Julia Bell

My name is Julia Bell, I live in Yorkshire, England and write historical romance, although I have a full contemporary romance on Amazon (Deceit of Angels). My stories tend to have a theme; supernatural, paranormal, time travel etc. One of my stories titled Songbird has now won two awards. A Chill Book Premier Readers’ Award in 2019 and a Finalist Winner with Readers’ Favourite 2020.

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How long have you been writing for? And how much of this time has been fiction writing?

I started writing over twenty years ago and I’ve spent all that time writing fiction. I feel more comfortable ‘making it up’, although a great deal of personal experiences end up in my stories.

What’s the average word count for the books you write and how long does it take you to write your average book?

My first books were quite long 140,000 to 180,000. But for the last six or seven I’ve kept them to 100,000, which is about average for a paperback.

Actually writing a book might take me three or four months, but then the real hard work begins with the edits, polishing and following up on research. I like to publish a book once a year. However, it’s not a hard and fast rule. Being an Indie author my time schedule is my own.

What is your writing routine (Do you have a daily word count goal? Do you write whenever the spirit moves you?)

I like to write in the early morning when my mind is fresher. I try to write a chapter a day and the following morning I reread it and make changes before printing it out. When I have three chapters written, they are edited and put away until the entire book is completed. With the beginning, middle and end in my mind, I can now go back and reread, edit and polish, before putting the story on the shelf to ‘simmer’ for at least two to three months. The fourth and final edit is then sent to a proofreader.

How much do you research for a book before you start writing?

I do preliminary research, but often I don’t know how the book will unfold and I’ve actually surprised myself at times. I enjoy researching aspects of my stories and I’ve learned a great deal in the meantime. I love history and have a good grasp of past events, which I entwine in the narrative to give the story perspective.

What do you find most difficult about writing a book?

I often become frustrated when I can’t get a sentence or paragraph right. Sometimes I’ll return to work I did the previous day and delete the entire chapter and start again.

Which of your books are you most proud of and why?

I must say Songbird since it has won two awards and had the most reviews on Amazon. My proofreader thought it the best story and at book fairs, readers have approached me and told me how much they enjoyed reading that particular story.

Which of your books was the most difficult to write and why?

I found one section of Deceit of Angels (my contemporary romance) difficult to write since it had a rape scene and I had to summon the courage to get it down in writing.

Which self-publishing platform do you like the most and why?

I’ve always been with Amazon and I think by and large they help authors as much as possible.

Would you publish with a traditional publisher if they contacted you? Why?

I think I would. It would mean that someone has faith in me and my writing and that’s kudos for any writer who takes their writing seriously.

How many unfinished or unpublished works do you have?

Believe it or not, I have no work that is unfinished or unpublished. I tend to finish what I start. Of course my new work isn’t published yet (my 11th book), but that is because it’s not ready for publication at the moment.

Do you prefer creating stand-alone books or series?

I have a two-book series; Songbird and A Tangle of Echoes. The rest of my books are stand-alone. I prefer stand-alone since then the story is complete and I can put it to bed. When I wrote the second book in my series, I had to make copious notes so that characters were included and the story line continued in a logical order.

What’s one character you wish you would have created? What do you find compelling or interesting about this character?

Ross Poldark would have been an interesting character to create. He is the hero that most women adore and as a historical romance writer that’s what I’m trying to achieve.

What book do you wish you would have written? Why?

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It’s a gothic romance with all the right elements and a wonderful first sentence.

Do you find it challenging to write characters of a different gender, race, or culture than you? Do you do any special research for these characters?

I seem to be okay when writing characters of a different gender. But all my stories are set in England, usually in the nineteenth century and if the characters are of another culture, I always research a background for them, even if I never use it.

What does success as a writer look like for you?

When I get a five-star review and the reader writes about how much they enjoyed the story. It seems to make all the hard work worth it.

Writing can be a lonely job. Do you take any special steps to ensure you remain part of the world?

I’m very much part of the world, both on social media, my friends and family. I actually enjoy the times I can sit and write and not be interrupted. Hence rising early is beneficial for this.

Constantly sitting and writing can be physically debilitating. How do you take care of yourself, physically?

I try not to write for long periods of time. I will leave my seat to do household chores or make a cup of tea etc. I do seem to have an inner clock that tells me it’s time to stop, turn off my computer and take a walk to the shops.

Do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad ones?

I check the number of reviews and star ratings once a month and log them in a notebook. I don’t read reviews unless it’s a friend or an award. Sometimes I think they can be distracting and besides I’ve always believed reviews are for other readers not the author.

What books have you read that were particularly inspiring?

In my youth, before I started writing novels, I found many books inspiring. As a teenager I would read William Harrison Ainsworth’s historical fiction when I met Dick Turpin in Rookwood and I read every one of the sixteen-book Jalna series by Mazo de la Roche.

Do you have a favourite author? A favourite book?

I must be boring and say that Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte will always be my favourite authors. I can’t see Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre being beaten.

Do you plot your stories in great detail before starting to write, or fly by the seat of your pants?

I do both. I have a large red notebook and I devote one page to the characters; names, ages, physical characteristics, likes and dislikes. I will also write notes on any research I’ve done. This is the skeleton of the story. The flesh is often created as I go along and I’m amazed how often a character will do something and even I didn’t know she/he was going to do that.

Of all the characters in your stories, which is your favourite?

Isabelle in Songbird. I wrote it in the first person, but at the beginning I wrote in the third person. It didn’t feel right saying, “She was twenty-one years old when she sold her baby.” After a few minutes of thought I decided to change it to, “I was twenty-one years old when I sold my baby.”  It felt much more personal.

Have you based any characters on real people? If they found out, how did they respond?

My characters are based so loosely on real people, I doubt they would recognise themselves. It’s the personal experiences that worry me. I get told some interesting stories or overhear them on public transport. It’s all fodder for my books.

What’s the best thing about being an independent author? The worst?

I have the freedom to process my books as I wish and be responsible for the cover and formatting. I feel in control of all my hard work. However, being noticed is a big problem. I have spent more money on promotions than I’ve earned. I try and treat it as a serious hobby with potential in the future.

Do you make a living selling your books?

Make your writing the best quality you can achieve. Read what other authors say and study a few ‘how to’ books to learn the basics. Most important is to enjoy your writing and not to get despondent if you get a low star review. Even famous authors get one and two-star reviews. So, keep writing and don’t give up.

What advice would you give to a new author?

I’m afraid not, but I can always hope.

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