Tuesday, March 9, 2010

INTERVIEW: Julia London - New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Of Romantic Novels

Welcome to “Up Close and Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing their views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Julia London. Dinah Dinwiddie, under the penname Julia London is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romantic comedies and historical romance novels. She’s a four-time finalist for prestigious RITA awards for excellence in romantic fiction and was named one of “Borders Best.”

She was born March 19th, 1959 in rural west Texas and grew up on a ranch. She graduated from University of Texas with a degree in government. She moved to Washington DC and lived in the capitol for nine years, worked for the White House as a civil employee traveling extensively in the United States and Europe and the Middle East. She moved back home to Texas and worked as public administrator before she finally decided to be writer.

Her first published book was “Devil’s Love” in 1998. It was her third book “The Dangerous Gentleman” that really launched her career. It was the was the first in the Rogues of Regent Street series. The story revolves around the lives of four English, aristocratic young rakes and how their lives and loves are affected by the tragic death of one of their group. The series has proven immensely popular.

Two of the series in “The Dangerous Gentleman” have been nominated for ‘Best Romance in 2000’, ‘Reviewer Choice Awards’, ‘Bookit Awards’ and ‘The Best Historical Regency Award’.

Ms. London is also the author of the contemporary romantic novel GUIDING LIGHT: JONATHAN'S STORY, the New York Times bestselling novel based on the Emmy Award-winning daytime drama Guiding Light.

Her latest novel, “One Season of Sunshine” coming July 2010 is about a romantic novel set in Cedar Springs, Texas, An Elementary school teacher Jane Aaron tries to find her birth mother hired by Asher Price, a wealthy widower, to look after his thirteen-year-old daughter Riley and five-year-old son Levi.

As Jane finds herself growing attached to the children, she discovers how a woman can come to love children she didn’t give birth to, exactly as her adoptive mother must have done. Jane suspects that Asher late wife might actually have been her mother. With this possible bizarre coincidence between them, neither feels comfortable pursuing a relationship and Jane goes back home to her teaching job in Houston broken-hearted. But after she discovers that her birth mother was the other woman killed in the accident, Jane returns to Cedar Springs.

Julia London lives in Austin, Texas with her family and their new puppy.

E.I. Would you share some early self-reflection to give us a sense of who you were as a teenager? What were you like? Give your readers three “Good to Know” facts about your first job experience, the inspiration for your writing career, any fun details or anecdotes that would enliven your page. Also tell us about Julia London today -- the woman behind the bestselling author of more than twenty romantic fiction novels.

Julia London: My teenage self is so far behind me now it is hard to remember. I was one of those kids who was friend to all, and honestly, I am still friends with many of the people I grew up with. I excelled at things like music and theatre and history, but not so much in math or science. I discovered as a teen that I was not cut out for hard labor. I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers, and I did not like the chores kids get out in the country: white-washing fences, plowing, moving big things around, like barrels and cow and horse thingies. As soon as I was old enough, I got what I considered a real job, which was working at a greenhouse. The work wasn’t too strenuous, but it was hot, and I didn’t like that. I was a lifeguard, a waitress at the Big Texan Steak Ranch on I-40 in Amarillo, Texas, and I played on the high school golf team.

Today, I live in the suburbs of Austin. I run several mornings a week to keep my body from growing into the chair. I have a brand new puppy, a three year-old, and a husband who has decided to go to law school, which reminds me that it is never too late. I myself had another very successful career in government but realized I wouldn’t be happy doing that kind of job for the rest of my life. I wrote my first book at thirty-seven and am happy to say I am well on my way to having a second great career.

E.I. What is it about the art form of writing romantic novels that enchants you, and gives you the enduring passion to continue in such a demanding profession?

Julia London: The enchantment is in my love of writing and love stories. That’s the kind of movie I like, the kind of book I read, the kind of story I like to hear. The historical romances are as much an escape for me as they are for readers. The only difference is, I get to determine the fantasy, and that makes me want to come back to it every day—it’s cathartic and fun. The women’s fiction I write has become something of a passion because it challenges me as a writer. It’s difficult to capture universal emotions on a page in a way that everyone can feel and relate to, and challenge is in improving that craft and exploring different areas of growth each time. That is what brings me back to the desk over and over again. I want to see if I can do it.

E.I. Please tell your young readers about your novel “A Courtesan Scandal.” What was it that sparked your imagination? What were your favorite aspects about this book?

Julia London: The book was the third in a series I wrote around a true historical event. In 1806, the Prince of Wales wanted to divorce his wife. He accused her of adultery and urged his father, King George III to allow him to seek a parliamentary divorce. But the Princess had a few complaints of her own (the prince was a notorious philanderer) and threatened to publish a pamphlet about him, which was known simply as The Book, if she was not allowed back in the king’s favor. I built a series around that very public scandal and imagined all of the aristocracy and elite who would be touched by it.

In a Courtesan’s Scandal, the prince, who had numerous lovers in real life, has found a new mistress (and here is where the fiction begins). But he can’t let his affections be known publicly because it might look bad for him as he seeks divorce. So in my fantasy, he presses a stand-up duke to let it be known to the world that this particular courtesan is his mistress, and inevitably, the duke and the courtesan fall in love behind the prince’s back.

My favorite aspects of the book are that the duke and the courtesan come from very different places in life, but find they have a lot in common. It was interesting to put them in the milieu of regency London because neither of them were free, by society’s standards, to act on their desire without suffering very real consequences. I imagined it was very much like the Charles and Diana scandal in our lifetime—every move of that elite circle was watched. It was a juicy book to write.

E.I. What were your biggest challenge and obstacle while writing and creating the character Grayson Christopher and Kate Bergeron? Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story?

Julia London: The biggest challenge was discovering how a woman brought up in the mean streets of the London ghettos to be a famous mistress could possibly find anything in common with a man born to unimaginable privilege. I had a general idea of how that might work when I began, but I worked most of it out through the writing.

E.I. You've created a cast of characters so remarkably captivating that your readers definitely clamor for more; how did you decide what level of details your readers will accept? How does your creative process work?

Julia London: Oh, thank you so much. I don’t decide how much detail—I sort of go with my gut. My creative process is truly a mess. I begin with a general outline of the story—very general—and go from there. After twenty something books, I know one thing with all certainty: The beginning will start with a bang, the middle will suck the life right out of me, and the end will not come soon enough. But when I have those three things down on paper, I can go back and refine it. Sometimes that takes many trips through the manuscript, and sometimes I get it close to right. It helps to have an editor who can see the big picture, as well and a husband who reminds me, every time I say the book is a disaster, that I have said it about all the previous books.

E.I. If you were asked to read a page from “A Courtesan Scandal.” is there one that you would personally select to share with your fans? And why?

Julia London: That is really hard to answer! But I think I might pick page 248-249. That is the point where Grayson gives in to Kate’s world and sends the servants home and attempts to make her breakfast—and he’s been in a kitchen maybe twice in his life. That’s the point the reader knows that they really do belong to each other.

E.I. If you were allowed total control of the Hollywood version of “The Courtesan Scandal” who would be in it? And in your opinion who do you think should direct?

Julia London: Another hard question! For years, I have wanted Colin Firth to play all my heroes, but time marches on, and he might not be the best choice any longer. Colin, I still adore you. Gerard Butler wouldn’t be bad. As for Kate? That would have to be me. And if I am not available, someone pretty and sunny, like Amy Adams. I don’t know enough about directors to even toss out a name. But I do know that my version would be lush and gorgeous.

E.I. Ms. London, you are well known in the writing community as New York Times and USA Today best selling author, recipient of the RT Bookclub Award for Best Historical Romance and four-time finalist for the prestigious RITA award for excellence in romantic fiction. Do you ever feel pressure or insecure, or are you able to separate all that from your own creative process?

Julia London: Oh, you cannot begin to imagine the insecurities that crop up with the publishing of every book! I fear that each book that is released to the world is the one in which I have totally missed the mark and will bring down my career. I feel pressure to improve and grow as a writer, but under a tight deadline. I feel the pressure to self-promote, which is a whole other job in an of itself, that squeezes time from my writing. Writing and being published are lonely jobs, and I find that if I sit in an office by myself all day, I can very neatly turn little tiny things into full-blown dragons in my head. I guess it’s the nature of the beast because I know other writers who do the same. Fortunately for me, I have a great agent I can talk to at any time and who always brings me back down to earth. I’ve probably made myself sound like a complete nutjob, haven’t I? I don’t think the pressure and insecurities really interfere with my creativity in the long run, but can mash it up into a corner of my brain for a couple of days.

E.I. And, finally, could you give us a sneak peek about your upcoming book, “One Season of Sunshine? What was it that sparked your imagination about this book?

Julia London: I was talking about universal emotions before, and this book is a prime example of that. It came about because I have always been intrigued by the past and how it influences who we are today. My family settled in West Texas more than one hundred and fifty years ago. They lived in dugouts at first, owned huge swaths of land and raised wheat and cattle. Some of my earliest memories are hearing my grandmother talk about never bargaining with land. I wondered if I didn’t know about my family’s roots and my family tree, and if those memories and knowledge of the history before me hadn’t filled my consciousness as a child, would I be the person I am today?

I wrote this book about Jane, an adopted woman who goes in search of her past to inform her present life. She wants to know the woman who gave birth to her, where her unruly hair comes from, and what her ethnicity is. To Jane, her past is the key that will unlock her future. But in the course of her search, she meets Asher, a man who knows his past too well. His past has isolated him, and as Jane gets closer to discovering who she is, devastating secrets about her past threaten to destroy a future she is only beginning to glimpse.

E.I. Ms. London, Thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers all over the world?

Julia London: My advice is that if you want to write, you must do it every day. It’s like anything you want to do well—you have to practice and keep at it, plugging away, even if its only a couple of sentences a day. If you don’t write each day, you lose touch with your story and your vibe. The other thing I would say is not only should you think outside the box, you should live outside the box. It will influence the way you write.

Thank you so much for having me. I am very happy to share a little bit with your readers.

Photo of Julia London by Lisa Shepherd, Aimage Photography
To learn more about Julia London, please visit her website
To purchase her books, please visit AMAZON and Barnes & Noble

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