Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Interview with Julia Buckley
I have six books contracted with Berkley (the Undercover Dish series and the Writer’s Apprentice Series). I published a standalone novel in 2006, and then the Madeline Mann mysteries on Kindle. I have several other stand-alone suspense novels (one of which is YA) on Kindle—in total I think it’s 13-14 books.
But that’s not counting the books I haven’t sold or self-published. I have at least four of those lingering in my Word files, waiting to be resurrected. Two of them are quite good, I think, but so far I haven’t found a home for them.
Under what names do you publish?
Right now I just publish under Julia Buckley.
What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
I have a dream vision of what a day in the life looks like, and then the actual version. 😊
In the dream version, I wake up in a big house with a view of a lake; I make some morning tea and blow on it while I stare at the idyllic view and imagine my way into a new story or chapter. Then I take my mug into my gorgeous office, a space which is all mine, as recommended by Virginia Woolf, and I sit at my long wooden desk with lots of drawers that smell like cedar and are neatly stocked with stationery supplies. Then I start typing, the ideas flowing out of me like water, and I basically write all day except for breaks to eat lunch and to take a rejuvenating walk along the lake. I aim for ten thousand words a day and I usually get there.
In the real version, I have a full-time job that is not writing (teaching high school English). So I wake up early and rush around getting ready for work, then feed my five animals before I wolf down the breakfast my husband makes for me (usually eggs) and dart out the door. Teaching is rewarding, but the pace of it is relentless and far faster than it used to be. It’s sort of like hopping onto a fast-moving sidewalk at eight and not getting off until four. Then I head home, often pretty tired out, and sit around for a while before I do dishes and start looking around for dinner options.
On these days, I do not write. By evening my brain is too tired to do more than passively watch television or try to read a book. In order for me to write (or get ideas for writing), I have to be well-rested. Therefore, the best ideas have come to me when I’m on a break from school or on vacation in a different location, or when I’m in the shower or in bed at night. Relaxation brings renewal, and renewal brings ideas. I get a lot of writing and thinking done in summer, when I have a truncated schedule of only teaching half-day summer school.
I don’t have very many rituals. I have gotten into the habit of doing first drafts on my laptop, so I type in my living room chair. I do have an office space, and I recently refurbished it, but I have to share the space with my husband’s weights and my son’s guitars, so it can get a little crowded.
In summer I sometimes like to write outside, but that can be more distracting than relaxing. I am one of those writers who writes best in silence. I have a friend who always says a little creativity mantra to herself before she begins writing, and she lights a candle for inspiration. I want to come up with something like that, but for now I just sit down and start writing. 😊
Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
They say there are plotters and pantsers (as in “flying by the seat of their pants”). I am more of a pantser, but not because I’m unwilling to plot—just because of the way my brain works when I tell a story. I find the story opens up for me much more if I just start the journey. If I try to sit and outline everything first it doesn’t feel organic, nor does it allow me for pleasant discoveries—characters I didn’t expect, or plot twists even I don’t see coming. So I like to start with only the basics—general plot idea, main characters, a general idea for resolution.
Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
Only in a general sense. Most of my fictional settings are amalgamations of various places I’ve been. The fun part of writing is that you can pick and choose—one thing from that town, another from this one. And then you add in your own creations. With people it’s the same; I don’t think I’ve ever written a character based on one individual, but we all know “types” of people, and so I often draw from those types that I’ve met. The talkative person, the introvert, the eccentric, the sweet old person.
Who is your favorite author?
I dedicated A Dark and Stormy Murder to Mary Stewart. She is my life-long favorite. I discovered her suspense novels when I was twelve or thirteen and I’ve read and re-read them all for forty years. Her writing had a literary sensibility, poetic descriptions of far-flung settings, and suspenseful plots that put a young woman out of her element, where she had to rely on only her wits and her courage to overcome adversity. They were amazing books, and they formed my idea of what makes a good story.
Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
Although I love pens and paper and all stationery products, I have to face this basic reality: I can type far more rapidly than I can write, so I make more progress on drafts by simply typing my ideas. Assuming I’m not facing a dearth of ideas, I can usually write several pages in one sitting—even a chapter or two if I’m on a roll—and while I could do this by writing in a notebook (as I once did), it would be a time waster, since I would still need to transcribe it to a computer.
I am on my laptop right now, composing this response. 😊
Julia Buckley is a Chicago mystery writer. She writes two series for Berkley Prime Crime. Her most recent title in the Writer’s Apprentice series, Death in Dark Blue, launched in May, and the third in her Undercover Dish series, Pudding Up With Murder, debuts in early September.
She teaches high school English. In her free time she likes watercolor painting, playing Words With Friends, discussing writing with her book group, or watching Netflix with her husband and two sons.
For a review of Pudding Up With Murder, click here. For other books by Julia Buckley, click here.