Julia Blake is the author of The Book of Eve and the soon to be released Lifesong. In this interview she talks about her career to date, including a difficult battle with severe illness and how she is overcoming it.
When did you start writing and what motivated you to do so?
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen, short stories, silly poems, plays, that sort of thing, but it all crystallised for me when I attended a writing course many years ago. It was as if a key in my brain turned, and four months after finishing the course my first novel was complete. I think I finally allowed the voices in my head free reign and all I had to do was put into words the stories they were telling me. As to what motivates me, I want to be a full time writer, that’s the dream – well, isn’t it for all of us – to spend my days doing what I absolutely love the most.
Tell us about your novel, The Book of Eve.
The Book of Eve was the fourth novel I wrote. I’d been to a family funeral and thought how they made people reconnect after not seeing each other for a while, so wanted to begin a novel at a funeral, maybe the funeral of a main character (I know, crazy isn’t it, kill off your main character in the first chapter). I then had this rather gruesome image stuck in my head of red blood dripping down a white marble staircase, after that, things began to click into place and The Book of Eve was born.
What kind of reception has Eve had?
It was very well received at first, especially in America where one critic called it a “modern day Downton Abbey” and with over thirty 5-star reviews and not one single bad one, it seems those who read it loved it, but then I got very ill a few months after publication and was unable to promote it so sales dropped off.
I’m sorry to hear that. How has your illness impacted your writing?
My illness went undiagnosed for years, my rather unsympathetic doctor insisting it was my age, and it wasn’t until I changed doctor and he initiated an exhausting range of tests that the growth (by then the size of a grapefruit) was found and treatment could begin. During those years I gradually grew weaker, one of the symptoms being severe anaemia which in turn affected higher brain functioning. By the time of diagnosis I had a blood haemoglobin level of 6.5 which made basic living a struggle, reading was difficult, writing impossible, so I didn’t write a single word for several years.
How awful. How are you overcoming these challenges?
Since last June I’ve been on massive doses of iron and medication to help shrink the growth and it’s like I’m coming back from a very dark place. As the anaemia loosens its grip I’ve found ideas beginning to flow and now I’m almost back to normal, the voices in my head back to their noisy demanding selves. I’m having surgery soon to remove the growth and then can concentrate on total recovery.
Where’s your preferred place to write?
For a long time I had no special place to write, trying to cadge computer time whenever I could, but last summer we converted the spare room into a den for my teenage daughter and I was finally able to claim a corner of the lounge, where I have my own little desk and laptop. It’s somewhere that is totally mine, somewhere dedicated to writing.
Is your writing fueled by tea or coffee?
I hate to say this, but neither. I do have a big mug of builders strength tea first thing in the morning and couldn’t do without it, then most days I have a cup of fresh coffee mid morning (not instant, can’t bear the stuff), but I find too much caffeine makes me muzzy headed so for most of the day it’s water, well, until gin o’clock time that is!
Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?
Oh, seat of the pants gal, absolutely. I think if I started plotting everything I’d never get any actual writing done, I like to sit at the keyboard and with no thought for consequence plunge straight in. But then, that’s me in life, when decorating I never want to waste time with boring prepping, just want to grab a paintbrush and get stuck in.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Don’t listen to advice… no, only joking. I think mostly keep writing. It’s very easy, especially as you get older, to let life “stuff” get in the way – work, family, home – it all crowds in on you and leaves no time for writing. Make time. Carve out a time and space that’s yours. Grow a thick hide, you’re going to need it. Unless you never let anyone but your nearest and dearest read your writing, then someone sooner or later is going to give a bad review, criticise your work and generally grind all your hopes and dreams into the dirt. It happens. You have two choices, get bitter or get better. You can’t please all of the people, all of the time and that’s especially true with writing. Also, beware of social media, it’s a two edged sword. Yes, it’s an amazing way of promoting your work, of connecting with other authors, making use of their wisdom and experience, but, it can also be a distraction, taking you away from the real job in hand – mostly writing.
What’s next for you?
What next? My novella Lifesong will be published later this month on Kindle and I’m very excited about this. I wrote Lifesong many years ago and submitted it to the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future novella competition. Not expecting anything, to my delight it was placed sixth internationally. Lifesong is very different from Eve and I hope will appeal to a different audience. I suppose it must be placed in the science fiction genre but it’s not aliens and space battles, instead it’s a hauntingly beautiful story of our planet and what we are doing to it, so, if anyone has concerns about the environment, then check out Lifesong, I think it will speak to you.
Where can we buy your book?
The Book of Eve is available as a download and an absolutely gorgeous paperback from many online retailers such as Barnes & Noble, ebooks, The Book Depository and, of course, Amazon.
Lifesong is now available to preorder here.
I was born and raised in the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds, in the county of Suffolk in the UK, where I live still with my teenage daughter, one mad cat and a succession of even madder lodgers. I love writing and my passionate hope is that one day I will be able to step away from the rat race and be a full-time writer. I’m a bit of a foodie and am quite a good cook, enjoying nothing more than feeding people. Books are also a massive part of my life, and I usually have two or three on the go at any one time.
Connect with Julia here:
http://juliablakeauthor.co.uk/ = website
https://www.instagram.com/juliablakeauthor/ = instagram
https://www.facebook.com/juliablakeauthor/ = facebook
@JuliaBlakeAuthor = wattpad