Happy Friday, inklings!
You are in for a treat this week! My sweet friend and fellow author, Julia Blake, is here to answer a few of my favorite writing-related questions. In this interview, you’ll get an inside look at her writing process, learn her top tips for marketing and productivity, and receive invaluable advice all writers would be wise to follow!
Now grab your beverage of choice, find a comfy seat, and please enjoy the interview!
Hi, Julia! Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
My name is Julia Blake, I live in the gorgeous market town of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
I would say that my genre is very fluid. So far, I’ve published two contemporary fiction novels and a fantasy/sci-fi novella. However, I do have a collection of short stories, flash fiction and poetry due for release this month, and, waiting in the wings to be published, is a romantic thriller, a YA fantasy novel and a folk fantasy novel.
What made you want to be a writer? How did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a child, as to how I started, I think it must have been through writing stories and essays for school, that spilled over into writing at home. I guess, writing has always been there, but, it’s only recently I’ve gained the maturity and confidence in my work to start publishing it.
What inspires you to write?
It can be anything and everything. The Book of Eve, my first novel published, was inspired by a funeral. Becoming Lili, my second novel, originated from my experiences of being bullied and ostracised at school. Lifesong, my fantasy ebook grew from my love of the environment, and concern over what we’re doing to this amazing planet of ours.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
I was in my local library. Whenever I go in, I always have a little look to see if my book is on the shelf, or if it’s out on loan. However, when I got to the shelf, two women were already there, holding my book, one of them telling her friend all about it, how good it was, and how she couldn’t put it down. I was literally rooted to the spot. Perhaps I should have fessed up that it was me, but, it was such an amazing experience, actually listening to a reader give an unbiased opinion.
Please explain the process leading up to a book launch and how you feel when you’re at that point.
The process approaching a book launch, as any writer will tell you, is one of equal mixes of euphoria, panic, exhaustion, self-doubt and frustration. With my last book, Becoming Lili, because of its sheer size – at over 400 pages, it’s a doorstop – it caused major headaches trying to format it into the size I wanted. In the end, I had to change to a bigger book size, and that caused problems as well, having to reformat the entire thing.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
So far, the only rejections I’ve had have been from agents, and they come with such depressing regularity, I just pout for a bit, maybe eat some chocolate, then submit to another one. From the people whom, I guess, really matter, the readers, I’ve had nothing but positive feedback. I am extremely lucky, in that I’ve yet to receive a bad review, although it’s bound to happen, sooner or later.
How do you deal with isolation, as writing is such a secluded, private exercise?
I quite like being alone, and, having a bit of a crazy household, what with a teenage daughter and a succession of lodgers, time alone to write is greatly welcomed.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Don’t give up. Try to write something every day, even if it’s just background stories for your characters. Make time for it. Life gets so busy, and it’s hard to resist being sucked into all the other stuff you have to do, but seriously, make time to write. Don’t spend so much time on social media you have no time to actually write. But, on the other hand, use social media as much as you can to create your online persona.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
Do your research, check exactly what genres they publish, look at which other authors they represent, comply with all their submission rules. Make sure the piece you are submitting is as perfect as it can be. If spelling, punctuation and grammar are not your strong points, get them proofed by someone else, either by a professional, or, if funds are a problem, enlist friends who are proficient at the written language to proofread it for you.
Any advice specific to your genre?
As I write in many genres, that’s a tough one to answer, I think, maybe, give your reader what they want, in other words, if you have marketed your book as a romantic comedy, don’t turn it into a horror halfway through. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t push them slightly out of their comfort zone; make them think a little.
Which writers do you admire?
Again, another tough question, there are so many amazing authors out there, how can I narrow it down. I enjoy the books of Robin Hobb very much, love the fantasy world she has created. I also admire the flawless work of Charles de Lint, surely the king of urban fantasy. For cosy, feel good books I always turn to Rosamunde Pilcher, and I’m a big fan of a fairly unknown author, William Horwood, especially his novel Skallagrigg, which made me cry and view the world differently.
Any marketing tips for fellow authors?
You can have written the most amazing book in the world. But, if no one knows about it, you won’t sell a single copy. It’s a tough, over saturated, market out there, with literally millions of authors all fighting for the readers’ attention. You have to make yourself stand out.
If you are seriously intending to publish your book, then, even before you’ve written the first word, start creating an online persona for yourself.
Use social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, and anything else you can find, to get your image out there. And don’t limit yourself to only promoting your own book. Post about other things, promote other authors’ work, write book reviews, start a blog about your journey to becoming a published author. At least then, when the book is finally in print, you won’t be starting from scratch, foundations will have been laid, you will have an online presence.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
For me, it was learning how all the different technology worked. I am seriously technophobic and we have a standing joke in my house, that anything techie I touch will immediately stop working or break. Luckily, I have a teenage daughter who helps me with that side of things. Even so, I am aware that I am not doing as much as I possibly could to promote myself. I think, this is the main problem all authors have. We’re writers, not marketing professionals. Most of us don’t have the first idea how to go about it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
Be prepared to be flexible. You may have your heart set on being a traditionally published author. I think all of us do, but, accept that it may never happen, and that that is in no way a reflection on your talents, rather how hard it is to get that lucky break, be noticed by an agent, get that publishing contract.
It may be you’ll have to explore other avenues. Self-publishing is no longer the expensive, stigmatised, beast it used to be, and there are a lot of opportunities for authors now, that simply didn’t exist ten or even five years ago. The important thing is to get your name out there. If that means self-publish your first novel, promote and market the dickens out of it, at the same time, carry on submitting to agents, at least you can say you are a published author, and that someone, somewhere, is reading your words.
What’s your favorite writing beverage and/or snack?
I tend to be a bit of a klutz so no beverages near the laptop, I do have regular tea or coffee breaks though. Likewise, I don’t have snacks whilst working – sticky keyboards are no fun.
Where can readers/other authors find you?
My website is www.juliablakeauthor.co.uk where you will find tons of information about me, lovely pictures of my hometown, free tasters of my books and some background about each one. There are also links to where you can buy my books, and to my Goodreads, Instagram and YouTube accounts.