CHAT WITH JULIE ELIZABETH POWELL

She cannot ignore her dreams, so many of them, with names and places and ideas that spark her imagination and compel her to write; to create stories, whether fantasy or horror, or mystery or psychological thriller or murder or even humour and adventure. So, her garden is sown, flourishing, with all manner of growth, and still the dreams come.

Julie Elizabeth Powell, her soul lingering within her imagination; maybe you’ll join her?

Time to chat with Julie!

What is your latest book?

My current work is called, Maisie, a fantasy about a blind girl – that’s it, no more clues. It’s a novel which keeps growing, so I’m now becoming desperate to have the first draft completed. As always, it’s the characters who dictate what happens.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

I have written stories in various lengths and genres. I like to write short stories because ideas come through dreams and I must write them. I don’t always know how long the story will be. The greatest challenge? I suppose it’s making the characters intriguing, believable and relatable, which is vital to any story. And to keep the reader guessing and wanting more.

Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?

I first started writing seriously about 20 years ago, so I used my married name. I have since remarried but continue to use the other as a pen name because it would be too difficult to change it all now. I also like to use my middle name; hence, Julie Elizabeth Powell. No, present hubby does not mind and encourages me to write.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I love writing fantasy because I can allow my imagination to soar. My first book, Gone is a fantasy and it had to be so because of the subject matter.

After my daughter, Samantha, died from her heart stopping at the age of two, she was resuscitated and left severely brain damaged. She survived for seventeen years; her body a suffering shell, waiting for death. During that waiting time I had a question: Where had my daughter gone? Because what had made her who she was – her essence – had been wiped clean, no longer able to know me or anything around her.

So I created a world and went in search of her. Gone is the result. It is not a depressing read but tackles many issues such as loss, guilt, fear and so on, but it is also about hope and has been called a fairytale for adults.

The world I created (Avalon and the Star Realm), was so good that I couldn’t let it go to waste so wrote The Star Realm (for a younger audience maybe and yet…). However, the story became so big that I had to divide into a trilogy. #1 The Star Realm, #2 Invasion, #3 Secrets Of The Ice. It’s an epic fantasy adventure, while tackling a variety of issues such as loss, the dangers to the planet Earth, friendship and more.

I do write in many genres, including paranormal, crime, psychological, humour, mystery, adventure, for adults and children(ish)and non-fiction because I like to challenge my writing and I’d become bored if I could only write one thing. However, fantasy will always be my favourite due to the fact that I don’t have to follow any rules and can make it up as I go – such pleasure.

Whatever I choose to write must be meaningful.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Some. I think my characters are the sum total of me and everyone I’ve known and those strangers I see in passing, including dreams. They pop into my head from dreams or even while shopping at the supermarket.

Henry Ian Darling, for example, came to me in a dream, but did not remind me of anyone specifically. He is an amazing character and can be found in the Weird series.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

Hopefully, my new novel will surprise readers. It’s something I’ve not tried before and though it’s complex to write, it won’t be to read. There are many characters (as there are in the majority of my books) with all manner of threads to tie in.

I’ve also begun the next missive in the Weird: A Henry Ian Darling Oddity series. This will be missive four and again something way out of my comfort zone.

I’m also compiling stories that I’ve written for the Mind’s Eye series, so to produce collections of the same genre. Just in case folks haven’t read the series, I thought it may be good to bring them into several volumes.

There are many others stories in the pipeline but I have only so many hours a day in which to write.

I have video book trailers for most of my books, in addition most can be found as audiobooks, too.

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

Come, Join My Imagination.

What else have you written?

So far, I have written 25 books, some novels, one epic trilogy, short stories, collections and one non-fiction. Slings & Arrows is the factual account of what happened to my daughter, Samantha, and why I wrote Gone. FYI – I could not write Slings & Arrows until after my daughter’s second and final death at the age of nineteen after suffering for seventeen years.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That we are unprofessional and sloppy! I can’t speak for all independent authors, but in my case, although I can’t afford an editor or designer etc. my work is as professional as it can be. I work very hard to make sure it is. Yes, there may be typos (but then I’ve never read a book without one, even those from the traditional houses with expensive eyes), however, I am constantly re-reading and trying to catch those pesky gremlins.

I design all my own covers and think they are great! I write and edit and proofread (hate that most of all because it’s so difficult). I am useless at marketing!

I read many, many books, mainly from the independent pool (and self-published) and overall, I think there are good. Some are poorly edited and sloppy and occasionally a story is just awful – but that is in the minority. I also review everything I read; unless it’s so bad then I won’t because I will not destroy dreams with negativity.

There is a difference between independent and self-published and I think most of us understand that – think small presses – but in my opinion, and from what I write and have read, the source of good writing does not always come from the traditional route.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

Ha, ha, ha! I am led by my characters. They are in charge and constantly surprise me – and annoy me. I may think a story is going one way but then they twist it and demand their own way.

This may sound crazy, however, it’s true.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love it when I’m ‘in the zone’, where the writing is flowing freely and I’m there in the story and nothing can stop me. There are so many distractions in life that it’s not always practical for me to write – busy, busy, busy – but when I do and when it carries me completely, it’s brilliant.

Sometimes the middle of a story, especially if it’s growing due to the characters telling me ‘go this way, not that’, I can get impatient. Nevertheless, listening to their voices is the only way to make the story the way it should be.

I don’t like having to check up on things too much – remembering things about what characters have said or done, so I do make notes if things are particularly complex.

I hate proofreading!

Many times, I’ve actually dreamed plot twists, character names, and many other tidbits that I’ve need for my WIP. Has this ever happened to you?

 Absolutely! Most of my stories and characters come to me through dreams. Ideas are sparked and I must write them. Short stories are usually the way I tackle those sparks unless they grow into something more. I don’t know that until I’m writing and it’s the characters that show me the way.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I usually write the story in order, although it does sometimes go back and forth in time. There are instances, however, that I need to write a particular scene so I don’t forget what I want to say later or the character prompts an idea; this is typed at the bottom of the story so that I can insert it when appropriate.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Hmm, I don’t usually know the ending until I’m at certain phases of the book, because there are twists and turns where the characters lead. I do have a vague idea how I want things to end, but that doesn’t always work out. The title usually comes first, although not always.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I do like to get things down within the flow, and unless it’s some whopping error, I leave the editing until I’ve finished the first draft. But even then, different ideas come and whole scenes and chapters need to be changed.

What are some of the crazy things people have said to you upon learning you are an author? How have you responded?

I don’t know about crazy things, unless it is folks telling me I’m crazy (yep, true). However, I’ve been told that I’m wasting my time and that my writing is only a hobby unless I have a literary agent or publisher.

“Anyone can self-publish now, so it’s probably rubbish!”

Not many understand how important it is to me and it’s not a hobby.

What can I do but smile and shrug and continue to write?

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

Characters usually choose their own names. Sometimes, I’ve found a suitable name, especially for a fantasy, but then it can change, as the character evolves. I do like to choose (if I’m allowed) names that are appropriate for the genre and story, but do try to find or create something original and stay away from clichés.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very well, while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

Luck! What else can it be? I consider my work to be great – well, if I don’t say it, who will? But I don’t sell many of my books. This could be down to poor marketing? I have read stories that are awful (not just independent) and yet they sell very well.

I am often puzzled as to why some of the most popular books are, um, popular. They are poorly written with awful storylines and wooden characters.

Yes, a conundrum.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Write if you want. Ignore naysayers. Don’t think you’ll make money. Only do it if it’s in your blood. Beware of clichés, although they can sometimes be used to your advantage. Be as professional as you can.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

Lulu was my first ‘publisher’. It was the first place that was available for self-publishers. It’s free and easy to use.

However, because fewer readers choose paperbacks (too expensive and bulky), I am glad that there are places for eBooks, such as Amazon’s Kindle. All my books are available as Kindle editions or print (and eBooks) on Lulu. Most of my books are now audiobooks through Audible. Draft2Digital also have my books listed.

I have tried all the relevant literary agents and publishers but always had similar replies – no new clients or not what we’re looking for….though what they are actually wanting is beyond me?

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

I use Facebook for three book pages and writing groups. I even have one of my own. I use Twitter to both advertise and post fun things and tweet for others and their books. I use Amazon to buy and review books. I am on Google+, Pinterest and a few other sites. I have two websites.

None really work for me as regards selling, though if I didn’t do anything, my sales would be zero instead of a few now and then.

I can be distracted with Facebook, but it is nice to ‘talk’ to others and have some fun. I like to help other authors.

I dislike hate speech regardless of the subject and think that Facebook should be curtailing such things.

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

The misuse of apostrophes! I wonder if anyone ever had an education when I see so many mistakes. Bad spelling is also on the rise. I know ‘text speak’ encourages bad spelling / grammar etc.   I often want to go around with a pen and put them right with a message: use apostrophes properly. It amazes me that advertisers spend so much on ‘posters’ and yet it’s either apostrophes in the wrong place or poor spelling or both. Yes, I think there should be the apostrophe police. 🙂

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

I love a story that pulls me into it so much that I don’t want to stop reading it. Characters are very important because if you can’t engage or relate then you don’t care what happens and that spoils the story. I also prefer stories that are ‘different’, with something that makes me think and wonder…and definitely meaningful.

Being a reviewer as well as an author, I am asked to read books I wouldn’t normally try, some are brilliant, while others are boring. I do not like formulaic stories or those that don’t have meaning. Strong language and sex scenes are okay if they are appropriate to the story.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

I don’t research, especially for fantasy as I make it up, but if I need ‘facts’ or verification, then I will check on the Internet. It really depends on the genre. I think that’s why I wouldn’t write a historical novel, for example, due to the massive amount of research I’d have to do.

Do you have any secrets for effective time management?

Ha!!! Nope. No time management, just write when I can.

What would your dream writing space look like?

My dream writing space would be ultra tidy (everything having the perfect place) with plenty of room for note taking and boards on the walls for plots and character analysis. A wall of ‘real’ books. A top of the line PC – fast and efficient. Of course, the room would be silent except for the sound of typing. And a vast window that opened up to the sea for when I’d had enough for the day.

Dreams, eh?

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

Sometimes I do wonder if folks have actually read my book, as the points they make are nothing like the story. At others, I’m amazed at the compliments.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

I think I type fast. Unlike a typewriter, however, it’s great that I can easily correct errors. Most of the time though, my mind is far too fast for my fingers so it can be frustrating – and it doesn’t help that I can forget what I wanted to write if I don’t get it down fast enough.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I have written a non-fictional account of what happened to my daughter, Samantha, called Slings & Arrows. I have also played with poetry, some of which is included in short story collections (Figments and Expressions) while others can be found at the end of some stand-alone short stories.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

To me, my most important book will always be Gone. Yes, it was written because of a true event, but I also think it will help others, too. It will always be my personal favourite. Nevertheless, each book is central to my mind at the time of writing.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

There is nothing you can do but ignore the bad stuff, except maybe you could learn from it. Don’t let negativity stop you doing what you love. Negative reviews may shake your confidence but in the end it’s up to you to move forward and write in the way you think is best for you.

Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?

I have had many giveaways over the years without much feedback. I rarely get reviews but when I do they are positive (mostly). All my books are 99p /99c and two are free, so I can’t do much more than that. I offer promo codes for my audiobooks, too, but even then I don’t always get reviews from it.

I hope to get my work ‘out there’ and then maybe…? Luck?

Have you been involved with the Kindle Direct Program? If yes, do you believe it’s worthwhile?

If you mean are my books available as Kindle editions, then yes, they all are. Yes, it’s worthwhile because there’d be no sales otherwise. I don’t use Select anymore because of the restrictions. But they have allowed two of my books (The Star Realm #1 Avalon Trilogy and Weird: A Henry Ian Darling Oddity: Missive One) to be permafree.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

I suppose it is important, as it’s the first thing folks see when choosing a book. I try not to take any notice when I’m choosing and prefer to look at the sample of writing to decide. Having said that, I usually stay clear of the ‘bare chest’ stuff, as it’s usually some insipid romance with maybe sex scenes thrown in for titillation. I can’t see the point of those stories. Although, I have read some and they’ve been okay because the storyline and writing has been good.

I design all my own covers. I love to do it; it’s enjoyable and creative but still connected to my writing. I think they’re great! J

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

They control me!

How would you define your style of writing?

Into the minds of the characters. Action above too much description. What – Difference – Consequences. In that, what is happening, reaction to that event, what difference will it make and what are the consequences.

No formulas, no rules, thought-provoking.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

Reviews are vital, especially in today’s world because others usually make choices on what others say. I like to make up my own mind, and nothing should be banned. Amazon is making it difficult for authors to secure reviews due to their new policies, which, from what I’ve learned, is rather hypocritical. I don’t believe in paying for reviews and would never do so, nor would I ever take money for one. I am honest – even if I sometimes struggle to find something positive to say (if it’s too bad, I won’t review). Traditional houses (I’ve read) do pay for reviews and yet Amazon is supposed to be frowning on such behaviour.

I would say to readers – please review honestly, but if you can be kind that would be a plus. All reviews matter and thank you for your time. To trolls, I would say – yukkity yuk!

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

In the years of our lives

We can choose one of two paths

To be honest and true

Or harness the selfish

Ways of greed

 

Whatever you decide

Will be your reward.

But beware of your choices

For you never know who

Is watching.


Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

 I live in the south of England. If I had the choice (and money), I would live in Florida.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I have met Tinker Bell and have her autograph. Such fun!

What makes you angry?

Greed, selfishness and unkindness.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

The Walking Dead, Major Crimes, Prison Break

 What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

Film – Legend (and anything magical)

Book – (not fair there are many) – um, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Be kind, give not take and read!

Thank you, Lisette, for allowing me on your site.

Thanks to everyone who reads my books – reviews always welcome 🙂

Oh, yes, if you’ve found those gremlins, kick them out!

CONNECT WITH JULIE

Website

Amazon U.S.

Amazon U.K.

Audible U.K.

Audible U.S.

Twitter

Lulu

Goodreads

Google+

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