We’re pretty easy going here, Julie, so please make yourself at home. Feel free to sprawl on the sofas or grab a chair by the stove. Dogs are very welcome, biscuits supplied.
1 - So first up, Julie. What are you having? Name your poison, or in this case the hot beverage and tasty treat of your choice. The chef is very accomplished with a whisk and a rolling pin.
JR - Thanks so much for having me and what a lovely welcome! I love a nice cup of coffee in the morning, milk and one sugar please. As for a treat, I’d choose a ‘pain au chocolat’ being a bit of a chocoholic. (Mmmm chocolate ... )
2 – Mini bio time. Let’s get to know a little bit more about how you ended up here on my sofa. Are you a full time writer, Julie, or do you have an additional occupation or hobby that drags you away from the keyboard?
JR - I wish! Like many writers, I can’t afford to write full time so I run our local village post office in the mornings. The rest of the day I’m a distance learning tutor, teaching English over the phone to French companies. I write in between whenever I can. The good thing about working from home is that I’m never far from my keyboard or a coffee!
3 – How did you get into writing? Perhaps you’re lucky enough to be a member of a writer’s group. Or maybe you just fell into it by accident.
JR - I’ve always written, even as a small child but my dream of one day writing a novel was just that until I started working from home. One day I bumped into fellow writer Linn B Halton and her writing journey inspired me to dust off my notes and get cracking. ‘Jenna’s Journey’ was the result and I haven’t looked back since. Together we set up a ‘Book Club’ and their support has also been invaluable.
4 – What was the first thing you had published and how did you go about it? Did you run the gauntlet of the query letter or decide to self publish? How do you promote your work?
JR - My goal was ultimately to write a novel and the fact that you can self-publish on Amazon was very attractive. I am a bit of a control freak so wanted to keep the novel in my own hands and didn’t approach publishers. That’s something I may consider in the future but for the moment I’m busy building up a reader base and interacting with people on Facebook and Twitter. For all the faults of social media, I’ve ‘met’ some lovely people that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I also set up my own blog site so that I can help publicise other writers’ work. Hopefully by spreading a bit of goodwill, it’ll make the online writers’ community a better place.
5 – I love to genre hop, how about you? Do you write in a specific genre? Which is your favourite and why?
JR - I didn’t plan my genre, rather it chose me. At first, I only had an idea of writing about Greece where I spent some time in the 1980s. I knew it wasn’t quite chick-lit, nor was it a real thriller but I love the fact it embraces several genres. I call it a romantic mystery but in fact the only thing it’s missing is a steampunk vampire! I guess we write about what we enjoy reading and as I enjoy contemporary women’s fiction, thrillers and suspense mixed with a bit of historical fiction, it’s not surprising that my first novel has ended up as a crossover.
6 – Is there a particular genre or type of scene that you would avoid and if so why?
JR - I love a good story so for me almost anything is permissible if it allows the story to flow. Just recently though, I’ve noticed a tendency for very steamy sex scenes in lots of different genres. I don’t mind the odd scene if it’s well written but after six or seven such scenes in one book, I found myself thinking ’just get on with it. I want to know what happens next.’
7 – As a child which was your favourite book? Were you read to as a child and did that develop your love of books? Do you have a favourite book and author now? What are you reading now?
JR - I was an absolute Enid Blyton fanatic as a child and my greatest pleasure was shopping with my mum on Friday evenings. She’d leave me in the book aisle happily reading while she did the shopping and then I got to choose which book to buy. That most definitely developed my love of books. Nowadays my choice is much more eclectic. I don’t have one favourite author but amongst my top choices are Philippa Gregory, Anne Zouroudi, Sara Alexi, Kate Moreton, Kate Mosse, John Fowles, Ken Follett
8 – Tell us a little about the books you currently have published and what you have planned next.
JR - My debut novel, Jenna’s journey, tells the story of a young woman who flees to Greece to escape her failing marriage. It’s a voyage of discovery as she works out what she wants. On the way she gets caught up in a drug smuggling ring, There are lots of twists and turns but it’s only when her daughter returns to Greece twenty-five years later that some of the questions are answered. There’s also a romantic interest in the form of Nikos the hotel manager. It’s a bit like ‘Sliding Doors’ meets ‘Shirley Valentine.’
At the moment I’m working on my second book in the series. It’s called ‘Sophia’s Story’ and although it’s set on the same island, it isn’t a sequel. One or two of the characters from’ Jenna’s Journey’ do appear though. After I’d finished the book, they just wouldn’t leave me alone.
9 – And tell us even more about the one you’ve brought with you. I did explain about reading an excerpt later didn’t I? Oh good. Don’t think you get coffee and cake for nothing.
JR -‘Jenna’s Journey’ touches on several themes such as domestic abuse, love and romance, motherhood and I hope gives the reader pause for thought. It is set against a backdrop of Greece, a country that I came to think of as my second home so is an ideal beach read if you’re looking for something more than boy meets girl, conflict stops the path of true love, boy and girl live happily ever after. I like to leave the reader guessing and you’ll have to wait and see if love wins out in the end.
When Jenna decides on a whim to go to Greece, she’s trying to escape her failing marriage. Will Greg let her go so easily though? Can she make a new future for herself and how did she get involved in an antiques smuggling ring? Is fellow holidaymaker Tom all he seems and will it be happy ever after with Nikos? It’s not until twenty-five years later that some of the questions are finally answered.
10 – Pick one of your characters and sell him/her to us in twenty words or less.
JR - I became extremely fond of ‘Jenna’ – sassy, fun-loving yet vulnerable ; she’s had her spirit knocked out of her but finds love when she least expects it.
11 – While I top up your coffee would you like to read a short excerpt from your book?
As she stepped off the plane, she felt a rush of excitement and anticipation flood over her. She wondered if her mother had felt the same when she arrived in Greece almost twenty-five years ago. She knew that there must have been many changes during that time. Instead of flying direct to the island, her mother would have had to fly to Athens first and then taken a boat to the island as direct flights to the island had only started up a couple of years ago. She stood in line waiting to clear customs, feeling guilty even though she had nothing to hide. Just walking through the green channel she could sense hidden eyes watching her every move. This automatically made her act suspiciously and then breathing a sigh of relief she was through and out into the bright Greek sunshine. Squinting to read the address on the scrap of paper, she hailed a taxi and the driver sped off towards the hotel.
“Hi, I am Leo,” the taxi driver said, introducing himself in fluent English.
“Allie,” she replied.
She’d been anxious about being ripped off or being taken on a wild goose chase, but there was no need to worry. Leo seemed to be the exception to her stereotyped image of Greek drivers. Although he drove fast, he negotiated the roads with great skill. Driving up narrow tracks, he tooted his horn to let any other drivers know he was coming. She wanted to ask him about the austerity measures that had recently been imposed on them in order to meet their euro deficit obligations. She had been quite shocked at the effects that the cutbacks had had on ordinary people. Last year the government had introduced a kind of surtax cunningly collected through the electricity bill. If you refused to pay or couldn’t pay, you were cut off – simple! People had struggled to keep warm through the winter, as many couldn’t afford oil any more. The news had shown piles of rubbish in the streets thanks to the refuse collectors going on strike because they hadn’t been paid. Allie remembered seeing pictures of Piraeus on the news with rubbish piles as high as cars. She wanted to ask Leo more about how ordinary people had coped but when she pressed him for more details he shrugged and smiled,
“Greece is not only Athens, you know. Here, sure, life is tough but we survive. Maybe we spend a little less, complain a little more but life is good. You are in the most beautiful place in the world. If you have the sun and the sea and a few vegetables – what more do you need?”
Looking around at the idyllic scenery of the island, Allie thought that this was a far cry indeed from the sensationalist pictures of Athens that she’d seen on the TV. They finally pulled up in front of a traditional-looking but freshly painted hotel. Allie took the well-thumbed photo from her bag for comparison. Whilst the land around had all been eaten up by new developments, the hotel itself looked remarkably similar to the photo. It had been extended at the side but there was no doubt that this was the place. Maybe now she would get the answers that she’d been waiting for all this time? She wanted answers that her mother couldn’t or perhaps wouldn’t give her.
“Here we are,” said Leo, taking her holdall from her and escorting her up some stone steps. Allie added a few euros to the fare, partly in relief at having got here in one piece and also because Leo had been so charming. She knew from the guidebook she’d read on the plane that it wasn’t necessary to tip, but Leo accepted gracefully, handing her a card with his number on it in case she needed his services again. If what he’d told her was true, Allie guessed that meant his family could eat that night.
She walked up to the reception desk and seeing no one about, rang the bell. She was quite surprised by the interior. Whilst the hotel looked traditional on the outside, the inside had been renovated in a very contemporary style. She was sure it was the right place, but she really didn’t know where to start to get the answers she’d come all this way for. She was in the middle of reading the notice above the desk which advertised free Wi-Fi access for hotel residents when a man in his late forties or could be early fifties – Allie wasn’t much good at telling people’s ages – came out of a room at the back. His skin was lightly tanned and he was wearing a light blue chambray shirt, which set his tan off perfectly. He must have been good-looking in his youth, thought Allie.
The man stopped in his stride and she watched the colour fade from his face in disbelief.
“My God, it can’t be,” he whispered.
“You must be Nick,” replied Allie. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost!”
12- And let us know where we can find you, Julie.
13– And finally a little game that I hope all my guests will contribute to. Can you give me 100 words of your choosing to follow on from this? your last line will be picked up by the next guest... and so on:
Then the door crashed down, and the furred beast was . . .
...upon her. She tried to push it off with all her might but it was simply too strong for her. She could smell its rancid breath in her face: a mix of stale fish and something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She was trapped now. There was no way out and nobody to save her. The furred beast had a horrible rough tongue which she could feel on her cheek. It opened its maw wide and out came a pitiful ‘miaow’.
“Get off me, stupid cat, “ she cried and as she fell back asleep, the dream changed again. This time she was chained up in the castle basement as the flood waters began to rise.
Thanks so much for coming, Julie. I wish you much success with your books.
Thanks Babs and compliments to the pastry chef - yum