Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews.
These interviews are fab! I get the chance to interview some amazing authors about the journey they went on with regards writing their book. I get to glean some insight into their writing life and find out what has worked or not worked for them during the creative process.
This week I am super thrilled as author Julie Archer has joined me. Her book is about the world of rock music and love triangles! As you can imagine I am beside myself with literary excitement over this book.
Hey Julie! Thank you for being here today.
Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written
Hello Lucy and all your readers!
I live in lovely Dartmouth in Devon with my husband and two cats. We moved here almost eighteen months ago and I still feel like I’m on holiday!
As well as writing, I also run my own business support services business, providing administration and recruitment for small to medium sized companies. Oh, and I work part time in a book shop!
Cocktails, Rock Tales & Betrayals is my first book. It is set is the work of rock music with a love triangle at the centre of it. But there is a happy ending!
When did you write your first book?
My first attempt was during my teenage years when inspired by the Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High books, I attempted my own take on that. I still have the rejection letter somewhere…
Julie – OMG I was obsessed about Sweet Valley High books for years during my youth! I couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t move us to America and let me live out my fantasy as Elizabeth. Good grief I had so many dreams about handsome ‘Todd Wilkins’. Sigh!
How long did it take to write your first book?
I have said that Cocktails was two years of hard work. Being totally honest, it was six months of hard work followed by a year of procrastination, then six months of hard work! Having said that, there are parts of Cocktails I wrote about ten years ago that were stripped out from a previously unpublished novel.
What was your motivation to write your first book?
I wanted to write a book that I would read. And I’ve always created characters and stories. Maybe that has something to do with being an only child and having imaginary friends…
When we moved, I found a bunch of notebooks with character sketches and possible plotlines. Lovely, but all of them written when I was about fifteen! And I’m a very different writer now.
Gasp! I had imaginary friends as a child too. I am lucky as mine have stayed with me though.
What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
Um, procrastination is definitely one. Like when cleaning the bathroom or having an empty washing basket is waaay more important than writing another 1000 words. And realising that everything I’ve written is utter rubbish. Or realising that my editor identified a totally unbelievable part of the plot and I had to completely rewrite a good quarter of the novel. I’m lucky that I have a pretty amazing support group in the Writer’s Playground and we can all share our issues. There’s usually another writer that has been through exactly the same thing and can give good advice. Or offer virtual cake.
Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?
See above! My chums in the Playground are amazing!
Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?
Probably a bit of both. I have an outline or an idea in my head and work with that. But I don’t plan to the nth degree when I start out, things tend to develop as I go along. Sometimes you end up changing characters in a scene because they work better than the original ones and you didn’t plan for that.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
I’m not sure yet, I’m still trying to convince myself I am a real one! But seriously, when someone says they have enjoyed what I’ve written and want to read more, that feeling is amazing.
What is the worst thing about being a writer?
The insecurity. And by that, I mean constantly thinking that you’re not as good as everyone else, you don’t have as many five start reviews as they do, unfairly comparing yourself to other writers… Then I try to remember what I’ve achieved.
Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?
Not yet…although as me again in about six months!
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
If I have a day when I’m solely writing and nothing else, I have a lovely writing desk in our spare room that was a Christmas present from my husband last year and that’s where I’ll be. I’ll start around 10am and work through until around 1pm, have some lunch and start again around 2pm. However, I’ve scribbled notes and plans while at work in the bookshop – and then had to make sense of them later!
Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?
Of course! Find me a writer who doesn’t… I try to set little targets or do small word races and then reward myself with some Instagram or online shopping time. Or if it really isn’t working, I’ll just give up and go and do something more constructive. Like ironing.
Which is more important – plot or characters and why?
Probably characters. As I’ve mentioned before, I have always created character sketches and I think they have shaped how a plot has gone because of their mannerisms or how they would react to a situation.
What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?
- Just keep writing – no matter how hard it is sometimes, just write something. You can’t edit a blank page and even if it’s (to quote Charlie at Urban Writers) gloriously craptastic you can always work with it.
- Get a good support network – sounds clichéd, but without my chums in the Writer’s Playground, the guys at the Six Month Novel programme, the Dartmouth author community, other writers I met on writing retreats or at literary festival workshops, I don’t think I would have got this far.
- You can do it yourself – every writer dreams of the publishing deal and the big bang launch. When you start to get rejections, it’s hard to see past that. But, again through my network, I discovered that it’s totally possible to self-publish and get the recognition you deserve. I had a choice to go assisted or pure self-publishing. I chose the latter and, so far, don’t regret it.
How do you manage social media as a writer?
Badly! I’m coming to terms with using it for “Brand Me” rather than just posting pictures of my cats or the success of my football team (Spurs, in case you were wondering. And no, there hasn’t been a lot of success…). But also not being too “salesy” and just spamming my timelines and feeds with “Buy my book!” posts.
Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?
I’d probably relate it back to the learnings – keep writing even if you find it tough and get a good network around you. Also, don’t be afraid to ask others for help and advice. Without that, I wouldn’t have self-published and I’d still be waiting for that big break. Write the things that you’d like to read, not necessarily what’s popular now.
Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?
Yes. At the start of this year, I couldn’t write anything, I didn’t think I had the time or the inclination and anything I did write was rubbish! I ended up going on a bit of a writer’s detox with prompts and wrote something every day for a month. Some days it was ten minutes, some days it was half an hour. But it got me back into the habit of writing again and that helped.
Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?
There are around nine book ideas floating around at the moment, some are just titles, some are vague plots, some are characters. I “try” to focus on one thing at a time though. So, yes!
What do you wear to write?
Now I can write at home whenever I want to, it varies. But mostly jeans and jumpers or t-shirts (depending on how cold it is in our house at the time!). One of my favourite t-shirts has “I just want to drink coffee, create stuff and sleep” on it. I try to wear that when I need inspiration! I have also said that I will channel my inner Barbara Cartland one day and wear a pink ruffled affair and have someone hand feed me chocolates as I dictate to them…
If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?
Or you can pop into the Dartmouth Bookseller on Foss Street and say hello!
Lucy, thanks so much for having me!
Fabulous interview Julie, I really enjoyed our chat!
- I love how you say your book was ‘six months of hard work followed by a year of procrastination’. That made me smile!
- Your support network sounds great. Writing is hard and we all need people supporting and encouraging us.
- I can relate to the insecurity bit. I think you are right to look at what you have achieved!
- Nine book ideas – you poor thing 🙂
- Yes channel your Barbara Cartland and come back to write me a guest blog about it – would be such a giggle to read!
Thank you so much for a great interview!
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