The following is an interview I did with Julia Michelle Dawson, author of Geneva, A Novel of International Intrigue. This interview is from 2013 and originally appeared at a writer’s blog site that I contributed to low those many years ago. I have been chatting with Julia and have updated a couple of the final answers regarding more Novels of International Intrigue. OH…and Geneva…it’s a BRILLIANT book. I highly recommend it.
How did you get from the world of finance/business to writing fiction?
Purely by accident. I was driving down the street with my friend Marjorie when she said she was afraid to stay at home at night if her husband wasn’t there so he gave her a gun…and it was an elephant gun! I laughed and said, “Marjorie, if I ever write a book that’s what I’m going to call it: Marjorie and the Elephant Gun!” The very next night I started writing the story. Soon I knew it was longer than a poem, then longer than a short story, and before I knew it I was drowning in a novel and I didn’t know how to write. That’s when I started attending the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. I learned how to write by writing a novel…there must be a better way!
Can you talk a bit about your experiences with workshops/writers groups?
The Santa Barbara Writers Conference was great. That’s where a met Leonard Tourney who was a professor at UCSB. I thought “how can I get into his class without having to enroll in college again”? It turned out that he did a weekly writers workshop practically in my backyard in Santa Ynez. When I moved over the hill to Santa Barbara I joined Leonard Tourney and Shelly Lowenkopf in a work shop at the Montecito Library. We called it the “Lion’s Den” for good reason. Later, I started a workshop at my home which I called that San Ysidro Writers Workshop. We would read one chapter a week out loud and then comment on each other’s work. Occasionally I would hire a visiting instructor and we would all pitch in to cover the costs. It’s a very valuable experience to get feedback from other writers and to have to produce a chapter on deadline.
GENEVA is a pretty complex mystery/thriller. Can you talk a bit about your plotting process, any tips or tricks you use to keep track of it all?
Although I do keep a chapter and scene outline, I usually don’t have a problem keeping track of the plot. In my mind, it plays like a movie and I am just writing down what is there. What I have learned (by mistake of course) is that I need to write down and keep handy the character development details, so I don’t in chapter one write that he has green eyes and then in chapter ten write about his brown eyes!
Can you tell us about your regular writing schedule?
I don’t wait for my muse to show up! I schedule a time to plant my tail in the chair and write! If I sit in the chair and don’t know what to write (which rarely happens because I am always, while driving etc, thinking about what I am going to write) I will do stream of consciousness writing to loosen up my brain. I simply write whatever work pops in my mind; blue wall green glass door free grass light sky etc) for a few minutes. I also follow the advice of Hemingway – to stop while I still have something to write (which is easy because I always run out of time first!)
Starting a publishing company?
I decided to do this when I read the traditional publishing contracts and learned how little the writer actually keeps when they sign away all the rights to their work. Today’s options for printing are remarkable – you don’t need to order thousands of books. Digital publishing allows the writer to keep the lion’s share of the sales dollars. As in any business, you have to spend money to make money. No book will succeed (with a major publisher or self-published) unless there is a marketing budget behind it. When I realized that I have, through my work experience in public speaking, print, and television, all the skills needed to promote a book – I took the jump. I spend all the money I make from writing my column on marketing the fiction.
More in this series?
Nairobi – A Novel of International Intrigue is the second book and is currently in the publishing process.
Vienna – A Novel of International Intrigue, the third book, is currently in the editing phase.
What do you read?
I love reading auto-biographies about really dynamic, powerful, and adventurous women. Needless to say there aren’t many of these around – yet! West with the Wind by Beryl Markham is my favorite book. Beryl was a safari pilot and the first person to fly East to West across the Atlantic. I also loved Daughter of Destiny by Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Mister of Pakistan and Personal History by Katharine Graham (publisher of the Washington Post.)
If I get stuck, I print out what I have written that day, move to the other side of the room and read out loud. (Usually only to my cat – who yawns) then can more easily see what it needs.
So again, Geneva, a Novel of International Intrigue is available on Amazon and Audible. You can find out about Julia Michelle Dawson’s other creative adventures at her website, juliamichelledawson.com