Julie and I met on Twitter and, when you read about her approach to finding her people, you will see why I was immediately drawn into conversation with her.
In fact, what jumps out for me in this interview is how significant Julie’s online community has been to her experience and success as a writer.
I can’t get over the coincidence—my brand new e-book covers this very topic, and Julie’s success is a great example of what can happen when you “make friends”.
About your book
T.O. When you first tell people about your novel, how do you describe the story?
J.S. I describe it as a contemporary romance with a country music theme, set in both Dorset (UK) and Nashville (USA).
T.O. I was really surprised to find out you lived in the UK, after reading the title of your novel. I understand the TV show Nashville was your inspiration. Did you find using the setting of a distant place challenging?
J.S. It was quite challenging, yes, because I haven’t been there yet! I’m going for the first time next month to celebrate my birthday. I had to do a fair bit of research to make sure that I got every detail correct. I hope I’ve been successful!
T.O. I’ve noticed the NaNoWriMo badges on your website. Is this novel the end product of one of those marathon sessions?
J.S. It’s not actually, though I did write the first draft of my second book during the November 2013 NaNoWriMo. That’s the book I am trying to rewrite now.
Your publishing story
T.O. You have a lovely blog called My Writing Life. When you started that back in June 2013, was it your intention all along for that to be the core of your author platform?
J.S. I never really thought about it like that in the beginning, to be honest. I decided to write my blog as a record of my path to publication. Those early posts were very short and sweet but over time, it grew and now, I do see it as the core of my platform.
I write a blog post every week and publicize it under the #MondayBlogs hashtag on Twitter. I’ve been lucky enough to meet lots of new people that way. It has been an absolute pleasure for me to do that.
I don’t ever really think of it as my author platform. It’s just me having a chat with some other friendly folks.
T.O. I believe that’s why you and I got chatting on Twitter. I remember thinking that you were very warm and remarking on that. Has that been your most fruitful social media channel?
J.S. I knew I would need a social media presence when I started writing and I took to Twitter like the proverbial duck. I’ve made lots of friends there who have been very supportive and it has just grown from there. One of them praised me recently for engaging with others on Twitter rather than trying to bash on about my writing.
I have made a conscious decision to check out everyone who follows me and really only follow back people I think are genuine.
It’s not about quantity but quality. My followers will grow, but hopefully it will continue to be a meaningful, two-way relationship, rather than a constant sales pitch.
T.O. Your book is launching today. What has been your greatest challenge leading up to this day?
J.S. The biggest challenge I gave myself was deciding to format both my e-book and my paperback myself. This is where the technology has been my uphill battle.
T.O. Did you submit your work to agents, or did you decide right from the beginning to self-publish?
J.S. I decided to self-publish quite early on, so I haven’t submitted it to anyone, agent or publisher
When I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme, a professional reader read my book and the feedback was so positive that I felt more confident about my writing.
Also, at my age, I don’t want to wait for months whilst other people make up their minds. Once I knew that I could write well, I felt I had nothing to lose by getting on with it.
T.O. How about editing, beta-readers, proofreading, and book cover design? Was it hard finding the people that you needed?
J.S. Twitter came up trumps for me in helping me find my first beta-reader, a good friend that I met online. I asked another friend I met online, a member of the RNA, to beta-read for me as well.
My editor is also a member of the RNA. I found my proof-reader via Twitter but again, she was someone I had engaged with for a long time before asking her.
Finally, I had seen a book cover that I really liked some time ago and did some research. The designers are members of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and came with a good recommendation.
T.O. Are there any other key people you wouldn’t do without in the process of getting a book published?
J.S. Being a member of ALLi has been invaluable. They have a great private Facebook group to turn to for help and support. I’m also a member of a Scrivener group on Facebook and once again, they have been very helpful.
T.O. Now that you’ve been through the whole process, would you opt to go the traditional route if a traditional publisher approached you?
J.S. This is a very difficult question. The independent person in me says that I would do it all again and enjoy keeping control. The sane, normal person in me (!) now realizes just how much work is involved in doing it on your own. Having a publisher behind you could be enormously helpful.
I just don’t know at the moment. I think you have to keep an open mind and see where the road takes you.
Your writing process
T.O. Not only do you have two teenage daughters, but you’re also a part-time teacher. I’m sure there’s even more you could add to your list of responsibilities and distractions. How did you manage to find the time and quiet needed to write a novel?!?
J.S. When I started writing From Here to Nashville, I’d been having a bit of a difficult time personally, trying to juggle all the different parts of my life, and it was cathartic for me to sit and write. I started in April 2013 and by the summer, I’d written 70,000 words.
By that time, my husband and I had also worked out that we could afford for me to go part-time at work. So, once I did that, my two days off became sacred to me.
Then I took part in NaNoWriMo that November writing my second book, which showed me that I could write 1600 words in about an hour each day. It’s not that hard then to find the time really, if you love doing it.
T.O. Reading is so important to the writing craft. Are there particular authors that inspire you? What is your favourite book?
J.S. There are lots of authors I find inspiring for all kinds of different reasons. I love most of Jane Austen’s books; I can re-read them all the time, especially Pride and Prejudice. I also love to read Jane Eyre and A Tale of Two Cities on a fairly regular basis. I like the theme of triumph over adversity!
I also like a good thriller for the skill of the plot; I enjoyed reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn for that reason. When I was younger, I devoured every one of Stephen King’s books as they were published but since I’ve grown older, my tastes have changed.
T.O. Have you always been a “closet writer”, dreaming of growing up one day to be a “real author”?
J.S. Not really, no. I have always written bits and pieces but I never had the confidence to believe that I would be able to do anything with it. I hadn’t written anything longer than a short story until I wrote From Here to Nashville. After my husband bought me my Kindle, I read one book which had a page at the end explaining how the author had self-published and it encouraged me to get started on my idea.
T.O. I’ve heard other writers who first publish a little later in life say that their work is better for it, largely because of the additional life experience they bring with them. Would you say that’s true for you as well?
J.S. I can’t honestly say because I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I certainly do have the additional life experience, which might be helpful for me in other ways. I know a lot of women who have only started writing ‘properly’ once their children have grown up, and they’re maybe looking for something of their own. This has certainly been the case for me.
For me, I think, the motivation also came from wanting to find something I would be happy doing for the rest of my life and I know I have found that in writing.
T.O. Do you think it’s been more or less difficult to start a writing career at this stage in your life?
J.S. I have found it relatively easy to start writing now. You do have to be organized with your time but as long as you are, you will get there. There are so many things to help writers now as well, that I wouldn’t have had access to twenty, thirty years ago. Computers for a start!
On top of that though, there are the wonderful networking opportunities afforded by the Internet. For example, I wouldn’t be able to take part in this blog feature with you if it weren’t for Twitter, and I love making friends with people who live so far away from me. It’s a real thrill.
Then there’s the whole world of self-publishing that opens up so many more options for the new writer too.
T.O. I understand you’re turning 50 this year. Did you ever wonder if it was “too late”? If you did, what kept you going through the doubt?
J.S. I think you can either approach a big birthday miserably or see it as a new era in your life. Shortly after turning 40, I retrained as a teacher. Now I’m turning 50, I’m an author and a whole new world is opening up to me. I do have doubts, but not about it being ‘too late’ for me.
I am a firm believer in re-inventing yourself whenever you feel the need. I have reinvented myself a number of times before and if this is the only lesson my children learn from me, then I shall be happy.
[bctt tweet=”Your life is never cast in stone. There is always room to start again. ~Julie Stock”]
T.O. One last question, Julie. Where can people find you on the Internet?
J.S. I am everywhere!
Julie, it’s been such a pleasure! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey with us.
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