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Interview with Julia Michelle Dawson

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.) 


Writer’s Block?

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,

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I Want To Tell You A Story

I want to tell you a story.

I don’t know what that story is

But I know what I want it to do.

I want it to snag you out of your every day

I want it to make you pause, and wonder

I want it to transport so thoroughly you forget where you left your coffee

I want it to have characters so true and fascinating and flawed

That you want to hang out with them even once the story is done.

I want it to make your heart pound with fear and excitement

I want it to catch your breath and not give it back

I want it to raise your blood pressure, make your skin itchy and your hair stand on end,

I want it to say something important, but not preachy or pretentious

But I also want it to change the world

By which I mean, I want it to change you and me.

I want to tell you a story.

And I still don’t what that story is,

But I most certainly know what I want it to do.

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SO Hollywood…sigh

Sigh.  I apologize, I know I rant about this often.  I know I write about it almost every single Writober at some point, if not multiple times.  But honestly it’s only because of the amount of bullshit that gets slung at my city.  Look I get it.  LA/Hollywood is an industry town and that industry involves obscene amounts of money.  Money makes people weird.  The potential for money makes people weird.  Fame makes people weird.  The potential for fame makes people weird.  But I get really tired of the relentless claims that “Hollywood is SO shallow”, “You know everyone there is SO Hollywood”, “He’s a great guy, not Hollywood at all”, “You can’t even have a conversation with her she’s just WAY too Hollywood”…and on and on.  Hollywood is where my friend Sienna grew up.  Living in a sweet neighborhood on a street above Franklin Blvd. just a little west of Western.  Hollywood is where my friend Stacy grew up.  Living on Franklin Blvd. a bit west of Vermont.  She went to high school at Immaculate Heart on Los Feliz Blvd.  Hollywood is where my friend Alix lives in a sweet two bedroom apartment in what used to be a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.  She’s lived there for almost two decades now.  She shops at the local supermarket.  She has dinner at the restaurants a couple of blocks from her street.  She has a great Halloween party every year that we always try to attend.  Hollywood is where I lived in my early 20’s and I lovedlovedlovedloved it.  I played pool at one of the oldest pool halls in Los Angeles which was just one block down and one block over from my apartment.  I walked to the Baskin and Robbins ice cream shop on the corner of my street.  On nights at the beginning of spring I would walk along Franklin Blvd. following the scent of pink jasmine floating through the air until I met up with my friend at Birds, a bar that had decent coffee along with the usual bar drinks.  Hollywood is a place where people live and work and love and play and fuck up and hate.  But it’s just a city, a city that some people grow up in, they go to elementary school there, they are in the PTA, they open their shops in the morning and hope they do enough business to pay their rent, they go to jobs working for the MTA and Ralph’s and law firms and hospitals and Veterinary offices.  Yeah some of them work in the entertainment industry, even a lot of them do…but for those of us who have lived in Los Angeles our whole lives it’s such a slap in the face to dismiss all the other people who live and work and make this city such a wonder to live in.  Hollywood is so much more than one industry and so much less than most people’s dreams. 

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Inspired by a song…

Song: Before The Eyes of Storytelling Girls by Anais Mitchell

We are here in the midst of this chaos we did not create, we do not condone and we can’t seem to contain.  We have tried, over and over, in all the different ways at our disposal.  We teach with fairy tales and metaphors, we show through the example of how we treat others, we comfort and guide and still it never seems to be enough to change the path.  We have been gentle, we have been fierce, we have laid down our bodies and our souls, we resisted, we surrendered, we have raged and been serene, we picked up weapons and we have walked as pacifists through the battles and still, over and over, we find ourselves here.  I guess no matter what the center will not hold and eventually everything falls, leaving only fragments of our fairy tales, broken pieces of cell phones and a glass bead or two.

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Writober 2018

Photo by from Pexels

So it’s almost time for yet another Writober.  I’ve been revisiting some old Writobers and I have to say it’s been quite funny.  Over the years there have been, at times, only a couple of us writing and other times quite a few of us from all over the world writing.  There are a few of us who have been doing this for many years now.  If you don’t know, Writober is a group writing exercise in a way.  We agree to write something, anything really, three times a week and send it to everyone on the email list.  The goal is to simply write with some regularity in the company of others who are doing the same thing.  

I have written complete nonsense.  I have written things I had no idea I was going to write.  I have surprised myself with what I have written.  I have felt irrationally irritated that I have to write something but I try to do it anyway.  I have totally forgotten to write.  I have been obsessed with an idea and been unable to get it written.  I have been just blithering something out because it’s a Monday or Wednesday or Friday and suddenly it turns into something enchanting.  No matter what, Writober always does exactly what I hoped it would do when I first started it…it gets me to write words.  What happens from there is always surprising.

So I hope that all who join me this Writober get some words written and I wish us all some surprising, irritating, and enchanting writing at the end of it.

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A Poem by the Amazing Sandra Cisneros

I need some poetry right now.  I need some art and music and dance and all that reminds me the human spirit is powerful and we rise above our failures and character defects and smallness even in the darkest of times.  I need some poetry right now and thought you might too.
xoxo Miss Bliss
Loose Woman – Poem by Sandra Cisneros

They say I’m a beast.
And feast on it. When all along
I thought that’s what a woman was.

They say I’m a bitch.
Or witch. I’ve claimed
the same and never winced.

They say I’m a macha, hell on wheels,
viva-la-vulva, fire and brimstone,
man-hating, devastating,
boogey-woman lesbian.
Not necessarily,
but I like the compliment.

The mob arrives with stones and sticks
to maim and lame and do me in.
All the same, when I open my mouth,
they wobble like gin.

Diamonds and pearls
tumble from my tongue.
Or toads and serpents.
Depending on the mood I’m in.

I like the itch I provoke.
The rustle of rumor
like crinoline.

I am the woman of myth and bullshit.
(True. I authored some of it.)
I built my little house of ill repute.
Brick by brick. Labored,
loved and masoned it.

I live like so.
Heart as sail, ballast, rudder, bow.
Rowdy. Indulgent to excess.
My sin and success-
I think of me to gluttony.

By all accounts I am
a danger to society.
I’m Pancha Villa.
I break laws,
upset the natural order,
anguish the Pope and make fathers cry.
I am beyond the jaw of law.
I’m la desperada, most-wanted public enemy.
My happy picture grinning from the wall.

I strike terror among the men.
I can’t be bothered what they think.
¡Que se vayan a la ching chang chong!
For this, the cross, the calvary.
In other words, I’m anarchy.

I’m an aim-well,
sh arp-thinking,
woman-on-the-loo se
loose woman.
Beware, honey.

I’m Bitch. Beast. Macha.
Ping! Ping! Ping!
I break things.

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The Power and Responsibility of Art

This is poetry…and whether you like it or not, whether you agree with its point of view or not, it is doing what art should always be doing…it confronts and it declares and it should make you think and think hard. Because none of us knows every truth and if you want me to see another point of view, maybe your point of view, show me a poem as passionate and courageous as this one.

Revenge by Elisa Chavez

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Entering Week 2 of Upper Respiratory Plague.

There won’t be much here until I can stop coughing.

Carry on.

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