It’s my pleasure today to have a guest piece about writing from Julia Roberts, author of ‘If He Really Loved Me…’ which is the second in ‘The Liberty Sands’ trilogy and is available here in both ebook and paperback.
Julia tells us about how she began writing novels and the part words have always played in her life.
My Life in Words
Although I have only recently started writing novels, I think it’s fair to say that ‘words’ have been my business for almost thirty years. My first job as a presenter was in 1989. It was a series of live presentations for Vauxhall Motors at the Motor Fair at Earls Court Exhibition Centre. I had to learn a script, something I’m not very good at, which was full of facts, figures and technical data. There was a presentation on the hour, every hour and by the last day of the show the script was finally committed to memory. It was very different from the presenting job that I have had at QVC (the shopping channel) for the past twenty-two years. Of course I do have to learn facts about the products I’m presenting but there is no ‘script’ as such. Each presenter is given more or less free rein in the choice of language they use to present products or interview product guests.
In essence, I talk for a living and I think this has helped me write believable dialogue for the characters in my books. I love writing dialogue and I don’t just write the words, I say them in my head as I’m writing them and at the end of each day of writing I read everything out loud to my long-suffering other half just to be doubly sure that it sounds ‘right’.
I do tend to keep my two ‘jobs’ separate though. I prefer to sit and write for several hours at a stretch, anything from 1000 to 4000 words, and I like to be able to give it my full attention. Knowing that I have a time limit and will need to leave for work in a couple of hours doesn’t work for me creatively, although I don’t mind editing. The shift pattern I have at QVC works really well for me; I work eight days out of nine and then I have five days off. I am usually pretty shattered on the first of my days off but then I have a clear run of writing, which I certainly needed to meet the six month deadline I had given myself for my second novel, ‘If He Really Loved Me…’
I had taken around fifteen months to write my first novel, ‘Life’s a Beach and Then…’ and then another six months deciding whether to self-publish or go in search of an agent and/or publisher. I had tracked down the copy-editor that Random House used for my memoir, ‘One Hundred Lengths of the Pool’, and, after we had finished working on the manuscript together, she suggested a few agents to submit to.
I’ve discovered that while I can sell most things on QVC, I am pretty useless at ‘selling’ myself and I found it very time-consuming to try. My decision to self-publish was reached after a novelist friend of mine told me of the nightmare she had just had with her publisher. She didn’t hit it off with her copy editor, they made her change the title and she had no say in the cover. I wouldn’t say I’m a control freak but I did want my first novel to be ‘more or less’ as I’d written it. Thankfully, another friend of mine, Debbie Flint, who self-published her first four novels, put me in touch with a fabulous cover designer and a formatter. I certainly couldn’t have achieved the end product I did without seeking some help from these professionals and if you are going down the self-publishing route I would definitely recommend you consider doing the same. I’m very grateful to Debbie for sharing her contacts and her own experiences and will happily do the same. My webpage is here if you would like to message me.
Julia’s final book in ‘The Liberty Sands’ trilogy,’It’s Never Too Late to Say…’ will be out in May 2016.
You can follow Julia on Twitter.