Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Fiona, My name is Julia Blake and I’m coming up to a big birthday – I’ll be 50 in July.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I come from a gorgeous little market town called Bury St Edmunds, nestled in the heart of the Suffolk countryside in the UK
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I was born in Bury, and have lived for the past twenty-five years in a lovely, three storey, Victorian town house, with my thirteen year old daughter, one crazy cat and a succession of crazy lodgers.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My latest news is probably all about my latest book to be published. It’s called “Eclairs for Tea and other stories” and is a collection of short stories, flash fiction and poetry. This is a real leap of faith for me, as my poetry has never before been shared with anyone other than close friends.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always been writing, since I could first pick up a pencil, and loved writing plays for my dolls to act out. At school, I enjoyed writing essays and once my play was picked for the Christmas production. What a rush that was, seeing my words acted out by my classmates.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t know if I even consider myself one now, despite having two novels, a novella and this latest collection published, it all still seems like I’m pretending.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A divorce from hell. This was a very difficult time for me, when all control over my life was taken out of my hands. During this period, a close friend asked me to attend a writing course with her, I did, and it was as if a lightbulb went off in my head. That evening, I started to write furiously, two months later, my first novel was published. Although it was ten long years before I had the self-confidence to actually publish anything, and, when I did, it wasn’t that first novel, written in a state ofanger and bitter frustration.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Titles are generally the easiest part of writing. Usually, I have a title floating about my head with no story attached to it, then, suddenly, something will click. In the case of my first published novel, The Book of Eve, the title was initially because the main character, Eve, was writing a book about her life. Then, I gradually realised each chapter was directly related to books of the bible, i.e. the funeral chapter – Exodus. The chapter dealing with how she met everyone – Genesis. The chapter in which a great tragedy occurs – Lamentations. The chapter in which the reader discovers the secret – Revelations. So, the title, The Book of Eve, came to have an even deeper meaning.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I read of other authors, who plan and map out each chapter and character. I’m afraid it’s nothing like that for me. I simply sit, at my laptop, disengage my brain, open the floodgates and let it all pour out. Hours later, I’ll look down and realise, somehow, I’ve written over 4000 words. Then I edit thoroughly, each segment, until I’m happy with it, before moving on to the next. My biggest challenge with writing, is lack of time. Holding down two jobs, running a home, raising a child, self-promoting my published books, blogging, reading and reviewing, doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for actual writing, which can be very frustrating. Walking around, with all these voices shouting in my head to be released, can sometimes make me very distracted and hard to live with.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
That’s a tough one, I would say not much of my real life is in my books, but then, I guess, my experiences and opinions must filter into it somehow. I don’t tend to use actual people I know as templates, but, sometimes, a mannerism or character trait will strike a chord and in it goes. For example, in The Book of Eve, I used the way an old friend of mine used to drive her car.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No, my books come purely from my imagination, and two of my novels, Becoming Lili and The Book of Eve, are actually based in my home town, so, no travelling necessary.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The Book of Eve’s cover was designed by my publisher, with lots of input from me. The covers to Becoming Lili, Eclairs for Tea and my eBook novella, Lifesong, were all designed by me, using purchased images from Shutterstock and a friend’s graphics computer graphics programme. My covers tend to be simple, classy, designs, which I hope will stand out and make people want to read them.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In Becoming Lili, the message is clear, no matter how awful your childhood is, no matter how neglected and abused you are, you alone have the ability to change who you are, to grasp life by the throat and make it your own. My eBook novella, Lifesong, also has a very powerful message. It’s the tale of an alien woman from a far-away planet, who travels to our world and is horrified at what she finds. The message here is, “What kind of a world is this, that can treat itself so?”
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
There are so many amazing authors out there, it would be impossible to pick just one. I adore the fantasy works of Robin Hobb, and the urban fantasy of Charles de Lint. Since joining Instagram, I have been blown away by the sheer talent of the many indie authors I have encountered. All struggling for recognition in such an over saturated market.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Yes, the lovely Becky Wright – Author. A long-term friend, we met eleven years ago at the writing course I spoke of, she has been an absolute inspiration, encouraging me to not give in, no matter how hard it gets at times, and supplying me with much needed technical advice. You should totally check out her books.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, definitely. Even if I never make it big, at least, if I keep publishing, I’ll know that someone, somewhere, is reading my words. Also, it is encouraging to know that people love my stuff. Eve was published three years ago and, over forty-five reviews worldwide later, I have not had a single bad one. That is encouraging, and makes you carry on, no matter how difficult a path it seems.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Pay someone else to do the formatting – uggh, what a nightmare it turned out to be. Being a collection rather than a novel, it made for formatting hell.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I have recently started on the sequel to Becoming Lili, which was written ten years ago, and have realised how much my writing has matured, changed. It just goes to show, writing is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Oh, that would depend on which book we were talking about. My next novel, now in final edits, is a fantasy and I can see exactly whom I want to play the king, Daniel Craig. In fact, I even had one character in the book remark to her sister, how much the king looks like the latest James Bond.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Don’t stop writing. Try to set aside and time and a space that is your time and your place for writing. Reinforce that to your family, that you are not to be disturbed during that time and in that place. It is so hard sometimes, life gets in the way, but you need to keep writing.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you for all the amazing reviews, the feedback on Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram. The way you message me about the characters in my books, as if they are as real to you as they are to me. Thank you. Your support means the world, and without you, it would all be for nothing.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m actually reading two. On my kindle I’m reading The Isle of Winds for the fabulous James Fahy, and, because reading my kindle in bed makes my eyes water, my bedtime book is The Heir by Kiera Cass. This was my daughter’s recommendation. She absolutely adored this series, and, as I like to share her reading experiences, I thought I’d give it a go.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Probably not, I was an early reader. But I remember loving all the Enid Blyton books, and being hopelessly addicted to anything fantasy or other worldly, so C.S. Lewis, of course, and the Joan Aiken “Wolves of Willoughby Chase” books, such imaginative writing, they were steampunk before we all knew what steampunk was. And, of course, I loved all the classics – Heidi, The Secret Garden, Five Children and It.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Not a lot makes me cry – cruelty to animals, my daughter being hurt or upset and intolerance or injustice to others – no, on second thoughts, scrap that last one, that just makes me angry. Far more makes me laugh – funny films, spending time with friends, the silliness of life in general. I have a very broad and easy going sense of humour.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
King Alfred the Great – what a man. He was completely crushed at one point, hiding out in the Somerset marshes with a handful of men, but, he refused to be beaten, rose up and drove out the Vikings. He founded the justice system still used in the UK, and many other parts of the world, today. He united the country under one king, and did all of this whilst suffering from Crohns Disease. But, why I really like him, when he died, instead of leaving his wife to the care of his eldest son, as was the custom, he gave her land and money in her own name. Like I said, what a man.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I don’t have time for many hobbies, and some would say writing is my hobby. But, I do enjoy cooking and spending time with friends and family, I have a lovely little garden and enjoy pottering around in it. I love films and going to the cinema, and, when I have enough time, enjoy decoupaging.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Game of Thrones, obviously, really excited for the new season. I also love shows such as Stranger Things, Orphan Black and Doctor Who. I hate sport, reality shows and soaps – my life is simply too short to waste on them.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I pretty much enjoy all foods, especially Italian and Chinese. Colour and I get along very well, and I love using bold, rich colours in my home décor. As to music, again, my tastes are very wide ranging, from classical to heavy metal and everything in-between, although I do like groups such as Fleet Foxes, Clannad and Munford and Sons, and I’m really like Rag and Bone Man’s new album.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I can’t imagine that future. I have over a dozen stories in my head right now, all demanding attention. It’s going to take me years just to write them all down.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Here lies the famous author, Julia Blake…
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I post blogs on my Goodreads page, and people can always visit my website which is www.juliablakeauthor.co.uk
My Goodreads page is https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13428242.Julia_Blake
My YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqDAyIxGNfE