We had a rather interesting start, Julie and I. We followed each other on Twitter and when I put a tweet stating my availability as a beta reader, she replied asking for me to read her debut novel ‘Jenna’s Journey’. What followed was a spellbound me reading her Greek Mystery and then finally turning reviewer for her.
She returns to Books, Food and Me as an interview participant today!
1. Tell me about yourself!
I come from Yorkshire in the North of England originally and went to University in Hull where I studied French Language and Literature. I spent many years travelling and teaching English as a Foreign Language before returning to the UK. I now live in rural Gloucestershire in South-West England with my husband and young son and a dippy cat with half a tail. I still work part time as a distance language tutor as well as running a small post office so I don’t have a lot of free time. When I do you are likely to find me writing or with my head in a book as reading is my passion. I love many types of genre but especially novels set in foreign countries, contemporary romance and historical fiction.
I suppose the writing gene has always been there. At school I was always writing short stories but got told off by my teacher for being too much like Enid Blyton. She was my inspiration and I am convinced that my love of reading and writing stem from her influence. Then life got in the way, like for so many people, but on moving to the country I found I had the perfect lifestyle in which to develop my dream of writing a novel. I truly believe that life is full of coincidences, some of which are just meant to be. The catalyst for me was meeting fellow author Linn B Halton as she has given me so much encouragement, not to mention technical advice.
3. Tell me about your travels
At the age of eleven I remember telling my parents that I wanted to be a French teacher. I absolutely loved learning a foreign language and discovering how people in other countries live. I didn’t actually go abroad though until I was seventeen when there was a school trip to Germany. After that there was no stopping me. I spent a year as an ‘assistante de langue’ in a school in France. This was a fantastic experience and broadened my cultural horizons considerably. I trained to teach French which I did for a while and then before long I was off again, this time to Greece. I wish I could say it was love at first sight but arriving in Thessaloniki in the early hours of the morning after travelling by train for two days didn’t endear me immediately to the country. Greece, however, grows on you and once I visited the islands I was in love with everything Greek. This love has stayed with me throughout my life. A totally different but no less enjoyable stay was teaching in Bangkok in Thailand. This was so different to anything I had experienced before as there was literally something different to see around every corner. The sounds and smells and sheer hustle and bustle made a lasting impression on me. For a complete contrast my final travels were to Poland, a real shock after the heat of Thailand to find winter temperatures of minus 15. I felt a real empathy with the people who were very hospitable. I never did get used to the shots of neat vodka though!
4. How close are you to your characters?
Many writers put a lot of themselves into the protagonist of their first novel and I’m no exception. The idea came about when I was gazing out of my window one snowy wintry morning and idly wondered how my life would have been different if I had stayed in Greece instead of returning to the UK. In a way Jenna started out as an alter ego but by the end she had developed a personality all of her own. The moment I realized this was when she ‘spoke’ to me. Her original name was to have been Jenny but it became clear that it didn’t suit her so I had to change it. Although there are elements of me in her, she has become a ‘person’ in her own right. The rest of my characters are pure figments of my imagination but a writer draws on all of life’s experiences and adapts them as necessary.
5. What have you planned for your characters further?
My original goal was simply to write a novel. However, once I’d finished ‘Jenna’s Journey’ I found it very hard to let go. I didn’t want to write a sequel though as the novel is self-contained but as the setting was still so fresh in my mind, I found myself writing a second novel set on he same island but with different characters. Some of the minor characters from ‘ Jenna’s Journey’ will also be making an appearance. That’s the intention at any rate but as ‘Sophia’s Story’ is still very much a WIP, who knows how it will develop?
6. Tell me about your childhood
I had an idyllic childhood growing up in Yorkshire with my two sisters. I was always the one to be found skulking in a corner with a book and loved being transported to different worlds. I suppose I was quite an introspective child but I always came alive in drama lessons where I loved to act out the plays we were studying at school. I still indulge this extrovert side of my character today as I belong to a local amateur dramatic group. There wasn’t a lot of money around when we were kids but my parents more than made up for it in love. As the eldest of three girls I’ve often wondered how your sex and position in the family influence your future. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so bossy if I’d been the youngest for example, or maybe I’d have been less independent if I’d had an older brother? It’s an interesting idea so maybe I can use that in another novel?
7. A funny travel experience
I don’t know how familiar any of you are with driving in Bangkok, but for a Westerner the streets are an absolute nightmare, especially when you can’t read the signs! One day a friend and I were driving in a car loaned to us by the company we worked for. It was small but quite nice with tinted windows and Thai registration plates. My heart sank as we were stopped by a police car and beckoned to pull over. We had no idea what we had done wrong and to this day I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a scam or if we had inadvertently broken some traffic regulation. Anyway, with heart in mouth and expecting to be arrested at any point soon or at least have to pay a huge fine, we wound down the tinted window. The look on the very young policeman’s face was a picture as he muttered the Thai for ‘oh no, a foreigner’ – that was the only bit we understood. Obviously deciding that the paperwork wasn’t worth his time, he groaned, gave us a ticking off and let us go. Huge sigh of relief all round!
8. Tell me some quirks!! A writer always has some peculiar habits :p
Quirks? Me? None! Well not unless you count always having a full cup of coffee by my side when I write but becoming so engrossed that I never drink any of it. Same routine every day. You would think I’d have learned by now, but I still do it. I also have to use my lucky pen for making notes. It’s nothing special but it’s the one I started using at the beginning and it would be unlucky to change it now.
9. How has the self publishing journey been?
I love the fact that anyone can self-publish a novel. The world has changed so much in just a few years and it’s marvelous to think that people in far-flung countries can read my novel. It’s been a steep learning curve as I knew nothing about how the system works but with the help of friends, I am proud to have published my novel on Amazon. The worst part was the editing and formatting but it’s been well worth it as I want my book to be the best that it can be. I don’t like sloppiness so it was important to me to check for basic grammatical errors.
10. I actually became friends with you via Twitter!! How helpful has that been on your journey?
I can honestly say that before I’d written my novel, I didn’t have a Twitter account and only had about ten friends on Facebook whom I preferred to email. Then I was reliably informed that if I wanted to sell books then I needed an online presence. I’m not totally convinced that tweeting and posting will sell my books but then I wouldn’t have met you otherwise and it’s a good way to interact with people. I don’t think it works if all you do is advertise, you need to really engage people.
11. A penny for your thoughts?!
At the moment my mind is turning over different possibilities for my WIP. I don’t think my thoughts would be worth anything as it stands as my brain feels like scrambled eggs just now.
12. Some tips for new authors
Persevere! Even if you don’t feel like writing or have come up against a brick wall, try to write every day. Just 500 words per day means you could have a novel written in three months. Oh, and don’t expect it to be easy, the hard work starts when you’ve finished writing.
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