Welcome back to our Author Interview series. Today, we’ve been joined by Julie C. Gilbert, a New Jersey local who was born in South Korea. I met Ms. Gilbert on Facebook through Books Go Social, and have enjoyed talking with her there, so am very glad to have her come by so I can now introduce her to you.
Julie, can you tell us a little about where you grew up, and your family?
- I was born in S. Korea but grew up in central New Jersey.
- I have a Biology degree, a Master’s of Arts in Teaching, and standard teaching certificates for both Biology and Chemistry.
Does this influence your writing, or is there something else?
- Since I’ve grown up reading the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, mainly from the 90’s and early 2000’s, I’d say those have probably influenced my life as a writer the most. I think it’s because they capture the soul of innocent, naïve characters that always seek to do good and always wind up on top.
Can your remember what sparked your desire to start writing?
- Reading. I look back and think there may be a tiny bit of teenage rebellion against traditional English class going on, but whatever the motivation, I’m glad I caught the writing bug.
- The writing thing began just before I began college. I’d always loved stories, so I decided to give the crafting part of it a shot.
- [My first book] goes back to loving stories and having some time on my hands the summer before college. Reading all throughout my childhood gave me a decent grasp on what I loved and didn’t love about a book. I wanted to write an epic sort of science fiction tale, so I did. Soon thereafter, I wanted to write about a kidnapping, so I did, though that tale was on the short side so it became a series of novellas. I think those Heartfelt Cases novellas were great training in that they were ministories that I forced myself to finish in the span of 20 chapters.
Can you recall when you first considered yourself an author?
- Since the moment I started writing, I’d subconsciously considered myself a writer, but I guess the mental shift to “author” came while holding my first paperback version of a book.
Do you have any authors you look up to as mentors, even if you haven’t met them?
- Well, I was on a roll, but you’ve got me stumped with this one. I can’t really say that I’ve got a writing mentor. That makes me sound like a writing orphan. I’ve mostly gone about this process by trial and error. I got my start slightly before—for better or worse—the ebook explosion made everybody with a word processor and the inclination to write into an author.
Fair enough. I’ve heard many, many times over that writers should be readers. Do you have any authors you find inspiration from?
- I have many favorite authors. One of my new favorites is Toby Neal, and I’m not even done reading the first of her books I’m trying. She has a very smooth narration style. One of the problems with first person narrations is lacking a clear sense of the character voice even though we as the reader are essentially trapped within this one character’s mind. Ms. Neal manages to keep things suspenseful yet reveal vital parts of her main character just through the narrator voice. It’s a skill I definitely strive for.
Have these authors helped to shape your own writing style?
- Experimenting with style has become something of a hobby of mine within the craft of writing. The Devya’s Children series is first person from multiple points of view, though mainly just two characters. Heartfelt Cases is third person, though the omniscience is rather limited or at least the narrator’s a wee bit stingy with details that would spoil the sense of mystery. I have a science fiction series that is mainly third person limited to one character at a time.On a different note, if the question refers to that inelegant pantser vs planner debate, I’d probably have to lump myself loosely with the pantsers. I write a general outline with some basic things that should happen in a given chapter then just set the characters in that scene and let the story go where it wants to from there.
Which books/authors are your reading now?
- I read several books at once. Currently, I’m reading Unsound by Toby Neal and A Chronetic Memory by Kim K. O’Hara. Both are very good, so far. I may finish Unsound tonight once I stop answering intriguing questions.
Are there any new authors who have recently caught your attention?
- Within the last few months, I’ve stumbled across a Facebook writing group called Clean Indie Reads. There are almost two thousand members from around the world, though I’d say only a fifth or less are actually active. Anyway, I’ve read about a half dozen works by various authors there and been impressed by each of them. You can get links to my reviews on each of their works from my blog. I won’t mention them all, though I will say that I have the privilege of taking some of Linda Covella’s works with me to BEA in May.
Sounds like you have your hands full. I definitely take my hat off to you. I’ve tried, and miserably failed, once to keep multiple books developing at the same time. Do you have support from anyone beyond your family to help keep your stories separate?
- I’m going to go with God and readers on this one. This is a combination of answers from other questions. I don’t really have a writing mentor unless you want to count the nebulous collectiveness of everybody I’ve ever really loved to read. The writing game can be terribly lonely and discouraging sometimes, but there are moments that definitely make a difference, such as getting a letter from a kid who said they enjoy the book and what it meant to them. Every reader who’s ever let me know when/ how one of the books has touched them becomes a part of my emotional support system. Perfect moments and positive feedback tend to be timed wonderfully, so I’m going to credit God with timing the feedback to good effect.
That would definitely qualify as a strong support group. Are your readers waiting for your next project to come out? Any teasers you would like to share?
- The next book in the Heartfelt Cases series, The Keres Case, needs another read through or two, as does the next in the Devya’s Children series, Varick’s Quest. Other than that, cleaning up the first in a different scifi series is the current writing project. I don’t actually accomplish much writing during a school year, as my day job teaching chemistry is kind of consuming for 10 months.
- Since I’m not sure if this refers to an excerpt or just talking about the next book, I’ll dig out some favorite exchanges from upcoming works.Varick’s Quest – Ch. 12 The Summons
“You are my baby. Mine! They have no right to take you away!” ~Allison
“Right and legal are eventually gonna part ways, Momma.” ~Jillian
Heartfelt Cases 4: The Keres Case – Ch. 5 The Calm Before the Storm
“Hello there. Your mother said I would find you in here. I didn’t quite realize I’d find you in such … fine attire. Pink and green fuzzy socks, really?” ~Rachel
“My sense of fashion is evolving.” ~Ann
“My dear Ann, your sense of fashion was always lacking, but this is called devolving.” ~Rachel
“Just so we’re clear. If you wake this child, I will reconsider my policy on not shooting friends.” ~Ann
Since you are a teacher, I’m sure you have to budget your time carefully. Do you have any big plans for the near future?
- I’m still gearing up to attend Book Expo America, May 27-31, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York City. This has been and will continue to be an all-consuming thing. It will be a ton of fun and I’m excited to get to exhibit there. I’m looking forward to running many contests and giveaways, including some great indie books and even a Kindle Fire. I’ll be in Booth 2342 if anybody’s planning to stop by and say hi.
With the time constraints imposed from teaching, do you consider writing a career, or a hobby?
- I’m starting to see a shift in my thinking of writing going from fun hobby to career. Like it or not, writing is a business with quirks, pitfalls, rising stars, and dreams to strive for.
You have such fun titles. Do you have a favorite method to select them?
- Ashlynn’s Dreams sounded cooler than Jillian’s Dreams, though that has a decent ring to it as well.I believe one of my college roommates helped cast Heartfelt Cases as a title.
Sounds like you have quite a few external sparks of inspiration in your life. When you are writing, do you draw from your own experiences or from others to help keep things authentic?
- The answer depends on which series were talking about, but I’m a firm believer that science fiction needs to be firmly rooted in reality. If I had to toss out random percentages, I’d say Heartfelt Cases is 97% realistic and Devya’s Children is 80% realistic.
- Thankfully, no; the troubles in my life are far more mundane that kidnappings, shootouts, and genetic alterations leading to mild super powers.
When you are writing, do you leave messages hidden in your work?
- Each novel has a different theme, but I think the value of strong family ties and deep friendships is prevalent throughout all my works. The Devya’s Children series
Can you share any challenges did you encountered and overcame in your writing?
- Proofreading is probably the hardest piece of the writing process. It’s difficult to comb through a manuscript and find all those pesky little typos. Many will tell you flat-out that it’s impossible to catch everything and everybody should hire a professional editor. While I do get second, third, fourth, etc opinions, I try not to shell out thousands more than I’ll probably ever see on the editing process.
- Getting people to buy the book 😉 Seriously, each aspect of the process has its high points and challenging points. Trying to keep things grounded with a “real world” sense, even when writing science fiction can be difficult. Knowing when more description is necessary is often something I need to get a second opinion on because I’ve had this world in my head for a long time.
- Each book teaches me something new. For the Heartfelt Cases series, I did some research on how to get into the FBI and what a “typical” day would be for an agent. Interviewing an agent was probably the most rewarding part of that research. Nadia’s Tears involved some research into human trafficking, and Malia’s Miracles offered opportunities to check out adoption and cancer.
With as many books out as you have, do you ever find yourself wishing you’d changed something, or some process, in the writing before releasing it?
- Aside from reading to look for grammar errors, I try not to nitpick works I’ve deemed finished. In truth, there’s always one more thing that could be changed that would make it slightly better, but there comes a point when you just have to stop tinkering and enjoy the work for what it is already.
Do you design your covers, or do you have someone else do it for you?
- My friend Timothy Sparvero gets 99.99% of the credit for designing the covers and all the credit for creating them. I am lucky enough to have a small hand in the creative process for designing the covers. I like them, of course, though I do get mixed feedback on whether the cover style fits the stories. Some people feel, especially with Ashlynn’s Dreams, that the kid-friendly, cartoon cover belies the darker nature of the serious subject matter. I’m of the opinion that a lot of things in life go wrong and one has to learn to take things with a grain of humor to keep on keeping on sometimes. Even though I do deal with some pretty serious topics, I try to keep things light, and I think the covers reflect that effort well.
Now, on to the big gorilla question in the room… What advice would you give to other new authors?
- I’m finding out more and more that networking is vital in this business. Writing can be lonely, discouraging work sometimes. Find a solid group of other writers who can give you advice, answer questions you have, and listen when you need to rant about some misguided soul rating your book at 1 star because it wouldn’t download from amazon properly. (Not that I have personal experience on that one, but I’ve heard it happens and read some 1-stars that said essentially that.)
Thank you so much for stopping by Julie. Any final words?
- All authors are starving for honest feedback. The best way to show you love a book is to write a review, but if you’re not comfortable with that, feel free to share your thoughts with me directly via email. I ran a charity review thing last year to challenge myself to give back more, and it went well enough to prompt me to do it again. Each piece of feedback, be it review or email, earns $1 for that fund. Said “fund” being what I promist to donate to one of 5 charities in 2015. Read more here. That said, if you happen to read one or more of my books, please let me know. I check the US amazon’s review count from time to time so if you leave it there, I’ll find it. I don’t always remember to check Goodreads or the other amazon sites.
Oh, so true about the reviews and feedback.
For those who have want to know more about Julie, you can find her through her blog, on Amazon, email (devyaschildren@gmail [dot] com), two Twitter accounts: @authorgilbert or @jilliananddeli, multiple Facebook accounts: Julie C. Gilbert, Ashlynn’s Dreams, Heartfelt Cases Series, and Pinterest “for book covers and other stuff”.
You can also find her books through the links below:
Devya’s Children Links:
Heartfelt Cases Links:
Heartfelt Cases Books 1-3
If you would like me to host your author interview, please stop by my offered services, and send me a submission. I’ll be glad to add you to the wonderful list of authors who have already responded, while getting a chance to meet other authors out in the big world of publishing.