MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR JULIA BLAKE
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
My name is Julia Blake and my books are multi-genre. So far, I’ve published two contemporary fiction, two romantic suspense, one sci-fi novella, one YA fantasy and one collection of short stories and poetry. My latest book, released today, is a dark folklore fantasy.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
For my latest book “The Forest” it was an overhead snippet of conversation at a family party many years ago. My then sister-in-law’s elderly grandfather was comparing notes with my father, trying to see if they knew people in common. He asked if my father had known old Wally Twitchett, and my writer’s ears pricked up. What an incredibly wonderful name I thought, and for days afterwards “old Wally Twitchett” began to take shape in my mind until I knew everything about him, but he needed somewhere unique to live. How about an isolated village in a forgotten corner of Britain? A village full of eccentric characters with equally wonderful names, and maybe these villagers can never leave. Ooh, I like it. Why not? Because they’re living next to a large, mystical Forest that controls them. Really, why? Because there’s a curse… and so on and so on, until the plot of The Forest was in my head.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
For me, the story is the important thing and it really doesn’t matter to me what genre it needs to be in. I don’t understand readers who restrict themselves to only reading one genre either. Why limit yourself that way? That being said, I do have a weakness for fantasy and that is probably my favourite genre to read and write.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
The nature of the book was such I didn’t have to and that suited me just fine. I hate doing research, and beyond the odd googling of a fact or a spelling, I never really do any. So, although I’m multi genre, I’ll probably never write in any that need detailed research and planning, such as crime and historical. Preparation bores me, I just want to dive into writing the story.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I only work part-time, so when I have a free day not taken up with all the other things that clutter my life I do try to stick to a routine. I’m up at six, always am, couldn’t lie in if my life depended on it. I have a cup of tea and then until my daughter leaves for school at 8.30am, I tend to update social media and promote my books. From 9am until about 1pm I’ll write, then stop for lunch. After lunch, if the words are still flowing, I’ll write some more, but most days by the time I get to that time, the well is dry, and I’m done for the day. Instead, I’ll promote some more, make posts for social media, edit, or do other more boring chores such as housework or gardening.
I write at my little desk in the corner of the lounge. It’s the only place in the house apart from my bed that’s completely my space, and when I sit down at it it’s like I’m putting myself into the writing zone. I’m not one of those writers who can write in coffee shops, I’d simply be too distracted.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
In The Forest, the character names are crucial and a huge part of the book. I had enormous fun coming up with peculiar names that are descriptive and quirkily old-fashioned, not quite in tune with the modern world, as it were. Some of the surnames of the villagers denote their ancestral occupations – such as Hunter, Blacksmith and Forrester. Some denote ancestral traits such as Blunt and Twitchett, and then there are some names that have a hidden meaning that you don’t discover until the end of the book.
Where do your ideas come from?
That’s a very good question, and sometimes I have no idea where the story has come from. For The Book of Eve, I was at a funeral when it suddenly struck me how much they bring people together, maybe people who’ve not seen each other for a while. Then an idea occurred of a woman going to a funeral incognito. She’s been away for a very long time and doesn’t want the other mourners to know she’s there. Why? What happened to make her run away? Whose funeral was it? And why was it so important she came back? Then that night I had a dream about a beautiful white marble staircase with a stream of red blood slowing dripping down it. I knew this horrific image was somehow connected to the ideas I’d already had at the funeral, I just had to find out how.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
Really dark fantasy. I dipped my toe in with The Forest, but I’d really like to go deeper, way beyond my comfort zone. I’m writing a retelling of the Snow White story at the moment, which I believe is shaping up to be darker than anything I’ve ever written before, so we’ll see how that goes.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Actually making myself sit down and write. I am a shocking procrastinator and will come up with any excuse rather than sitting down and writing.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I do make little minute long video trailers which I post on social media and put on my YouTube channel. I really enjoy doing them, but whether they actually generate sales is another matter.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Simply finishing a novel is an accomplishment in itself, but to have done that eight times now, well that’s quite special. Then to have actually published them and all that entails, it took a lot of hard work and commitment to reach where I am now, so I am proud of all I’ve achieved. I am also fully committed to never losing my voice, never compromising on who Julia Blake really is and how she writes.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Holding your completed, published novel in your hands and thinking – I wrote that! It’s a simply amazing feeling and one that never gets old. Also, nice reviews and comments from readers, when someone has actually read your book and taken the time to let you know what they thought of it. When a reader totally connects with your characters and understands exactly what you were trying to achieve, that is pure magic.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully a well-loved and respected author with a string of books all selling well, and maybe writing full time, because that would be amazing.
Have you always liked to write?
Yes, ever since I was old enough to pick up a pencil I’ve written plays for my dolls to act out, short stories and silly poems.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Don’t give up, keep at it. Don’t expect it to be easy, because it isn’t. Don’t forget that support is a two-way street, in order to be helped and supported, you first have to help and support other authors.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
I used to do a lot of acting in my younger days, and at one time did consider trying to make a profession of it. But, it’s more time consuming and harder to get a break in than writing so in the end the practicalities of having to earn money to pay bills came first.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
Luckily, I’ve only ever had one bad review on one of my books, and that was so plainly a nonsensical troll review it was laughable. I guess if I got a really bad review I’d be upset about it, but I think you’re not supposed to respond publicly to any review, and that’s probably good advice.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Promoting, without a shadow of a doubt. I’m quite a shy person so the whole pushing myself forward is very hard for me. Also, unless you have a lot of money to throw into advertising it is very hard to get yourself noticed.
What are you working on now?
I have a book and a novella I’m working on at the moment. One is the sequel to Becoming Lili and I’m about halfway through that, and the other is a novella of a twisted version of the Snow White story. But I never reveal titles until I’m almost ready to publish, so sorry.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
“Because it could get her killed,” she snapped. “Get us all killed, her and Karl, you, me, those darling babes upstairs, and for what? For her? For your precious Snow White?”
There, she’d said it. For thirty long years he’d waited for her to say that name again, to hear it pass her lips, but not once had she weakened until now.
Snow White. A name from the past. A name long forgotten, or if not forgotten buried in myth and legend. A name whispered about in the depths of the darkest night, when there was none but the most trusted to hear it.
Leaning against the fireplace he stared down at his wife, shocked beyond measure she’d finally broken her own vow. She met his gaze defiantly and instantly he was back, the past four decades unravelling like ribbon until he was a young man again, strong and wild, his back unbowed and his hair still jet black, making his way home through the forest after a long day in the mines.
Where did your love of books come from?
I was a very lonely, bullied child. I didn’t have any friends and I didn’t have anyone I could really confide in or even talk to. My parents were well-meaning but worked all the time and didn’t understand me at all, we literally had no interests in common so communicating with them was always a challenge, but with books I could escape from life and be with people who totally understood and valued me. As I got older and the world of books opened up before me, my love of literature grew until now I can’t imagine my life without books.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
My guilty pleasure is Terry Brooks and the Shannara Chronicles which I read and enjoyed as a young adult and still occasionally return to. I adore Robin Hobb, she is possibly my favourite author and I very much enjoy her Fitz and the Fool series, always buying the next instalment as soon as it’s released. Charles de Lint is an urban fiction author I admire very much as well, especially the novel Moonheart.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
That is a really hard question as all my characters mean the world to me, I don’t think I can pick just one. Strong contenders would be Ruth from The Book of Eve because she’s so cantankerous and blunt, Conrad from Becoming Lili because he is the ultimate Pygmalion to young Lili, Isabella Santorini from the Lost & Found Series because she’s such a strong woman of mystery, Cassie from Erinsmore because of the way she changes herself to become the warrior maid of prophecy, and from my new book, The Forest, Jack Blacksmith, because he’s such a dark, tortured soul.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It absolutely drains me. I don’t write every day, in fact sometimes weeks can go by without me writing a word, then time, inspiration and inclination will combine and I’ll binge write, literally, I will sit at my desk and bang out thousands of words in a single morning. But those sessions leave me physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I’ve always written what I want to write, in that my words flow straight from my heart and my gut. If readers like them too, that’s a bonus. I firmly believe you have to be genuine in your writing otherwise it will come across as fake and forced.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’ve been friend with the author Becky Wright for over a decade now and it was she who saw me through a dark time of my life and persuaded me to self-publish one of my books. I’d had a really bad experience with small press and was in despair that anyone would ever read my words, but she showed me there was another way.
Apart from her, there are too many other authors to individually name and I’ve been stunned at the level of help and support I receive on Facebook and Instagram.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Oh probably “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” as I think my whole life is made up of various enterprises that looked like a good choice but always turned out not to be.
Where can your fans find you and follow??
All the usual places, although my website is probably the best place to start as it has lovely pictures of my home town and me, background information about all my books and links to all my social media sites.
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️