An Author Interview with Julianne Kelsch. Julianne is a novelist who spent her childhood lapping up words and living in the incredible worlds created by her favourite authors. She now spends her time taking care of her young brood of children and writing. She simultaneously lives in this world and the many worlds that exist in the layered recesses of her mind.
Oh, what a joy to have imaginary friends!
A firm believer that children should not be lost to adulthood, she welcomes her imaginary friends and the time spent in their worlds. Of course, you can live in La La Land and not write novels – a fact which she is well aware of – so there’s more to the writing than one might expect.
Having grown up reading about so many different characters and life experiences, Julianne recognizes the changes that occurred in her because of these stories. Simply put: words are their own special kind of magic. She hopes to spin them into something that causes magic and brings beauty to the lives of others, as her authors have done for her.
Q. Julianne, what made you decide to write Where Shadows Dwell?
A. I started writing after I had my second baby. I was feeling empty and alone and picked up the pen because it called to me. It was interesting; I hadn’t wanted to write in years. But when I started, I couldn’t stop.
Q. How long have you been writing for?
A. I’ve been writing for eight years. I did try my hand as a child, writing Narnia fanfiction, but it was so terrible I convinced myself I could never write anything. I’m really glad I decided otherwise.
Q. How long did it take you to write Where Shadows Dwell?
A. I wrote this book in five months, the first draft anyway. I spent eight years honing the craft, researching, discovering, and learning as much as possible. The book evolved the more I learned. So while I wrote it in five months, I spent years editing it. About the only things that stayed the same from the original story are the characters and the setting.
Q. What do you use to write your books?
A. I write on my computer or my iPad. It’s much easier for me to get my thoughts down this way.
Q. What problems did you encounter?
A. I definitely experience writer’s block! I went through a period of severe postpartum depression and didn’t look at the book for two years. However, I was doing other writing projects during that time. When I experience writer’s block now, I reach out to my writing groups and brainstorm with them. Writer’s block leaves in about ten minutes if you brainstorm.
Q. How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer since you’ve started?
A. As a writer, I’ve learned a lot and honed my craft, particularly in the areas of character and plot development. I also write what I would like to read. That helps. And I’ve learned that if I visualize what I’m writing, it’s much easier to put the words down. I’ve also gained confidence, and continually discover what it is to keep a dream alive.
Q. Is there anything you wished you’d known when you started writing?
A. Yes, I wish I’d known that you can’t go this road alone. I believe I would be much more advanced if I had reached out to the writing community around me. I always thought writing was supposed to be a lonely road, that you’re alone with fingers flying on the keys, and then you send off a manuscript -pray it gets accepted – and end up with a book deal. It doesn’t work that way. This is a community full of thriving, amazing characters, and it’s one I am glad to finally be part of now!
Q. Do you structure your plots?
A. I start with basic structure. I know the beginning, the major plot points in the middle, and the end, so the basic story arc. Everything else flows as it goes. I like to be surprised about what my characters do, but I don’t like to send them off without direction. I find that this way works.
Q. Do you work on a set amount of words per day or does it change?
A. I would love to work that way, but sadly I don’t. With four kids, homeschool, and an entrepreneur, I have a full plate. I have had regimented writing routines, which were massively helpful, and I’m working on restoring those routines. But for now, I don’t. When I do, I shoot for 1,000 words a day.
Q. Do you do a lot of research when writing a book?
A. I do as much research as necessary. It really depends on the plot. Where Shadows Dwell is set in Michigan. While I’ve been to that state, I haven’t been to this particular area so I researched the culture, the area, and the surrounding town. I got on Google and pulled up a bird’s eye view of what the area looks like, so I could put in the proper descriptions. Google Maps was helpful for any travel that took place. Basically, I found the small details that most people wouldn’t do, and incorporated them into the book. Examples of this include the ‘singing sand’ at Michigan Lake and Petoskey stones.
For the books I’m working on now, it’s the same type of research. Whatever I think needs to be relevant information to the novel, I’ll research before putting it into the book. I want the story to be believable so I’m not going to have an arrow shoot 1,000 yards when in reality that kind of shot is impossible. I’m working on a second book in the Shadows universe, and the character gets shot. I researched recovery processes, non-fatal bullet locations, physical therapy, etc. I try to keep it in the realm of reality.
Q. How would you describe your writing process?
A. I don’t really have one. Sit down, place my fingers on the keys, and go. Sometimes I sit and stare at the screen. If I have a brilliant idea, I’ll take notes or do a voice memo on my phone.
Q. What time of the day do you find is best to write?
A. Afternoon and evenings. The only reason I don’t write until two every morning is that I have kids. Sleep is essential when you have to get up with them.
Q. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A. Everywhere. I’ve had music spark storylines. Dreams. Driving. Anytime I can let my mind wander. I watch people and look for ways to describe them. Movies are great because they create emotion, and that will spark inspiration. There’s no limit, really.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A. Romantic suspense has always been a favourite genre of mine since I was a very young girl. When I was eleven I decided the perfect story had five elements. Drama, action, suspense, romance, and comedy. I still agree with this today. Except I’ve removed comedy. It’s not essential, but if you get it in the book, it’s a bonus!
Q. Have you ever tried to write other genres?
A. Yes. I have a fantasy novel completed, the first in a trilogy. It’s not ready for publication, but it will be eventually. I loved writing fantasy. It was easy, fun, and gave me a lot more room to play because I wasn’t limited to reality.
Q. Which author/book would compare yours too?
A. The book that comes to mind is Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks. The story follows a woman as she leaves an abusive relationship and rebuilds a new life, and it brings in the dangerous elements of an individual driven by revenge. Where Shadows Dwell has similar elements, as Lily also leaves an abusive relationship and creates something new. Revenge is a theme that’ sprinkled throughout as well. Oddly enough, when I wrote Where Shadows Dwell I’d never heard of Safe Haven, so the similarities are purely happenstance.
Q. Can you relate to any of your own stories?
A. Yes, but again, not in the way you would think. I wrote Lily while going through my own personal hell. I got severe postpartum depression after I had my third baby. It was during this time that Lily went through some massive changes in the book! Due to the depression and some major changes taking place in my life during that time, I pretty much lost the ability to function as a human and resorted to going through life as ‘dead’ as possible because it hurt less. I felt like I’d lost my mind. I disconnected emotionally so I could take care of my kids, but part of me hoped that maybe I’d get in an accident and the torment could be over. Depression is a special kind of hell. So Lily’s experiences were a way for me to process and safely experience my own pain.
Q. How many books have you written?
A. Two and a half.
Q. Who designed your front cover?
A. I designed the cover. I had a basic idea of what I wanted for years. It turned out much better than I had hoped!
Q. Who was the first person you showed your novel too?
A. My mom. And then my sisters.
Q. Have you ever dedicated a book to someone?
A. Yes. I dedicated Where Shadows Dwell to my husband because he’s always been there, encouraging me to take on my dreams, supporting everything I decide to do.
Q. How do you market your books?
A. Mainly social media, because I’ve learned a lot over the years about this medium, and it’s a great way to connect with a lot of amazing people.
Q. How do you deal with bad reviews?
A. I don’t know. I haven’t had one yet. Probably cry if it’s awful, and then move on. The good reviews are there too, and a bad review is inevitable, I hear.
Q. Do you use an agent?
A. I didn’t for this book, largely because it was rejected by every agent I contacted. I took a risk and published it myself, hoping the audience would experience the emotional connection that I tried to create.
Q. How much time do you devote to marketing your books?
A. At least an hour a day, although that’s not strictly marketing. Much of that is building connections. I’ve discovered that marketing isn’t the key, not with social media, but connecting is. Building relationships, friendships, and community are far more impactful than having constant advertisements going for your books.
Q. How do you get your book reviews/reviewed?
A. My book reviews have come from the people that bought and read the novel. For now, I’m taking the organic approach. For future books, I will offer advance copies to those interested in leaving a review.
Q. Do you ever run free book promotions?
A. I haven’t run a free promotion, but I have dropped the price to .99. That promotion went quite well.
Q. Do you do all your own proofreading and editing?
A. No. I do as much as I can, but you have to have other eyes on the manuscript. I have some very close friends who happen to be writers, and we work together proofreading and editing each other’s work.
Q. What are the main benefits of being an independent author?
A. I think the main benefit is that you get to maintain all creative control. Every aspect of this novel was designed by myself. Another benefit is that I’m getting the opportunity to learn a lot of stuff that I may not have learned otherwise!
Q. What are you reading at the moment? Which book do you have by your bed?
A. I have a stack of books by my bed! Between Shades of Gray is the novel I am reading now. It has nothing to do with Fifty Shades, by the way, just happens to have a similar title. It’s about Stalin’s occupation during WWII.
Q. What was the first book you ever read?
A. I have no idea but I grew up on The Boxcar Children, The Babysitters Club, and every other book I could possibly get my hands on. Actually, I started reading when I was four.
Q. Who are your most treasured authors?
A. Ayn Rand, Richard Paul Evans, Dan Brown
Q. What is your favourite quote from a book?
A. “I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
Q. What is the best book to film adaptation?
A. Pride and Prejudice. Lord of the Rings (those were phenomenal, and still bring me joy!)
Q. Where are your favourite places to read?
A. Curled up by a fire, or in my bed at night.
Q. What books do you read to your children?
A. Laura Ingalls, The Tennis Shoes Series, Magic Tree House, or anything that makes me happy.
Q. When you read do you prefer a book or a Kindle/tablet?
A. Book as often as possible, but I appreciate the ease of my kindle.
Q. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
A. Connect with your community. Build relationships now. And create a vision for yourself that you can live into because you’re going to want to quit. That vision may just be the thing that keeps you going.
Q. Excellent! Thank you for your time today Julianne, what can we expect next from you?
A. I have two series in the works. The first is this one. I’m in the process of writing A Break in the Shadows, which is in the same universe as Where Shadows Dwell, but not necessarily a sequel. The second is my fantasy book, currently titled The Dark of Letum. This is the first in a trilogy. It’s complete, but I haven’t written the other two. I’m ridiculously excited to write them though. My plan is to continue self-publishing Shadows and try my hand at some publishing houses for The Dark of Letum.