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

 

Lives intertwine across time and space

Can an ancient key unlock the secrets of past and present? Two women reach out to each other across the centuries in A Shape on the Air. It’s a medieval timeslip mystery with more than a little romance. To celebrate my upcoming Bookbub deal on April 16th when it will be on offer in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, my publisher Has reduced the price to 99p/99c for a couple of weeks. So I’m tempting you with a free preview of the first chapter. Just click below. I hope it’ll be a treat in time for Easter. Get it soon and enjoy! Along with the chocolate and hot cross buns of course!

And thank you so much for your interest. If you enjoy the book and have a moment, please do post a short comment up on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Authors really do appreciate reviews, however short.

With best wishes, and love,

Julia

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 …

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…

 

 

Tamworth LitFest: Romancing the Word

What a lovely day we had in Tamworth (Staffordshire) at the LitFest, with the theme Romancing the Word. Great to see and chat with readers and fellow authors, sign our books and (for me) give a talk. All in the welcoming and beautiful library and the amazing and very interesting historic church, St Editha’s. Here’s what we got up to in the pics below …

Me, signing my books; my children’s novel S.C.A.R.S seemed very popular!

Laura Morgan who writes a variety of powerful other-worldly novels and with whom I discussed time concepts and quantum mechanics!

Christine Smee, who gives talks on medieval herbal remedies with whom I had a very interesting chat about the medieval world. Loved her costume.

Jane A Heron, a lovely lady with a great book stall and lots of goodies. Good to meet her daughter and fiancé.

S J Warner (Sally) who has a great line in personalised key rings  and showed me how to use a logo effectively on swag (hers is a gorgeous – and naughty – pink corset!).

L A Cotton (Leanne) who writes fabulous contemporary romance and romantic suspense.

The Tamworth Writers – what a wonderfully supportive and lively group; I wish I lived in Tamworth!

IMG_0094IMG_0099IMG_0095IMG_0096IMG_0097IMG_0100IMG_0098

And others I didn’t get to photograph: AA Abbott (Helen) who writes crime thrillers, Sue Flint publishing great short stories and articles, Carol E Wyer, who is a whizz at romantic comedy, Helena Fairfax, a fellow RNA member who gave a super workshop, Lucy Felthouse, Pat Spence  … and more … Wow, what a line-up.

It was a fantastic day of laughter, fun and sharing. Days like this make me realise what a wonderful community writers create, and what enormous joy they give to readers. I’m sure that the readers who attended enjoyed the day and returned home enlivened and inspired.

Many thanks to all who organised the day: the Tamworth LitFest team, including Tina Williams, Anthony Poulton-Smith, Caroline Barker. A day to remember.

“If music be the food of love, play on …”(Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night)

 

My homage to the Bard on the 400th anniversary (last weekend!) of his death, is a quotation which often comes to mind and is very meaningful to me. Just as certain music is the soundtrack to my life (another post on that to come soon!) also music is the sound track to my writing and often works its way into my novels.

In my children’s book, S.C.A.R.S, it’s rap. In Drumbeats it’s (apart from Ghanaian village drums and 1960s pop) the piano pieces which my hero Jim plays for Jess, for example Fauree’s Cantique do Jean Racine and Mozart’s Requiem. And also the LP records he plays her of Mozart’s clarinet concerto in A and of Bach. In my latest, A Shape on the Air, it’s Nella Fantasia, probably made famous by El Divo but played in the novel by mandolins.

Maybe music is the food of love, because my heroines have a habit of falling in love with the men who play this music to them. In Drumbeats, Jess loves to watch Jim’s hands and fingers as he plays the piano and it touches her heart. There is something about a man’s hands playing the keys sensitively that stirs her (and me!). In A Shape on the Air, Viv plays the music on her ipod and the Rev Rory has the same on his voicemail.

As I write, I always listen to music, usually classical but sometimes the songs I’m learning for Rock Choir. If I’m writing music into my words I always listen to those tracks to inspire and set the scene for me – get me in the mood.

Recently, I’ve been interested to read my lovely friend, Elaina James’s blog in Mslexia  about which she, in her own words, says:

“My blog series has focused on chasing your writing dreams, told from the perspective of a lyricist with stage fright. The final blog focuses on the unexpected chance to turn my words into an actual song with music.”

It’s a great blog series and I do recommend it for a good read. It’s at

http://www.mslexia.co.uk/author/elainajames

and Elaina’s website is

http://www.elainajames.co.uk

Do check them out.

NaNoWriMo begins

deopgard A Shape on the Air, a fantasy time-slip story of two women separated by 1500 years. Can they help each other to survive?

Goodness, I can’t believe it’s a year since the last NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month each November when authors are in hibernation furiously tapping out manuscripts on their laptops in solitary confinement. This year I decided to be organised and to have everything planned out beforehand so that I can – hopefully – make the most of the drive to word count targets. So, I registered my novel title and elevator pitch. most importantly, I got  my writing buddies up there ready.

Most of October was supposed to be spent in prep. But, don’t you just know it, my schedule for preparation ie my planning, my timelines, my character profiles, etc, etc, kind of became academic when I sprained and broke my ankle. Yes, coming out of my gym! OK, I know – gyms are dangerous places. I was trying to get fit for all this writing.

Undeterred, I rigged up my laptop on my lap … not easy … but isn’t that what they’re supposed to be for? Prep was going very slowly until this week. The last week in October, just before NaNo starts, and I’m panicking. But d’ you know what? My ankle well and truly ibuprofen-gelled and strapped up, now I can sit for short stretches at my computer and write, in between sitting on the sofa, foot propped up, planning with the old-fashioned pen and paper.

So, I’m more or less there. Ready to complete my masterpiece – or at least my manuscript in four weeks. Wish me luck … I’ll let you know how I get on.