NLK: Tell us about the town where you live – Bury St Edmunds sounds delightful
JB: Bury is a great, little, town, it’s very old, dating back to about 630AD when a monastery was founded here. That monastery grew into an impressive and influential abbey, at one point being one of the largest in Britain. Now, it’s a thriving market town, with a lovely friendly feel to it. As well as the impressive abbey ruins set in the beautiful Abbey Gardens, we also have one of the last authentic working Georgian theatres in the country, the smallest pub and bags of character, with its winding streets and great mix of buildings from all periods.
NLK: What are the earliest influences on your writing and how do they manifest in your work?
JB: I wrote a lot of stories and poems when I was a child. Sadly, I was one of those children who was picked on and bullied at school, so had a very lonely childhood. Books and writing were my refuge, my way out of depressing reality. I think this is reflected in my work, in that, a strong desire to have close, loving friends is very evident in both The Book of Eve and in Becoming Lili. In Becoming Lili, my latest novel due for release 13 May, my main character is bullied so much as a child, it literally shapes the person she becomes and sets her on a path to personal reinvention.
NLK: Why do you write for Wattpad? What have you learnt about your readers from posting to this platform?
JB: Wattpad is a very new thing for me, I’ve only been posting on there since Christmas. I see it more as a portfolio of my work, a way to reach yet more people and perhaps get them interested enough to check out my website, maybe even buy a book. I post flash fiction, teasers for my books and poetry on there – I love writing poetry, but don’t feel I’m very good at it, so Wattpad was the perfect place for it.
NLK: Do you have a writing routine? What would a typical writing session look like for you? Where do you write?
JB: I have a little desk in the corner of the lounge which is my writing “zone”. I write best in the mornings, so, whenever I have a chance, it’s up early and down to the laptop. As a busy mum, juggling working four days a week, raising a daughter and running a home, time to write is the biggest issue for me.
NLK: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
JB: £300 to have my website professionally constructed and maintained. I am a bit of a technophobe and really wouldn’t have had the first clue how to go about it. It was a huge outlay when I’d only just self-published one novel, but I really felt that if I wanted to be considered a professional author, then I had to act like one right from the beginning. A lot of people have told me I was silly, that I could have done it myself for free. Maybe, but it wouldn’t have had that slick, polished feel to it.
NLK: What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?
JB: Marketing and self-promotion. I was a little naïve when The Book of Eve was published, I thought people would just buy it. But, it’s a lot more complicated than that, I mean, you can have written the best book in the world, but if no one knows it’s there, no one is going to buy it. I’m sure a lot of authors feel the same, we know self-promotion, networking and marketing is vitally important to get the book selling, but it really eats into writing time.
NLK: Do you have a favourite quote about writing?
JB: Yes: “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” It’s by Toni Morrison and I think it best sums up why I write, I have all these great books in my head I want to read, so I have to write them first.
NLK: Why did you choose to self-publish? What is the biggest lesson you have learnt through self-publishing?
JB: It wasn’t so much a choice, as a realisation if I wanted something to happen in my writing career, I had to make it happen. Getting published the traditional way is such a long shot, it only happens for the lucky few – and I say lucky, not talented – we all know of extremely talented indie writers who never got that break, and we’ve all read books so badly written, it’s been painful to read them. I’d tried for many years to get an agent to notice me, but it wasn’t happening. So, I decided to self-publish, get something out there, build an author profile, gather a readership, gain as much of an internet presence as I could. Then, if I ever got published the traditional way, that would be amazing, but, if it never happened, at least I’d tried, at least all those words hadn’t been completely wasted because someone, somewhere had read them.
NLK: What’s your favourite book?
JB: Oh, that’s a tough one. There are so many good books out there, how do you choose. I guess, if you base it on number of times I’ve read them, then it would have to be “Moonheart” by Charles de Lint and “Skallagrigg” by William Horwood. Charles de Lint is the undisputed king of urban fantasy, and I think Moonheart is his finest piece of work. Then, Skallagrigg was a novel that made me cry and changed the way I viewed the world, and not many books do that. I think it’s relatively unknown, and that’s a shame, it really is a great read and so different from everything else.
NLK: What are you currently working on?
JB: I’ve been pretty much caught up in getting Becoming Lili ready for publication the past few months. What’s next? Well, a quick breather, spend some quality time with my daughter, who’s been a bit of an edits orphan lately, then I’m putting together an anthology comprising of Lifesong, my ebook novella, plus several other short stories. I’ve had several readers contact me, disappointed that they couldn’t read Lifesong, as it was only an ebook and they didn’t have the facilities to download it. So, I thought, why not publish it as a paperback, but include many of the short stories I have written over the years. I guess the next few months will be spent revising and editing those.
An excerpt from Lifesong:
She stopped, seeing from his baffled frown he did not understand. Inhaling lightly, she reached for his mind, flooding it with lifesong, sharing its joyous harmony. She showed him the music which filled her life, was always present, sometimes as nothing more than a background hum, sometimes a light, haunting refrain which lingered through thoughts and brushed lightly over emotions. She shared glimpses of the great song, reaching out with her lifesong, taking him with her, rolling in rhythm.
Together they touched the stars, feeling the pulse of life at their fiercely burning hearts. With a thrill of discovery, she realised she was travelling further, faster, deeper, than ever before. Whole universes, millions of them, flashed by, insubstantial, fleeting, and, through it all, pulsed the great song.
Breathlessly, they landed back on the bed. Somehow, on their voyage, their hands had become entwined. She felt the rasp of his palm, skin against skin. Heard the hoarse sound of his breathing, unsteady and ragged, as it echoed in the stillness of the room.
She turned to look at him, saw the stunned wonder in his eyes, the flush of exhilaration on his cheeks. Slowly, as she watched, his breathing slowed, regained its even, steady pace. His eyes became focused, their vivid blueness losing the glaze of fantasy to fix on her, on her face, her body.
About Julia Blake
I was born and raised in the lovely historical town of Bury St. Edmunds, deep in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, where I live still with my teenage daughter, one crazy cat and a succession of even crazier lodgers.
I lead a very busy life, juggling work with raising my daughter, running a home, promoting my books and, oh yes, trying to actually write as well.
I have been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen, but didn’t have the self-confidence in myself to publish until a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I then suffered from a long-term illness which seriously affected my ability to write or even think about writing. Luckily, I am now well on the road to recovery, and am busy promoting and publishing the books I have already written, and writing the new stories tumbling about in my head.
As well as writing, I love reading, cooking, films and music.
Connect with Julia Blake