “It’s a brilliantly crafted book where sights, sounds and even smells of the Ghanaian way of life are conjured up quite vividly… details … woven so well into the fabric of the story it becomes an essential part of the read” and even Julia Ibbotson’s descriptions of Ghana instantly transport the reader there… It is very clear that the author has spent some time in Ghana as her knowledge of the country and its political strife is extensive. I love the symbolism of the drums throughout the book, making it so atmospheric.”

Many thanks to those readers, whoever they are! If my readers can feel the location too, I’ve done my job OK. I do hope you think so too.

Can you be my left hand? – on my upcoming Drumbeats Trilogy book tour

So here we go with my exciting upcoming book blog tour, with Rachel’s Random Reads. 42 stops over two weeks! Goodness, I’ll be busy keeping up with three stops per day. Even more so now that I have an operation to my shoulder on Friday and the tour starts Saturday. Ouch! But the joy of a blog tour is that it can be done from my desk. No longer do I have to take a plane, travel between cities, appear in my professional togs, make-up perfect. I can sit at my laptop in my pjs if I so wish! Just as well as over the next few weeks I’ll have my left arm immobilised in a sling and probably won’t feel much like dressing up and putting on my make-up – let alone actually trying to brush my hair – even if it was remotely possible! You may think I exaggerate, but I have gone through all this before (twice!) with my right arm, so I am currently filled with trepidation …

However, the prospect of a lovely book blog tour cheers me up and I shall try to click on each stop each day and share/retweet, etc, although I may need to get my long-suffering husband to serve as my left hand for typing.

Can you help? Could you be my left hand?

I’d love it if you could share/retweet with me. The stops each day are in the poster below and the links will be on my facebook and author facebook pages. Thank you so much – much appreciated.

rrr drumbeats tour schedule – sheet1

 

Book Tours and a plot ‘spoilers’ challenge

The brand new Drumbeats Trilogy Omnibus edition is just out in ebook from my publisher Endeavour, and it’s available on Amazon right now – all three novels together in one place for only £5.99. The trilogy overall is a saga about love, betrayal and second chances – and one woman’s search for the strength to rise above adversity.

http://mybook.to/DrumbeatsOmnibus

It’s the story of Jess and we first meet her in Drumbeats as an 18 year old in 1965 on a gap year in Ghana (West Africa) where she’s teaching and nursing in the bush. She goes with a naive mission to make a difference in the world, but faces tragedy, civil war, and a new romance – with the echoes of the village drumbeats warning her of something … but what?

The next, Walking in the Rain, follows Jess back to England, and marriage, motherhood, and disaster … and the drumbeats continue to pervade her dreams.

The final book, Finding Jess, published singly just last August, sees Jess coping with betrayals, family problems and desperately trying to juggle a job at the same time … and finally returning to Ghana to try to ‘find herself’ again as an individual. Will she succeed? And what are the drumbeats trying to tell her throughout it all?

Some of the wonderful reviews I’ve already received: “scenes of raw emotion”, “an emotional roller-coaster”, “a heart-warming read, wonderfully written, compelling, warm and uplifting”“feel the searing heat of Ghana burning right off the pages”, “a powerful story”, “so evocative, it transported me to a different time, different place; I couldn’t put it down”.

There’s a major launch of the omnibus edition and a book blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources from January 26 to February 8. The tour’s full and all ‘sold out’ for 42 stops. So, I’m busy preparing content for the tour: guest posts, Q&As, selecting extracts …

How do you select extracts from all three books without giving away ‘spoilers’ for the plots? Goodness, it’s difficult! I’ve worked on several attempts. One host wants an extract from just one of the books, OK, but I have to select very carefully as it’s the second book in the series. Two of the hosts want extracts from all three and a few words about the context of each one. Fair enough, but what a challenge. All three hosts need a selection of different extracts, because I guess many blog readers will be following the whole tour and obviously don’t want to be reading the same stuff over and over! I wouldn’t! Should I take a different ‘theme’ for each, maybe? But even so, how do I do it, especially the context statements, without giving away too much of what happens to Jess through three whole novels and 30 years?! Well, I’ve given you enough above! Yikes.

Any advice, gratefully received! In the meantime, I’ll be ensconced in my study for the duration.

Get those brain cells working overtime, Julia. I WILL get there … eventually! In the meantime, I’ll pop up the official book tour banner from my tour organiser shortly. Six guest posts and Q&As drafted … nearly there …

Finding Jess – what do I do all day and what do I hate about writing?

http://mybook.to/FindingJess

Wonderful interview with Anne Williams today on her lovely blog, Being Anne. It’s mainly about my newest book, Finding Jess, the last of my Drumbeats trilogy, out now. But it also mentions my other books too, and there are buy-links if you fancy trying one. Finding Jess is a stand-alone, in that I try to provide the context, so you don’t have to read all three. However, it is better, really, if you follow Jess through her traumas from the first of the series, Drumbeats and then on to the follow-up, Walking in the Rain, before Finding Jess.

http://Author.to/JuliaIbbotsonauthor

Anne’s blog is great – I love it. She does lots of research into her interviewees beforehand and her questions are so interesting, and tailor-made to the subject. Apart from asking me about my writing day and routines, she wanted to know what I liked and hated about being an author. Read it and find out!

https://beinganne.com/2018/09/interview-julia-ibbotson-author-of-the-drumbeats-trilogy-findingjess-juliaibbotson/

If you’ve forgotten the three books in the trilogy: let’s start with Drumbeats …

 

It’s 1965 and 18 year old Jess escapes her stifling English background for a gap year in Ghana, West Africa. But it’s a time of political turbulence across the region. Fighting to keep her young love who waits back in England, she’s thrown into the physical dangers of civil war, tragedy, and the emotional conflict of a disturbing new relationship. And why do the drumbeats haunt her dreams?

This is a rite of passage story which takes the reader hand in hand with Jess on her journey towards growing into the adult world.

 

Walking in the Rain

Jess happily marries the love of her life She wants to feel safe, secure and loved. But gradually it becomes clear that her beloved husband is not the man she thought him to be. She survived civil war and injury in Africa, but can she now survive the biggest challenge of her life?

A captivating story about a woman’s resilience, courage and second chances.

 

Finding Jess

It’s 1990 and single mother, Jess, has struggled to get her life back on track after the betrayal of her beloved husband and of her best friend. On the brink of losing everything, including her family, and still haunted by her past and the Ghanaian drumbeats that pervade her life, she feels that she can no longer trust anyone.

Then she is mysteriously sent a newspaper clipping of a temporary job back in Ghana. Could this be her lifeline? Can Jess turn back time and find herself again? And what, exactly, will she find?

Finding Jess is a passionate study of love and betrayal – and of one woman’s bid to reclaim her self-belief and trust after suffering great misfortune. It is a feel-good story of a woman’s strength and spirit rising above adversity.

Writing a time-slip novel: how hard can it be?

This week A Shape on the Air is on a book blog tour of the UK. I’ve had some lovely reviews so far on the tour, and here are just a few of them:

“I found this period in history quite fascinating”,

“a super read and a treasure hunt all rolled into one”,

“lovely details of the medieval period which really capture the essence of the place and the people living then”,

“in A Shape on the Air the (time-slip) switches feel natural and not contrived”. Thank you all for reading my book and taking the time to review it!

Today, I had a guest post published about writing a time-slip, and  I found a wonderful comment: “Great guest post” ! Aaagh! Made my day. So here is the post:

Writing a time-slip novel? Well, all you have to do is tell the story of someone from the present day finding herself in a different time, easy, right? Wrong! In fact it’s very difficult. There are all sorts of issues you have to work out. Why would this person suddenly fall into another period? How would she do it? What would be the trigger? If she could do it, why couldn’t everyone else? What makes her have this unique ability?

I love reading time-slip; I’m especially keen on Pamela Hartshorne’s novels of time-slip into the Tudor age in York (Time’s Echo, House of Shadows). They’re intriguing and exciting. I’m fascinated by theories of time and the whole concept of what time actually means? All these weird and wonderful theories: quantum mechanics, the Einstein-Bridge theory of portals and worm-holes!

I’ve wanted to write a time-slip story of my own for a long time, but in my case one set in the early medieval times because that’s the period I know best and am most interested in. But working it all out resulted in many a restless night, loss of hair and bitten fingernails! I wanted the tone and atmosphere to be a little spooky but still feel realistic and convincing (which isn’t easy if you’re writing about what we normally think of as ghosts). In the end I found writing the ghostly parts the easiest and the mechanics of the time-slip the most difficult.

It seemed to me that my main character, Viv, needed to be someone that anybody could identify with, someone pretty ‘normal’, but make her have a traumatic event in her life which might make her vulnerable and more susceptible to the paranormal. I made her an academic who deals with facts not fantasies, and gave her an awful partner in Pete who announces that he’s leaving her for her best friend – goodness, that would send anyone off balance! – and made her lovely home and the life she knew be at risk. I also made her drink rather a lot of red wine (understandable in the circumstances!) and go for a walk beside a lake!

I then had to make someone in a responsible job commanding authority and respect, empathise and become involved with her strange experience. Who might believe her? Someone whose job is connected with other-worldly things but could be a ‘pillar of society’? It had to be a vicar. So Rev Rory was born. And so was the love interest.

Although it would have been easier for the time-slip trigger to be the lake that started it all off, I didn’t want it to be that obvious, so I had to create a whole back-history for Viv, involving her parents, especially her mother, and their untimely death. Gradually it was coming together like a jigsaw. I can’t explain any more because it would give away the secrets of the book. You’ll just have to read it and find out! I hope you feel intrigued enough to do that, and I hope you enjoy the story. I certainly enjoyed writing it – and guess what? I’m writing another time-slip …

A Shape on the Air is available at all Amazon sites at http://myBook.to/ASOTA

Gorgeous cover revealed! A Shape on the Air on pre-order and cover reveal blog tour NOW!

My new medieval time-slip romance is available for pre-order (for 28th July) right now on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de and all Amazon sites.

What’s it about?

…….. Two women 1500 years apart. One need: to save the world they know. Can they help each other to achieve their greatest desire? And what if that world they want is not the one that’s best for them?  University lecturer in medieval studies, Dr Viv Dulac, is devastated when her partner walks out (and with her best friend too!) and threatens her home.  Drunk and desperate, her world quite literally turns upside down and she finds herself in the body of the fifth century Lady Vivianne, who is struggling with the shifting values of the Dark Ages and her forced betrothal to  the brutish Sir Pelleas who is implicated in the death of her parents. Haunted by both Lady Vivianne and by Viv’s own parents’ death and legacy, can Viv  unravel the web of mystery that surrounds and connects their two lives, and bring peace to them both? A haunting story of lives intertwining across the ages, of the triumph of the human spirit and of dreams lost and found.

The cover reveal tour continues all this week. The stops are here:

Date: 26th June
 Devika Fernando
Date: 27th June

Date: 28th June 

Between the Lines

Date: 29th June

Date: 30th June

Need help with manuscript editing? Or need a writing mentor?

 

Have you ever thought: I wish there was someone I could ask about this part of my narrative, or my research report? Does it work for the reader? Does it make sense? Is it accurate – or are there errors?

Online 1:1 editing support

I have a new business venture coming onstream: Archbury Consultancy.

So many people have been telling me recently that they need help and support with their novel or short story manuscript. Or maybe with a piece of academic writing, a paper or article, or a draft of  a dissertation or thesis. It’s not entirely the content, it’s the getting your ideas down on paper more effectively. Sometimes we think we’ve written what’s in our head … but unfortunately it’s not really appearing on the page as we intended!

Even when we proof read and edit ourselves, it’s easy to miss spelling errors or punctuation problems, expressions that don’t come across well to the reader, even though they may be perfectly clear to us in our head.

At the moment I have a special introductory offer for my services through Archbury Consultancy so don’t miss out, find out more…

 

 

Apologies and news!

PhotoFunia-1444664744

Firstly my apologies that I haven’t posted for so long! We have finally moved house (what an exhausting procedure) having had our previous house on the market for over 2.5 years! And a serious health scare did not help! Nor did the nearly 2 months we were without broadband (thanks, BT!). However, here we are now in our new home and settling in well in the village, with friends old and new.

Other great news: I have an offer of a publishing contract for my new novel A Shape on the Air! The contract is sitting on my desk as I speak, waiting for me to sign. Very exciting. Not only that, but another publisher has told me that they will contact me by Monday! So I have to sit it out until Monday to see what will happen. Wonderful that I have a publisher anyway, whatever happens – so celebrations all round!

There will be more about A Shape on the Air shortly …

And a final apology to anyone who has tried to send me a message via my Contact Me page on this website – there is a problem and emails have not been getting through to me I’m afraid and currently it seems to be being passed backwards and forwards between BT.com and WordPress! Let’s hope they sort it out soon, hey? !