I'm so excited to have friend and fellow author Julia Blake here to discuss her new Young Adult Fantasy novel, Erinsmore! I had Julia on a while back to talk about her writing journey, dealing with rejection, book marketing, launching a new release, her top tips for aspiring authors, and more. Click here to give it a read!
In this interview, you'll hear all about Julia's new book, her favorite and least favorite parts of being a published author, her creative process, what inspired Erinsmore, and how she handles writer's block.
Now grab your beverage of choice, get cozy, and enjoy the interview!
Erinsmore is a YA fantasy, and by the looks of it, it's your first foray into the genre. What prompted you to write a fantasy novel?
I’ve always had a deep, lifelong love of fantasy, sparked initially by the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis. My love for it was deepened by the remarkable children’s fantasy series, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, and the dark and twisted books of Alan Garner. So, it’s always been there, somewhere deep inside, and I can promise Erinsmore won’t be a standalone, there will be more.
What was the toughest part about writing the novel?
The toughest part was restraining myself to just this story, this time. There were so many sub-plots and backstories I wanted to explore, that I had to be brutal with myself. As it was, I ended up removing almost 20,000 words from the original manuscript. But don’t worry, I have plans for them.
What came easiest to you as you were writing it?
The easiest part was by far the characters. The main protagonists, sisters Cassie and Ruby, grew and developed almost by themselves, and it was a revelation to me how these girls became so much more than the whiny, self-absorbed teenagers they are at the beginning. The people who inhabit the magical world of Erinsmore are like family and friends to me, I’ve come to know and love them all so much.
I believe you've mentioned before that you're a pantser. Do you ever get stuck, and if so, what do you do to get things moving again?
I’m a total pantser. Writing for me is as much a mystical quest as the one Cassie and Ruby experience in Erinsmore. I like to start with a very strong beginning. Sometimes, it takes me ages just to get that first line right, then I’m onto the next line, then the next, then the next.
I’m really lucky, in that I don’t usually get writer's block, but occasionally I find myself directionless, knowing where I want to end up, but not sure exactly how to get there. Then I walk away from it for a while, go and do something else, and that’s when inspiration tends to strike. I’ll be sorting the laundry and suddenly think – “Oh of course, that’s how that happens” – and then I’m off again.
Who was your favorite character to write?
My favourite character was probably Cassie and the love/hate relationship she has with Prince Colwyn. She admires him for his bravery, strength and kindness, but can’t stand his attitude towards women. Raised in a medieval world, Colwyn has very firm ideas about a woman’s place and sparks fly between the pair, as feminist Cassie regularly comes to blows with him. Do they sort their differences out? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Did you write Erinsmore with a specific theme in mind or with a message you were trying to convey?
I didn’t really have any specific theme in mind as I was writing Erinsmore, but afterwards, reading it back, I realised it’s very much a story about hope and faith. That, in the most desperate situations, there is always hope; and you must have faith in your family and friends, that no matter what, they will always come through for you.
Who are your favorite fantasy authors?
My favourite fantasy authors would have to be Robin Hobb, Charles de Lint and Karen Miller in adult fantasy, and in children’s fantasy Susan Cooper and C.S. Lewis, of course.
I know this is often a tough question to answer, but is there anything in particular that inspired Erinsmore?
I can tell you the exact moment when the spark that was to become Erinsmore happened. About ten years ago, I went to the West End in London to see a stage production of The Lord of the Rings. On the long coach ride home afterwards, I sat with my head still spinning from the sheer breadth and stunning scope of what I’d seen. It suddenly occurred to me in all the fantasy quest books I’d ever read, the main character was always male. Why not have a female character? Why not have two? Sisters, both modern, ordinary, teenagers who are suddenly thrown head first into a very extraordinary adventure. From that initial thought, almost the whole plot for Erinsmore was in my head, and by the time I reached home, I’d thought of a title and written the prophecy.
What's been your favorite part about being a published author?
My favourite part about being a published author is definitely connecting with my readers. When someone contacts me to tell me how much they enjoyed one of my books, or to say how much a character spoke to them, that makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Least favorite part?
My least favourite part is all the promoting and marketing you have to do. Not naturally forthcoming, I’ve had to overcome a lot of personal reservation to really put myself out there, trying to connect with people and let them know about my books, without being too pushy and putting people off.
What has the feedback been like for Erinsmore so far? Has it surprised you, and if so, how?
The feedback for Erinsmore so far has been phenomenal. Launch day was a complete rollercoaster, with my adrenalin levels cresting and falling with each new post. Every vote of confidence and notification of another sale, sent my emotions sky high, until by the end of the day I was weepy and grateful, that so many people had shown the support they had and, crucially, had bought the book.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a couple of projects right now. I’ve been asked to contribute a short story to an anthology of alternative fairy tales, which I’m very excited about. I’m also working on the sequel to my novel Becoming Lili and am about a quarter of the way through that. Finally, I’m now starting on the final edits for book eight which hopefully will be out late summer. Again, another departure for me, in that it’s like nothing else I’ve ever written, and I think can only be classed as folk fantasy. No spoilers but think of a novel that’s a cross between Thomas Hardy and Stephen King and you’ve more or less got it.
You can find Julia online here!: