In general, I like to do these two posts separately, but Julie was so fast in getting this interview back to me that I’ve decided to combine these into one post.
Julie Rose currently publishes indie. Many of her books have placed notably in literary contests, marching forward in Amazon’s new novelist contest and the Faulkner awards. Recently, I finished Julie’s newest book Oleanna. Oleanna is a literary historical about a dark time in the life of the title character during turn of the century Norway. The book is based on Julie’s ancestors, and was begun in 2003 after the death of Julie’s mother. It is a poignant dark book with a personalized journey that keeps you guessing what the character’s choice will be right up to the end of the book. The historical research is accurate and the relationships ring true. I would recommend it.
Julie was kind enough to give us an interview about her writing process.
Tamago: Do you have a regular drafting process, or does your drafting process vary from book to book? (If it varies, please keep one project in mind as you answer these questions.)
Julie: In general, I write the shitty first draft and let it sit for a month or three, and come back to it with fresh eyes. Then I revise and revise, usually two or three drafts, after which I send it out for feedback. A few months later I’ll incorporate the appropriate feedback, then another draft or two, and then a final polish.
Tamago: How long is a writing session for you? How many words do you write? Are you likely to keep most of those words?
Julie: A weekday writing session is 45-60 minutes, and generally speaking I’ll get about 500 words, 1200 or so if I’m in the flow. On the weekend, I’ll usually do 60-90 minutes. I do generally keep most of the words.
Tamago: How do you find time to write while holding down a very challenging day job?
Julie: It can be tough, can’t it? I get up at 4:30 a.m. so I can get my writing time (and workout time) in before I start work at a Large Computer Networking Company.
Life has become more complicated now that I have two books out there—I have to add book promotion time to the morning mix as well. Then it’s a full day, and after work, attempting to have a life with husband, friends, and family. Then falling into bed, reading for 30 minutes, and passing out at 8:30 so I can start all over the next day. So while that schedule is the goal, it doesn’t always work out. And sometimes, to keep my sanity, it means not writing on the weekend, or taking a day or two off during the week (or entire weeks). If I’m too burned out, I won’t get any words down at all, so refilling the well is important.
Tamago: What’s the longest time it’s taken you to complete a project, from concept to publication? The shortest?
Julie: The longest project was my first novel The Pilgrim Glass. I started writing it in January 2003 and it was published in December 2010. I’d say the shortest was the (as-yet-unpublished) novel I wrote and finalized in 2007-08 while I was also writing Oleanna.
Tamago: How do you know something you’re writing is working?
Julie: It makes me laugh, or it makes me cackle with mad-scientist glee, or it makes me cry.
Tamago: Which part of writing–drafting, revising, critique from others–do you enjoy the most? Why? The least? Why?
Julie: I really love the shitty first draft. Well, I say that, but some days I want to throw the computer against the wall out of frustration. I love the high of creating something new, of adventure, of seeing where your brain and heart and soul are leading you. But I have also come to love the revision and critique process, because I can use a different set of skills and it’s exciting in a more intellectual way.
Tamago: Where do you get feedback regarding your drafts? First readers? A writing group? Editors? Agents? Your own intuition?
Julie: I’ve worked with writing groups in the past, but right now what works for me is a small group of three or four trusted published writers who have different approaches (one has a keen eye for continuity and plot, another is attuned to character, another is a killer line editor, etc.).
Tamago: What has been your favorite project to date? Why?
Julie: So hard to choose. The Pilgrim Glass was my first book, so it has a really special place in my heart, also because it came out of a really wonderful trip to France. I’d have to say right now it’s Oleanna, because it came from a really personal place emotionally and because I’m really proud of it, I suppose.
Tamago: Beyond completing a manuscript, what are the additional steps an indie writer has to perform to publish an epub book?
Julie: Editing, editing, editing. Cover and interior design for paperback (which, lucky for me, I love to do, and do myself). Cover and ePub design and testing. Distribution. There’s thousands of how-to blogs and books on the process.
Tamago: Many of your books have an aspect of history. How do you gather your research? Do you research for all your novels?
Julie: I’ve always been a history geek, and I love learning new things, so research is a great pleasure and joy for me (and a brilliant way to procrastinate). But even when I write more contemporary stories I do research, because of course it’s important to give a sense of reality to the fictional world you’re creating.
I usually start with old-fashioned library research, including social and political history, cultural history, art history, contemporary literature, music, and fashion. I like to travel so that factors into my research and stories. And then there’s a ton of really useful information online of course. One of the coolest things I found when researching Oleanna was the Norwegian national archives—I was able to find the census and parish records for the specific farm I was looking for in rural western Norway, which helped me understand settlement patterns (and was a great source for character naming).