Today With Julie McGowan

Introducing the authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair,, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival .  I’m looking forward to having many more such chats over the next couple of weeks. 

So far I’ve interrogated interviewed Rebecca Bryn:, Thorne Moore: , Matt Johnson: , Christoph Fischer: , Sally Spedding:, Wendy Steele: ,Kathy MIles: , Carol Lovekin:, Colin R Parsons: , Lisa Shambrook:  ,Alex Martin: ,  Judith Arnopp: , Sharon Tregenza:    Juliet Greenwood: , Nigel Williams:   and Alys Einion: And thanks to Thorne Moore for interviewing me:  Over the next week or two I’ll be introducing the rest of the authors. I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance and who will be giving short talks and may be able to give advice to would-be authors: ,   and ,

There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of who, as usual, will be filming the event.


Today I’m really pleased to introduce Julie McGowan; a truly prolific author.



Hi Julie, Good to see you here today to chat about your writing

 Hi Judith, pleased to be here… and happy to share.

Right, tell me, please, why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

My two novels set in Wales are both historical fiction set in the first half of the twentieth century. It’s a period of time that has always fascinated me, particularly how people lived through two world wars and still manage to do all the normal things like fall in love and get married etc.

The Mountains Between

Just One More Summer










I also write contemporary fiction, not set in Wales, and switch between the two as the mood takes me.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I read from an early age – not much on the telly then! Also, I was involved in amateur dramatics through our chapel from childhood and that inspired me to weave stories.

How long have you been writing?

Over 20 years

What kind(s) of writing do you do?

Novels, commercial short stories for women’s magazines, features for national publications, pantomimes, sketches for adults and children, songs.

What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?

I think it widens people’s horizons and enables them to experience situations and places that they may never come across in their lives. I think this is particularly important for children, and get quite cross when publishers etc think children’s books should only reflect the lives children lead. Very pleased J. K. Rowling ignored that!

How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?

‘Don’t Pass Me By’ includes some scathing reflections on the narrowness there used to be in some Welsh village chapels. I’m a practising Christian, but firmly believe that everyone should be allowed to follow their own spiritual path and not be weighed down by church dogma from any faith.

Don't Pass Me By

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

I wanted to remind people that the movement of evacuee children during WW2 didn’t always have the  happy ending we like to glorify when these times are looked back on with rather rose-coloured glasses. I also wanted to show the difference between how children were treated then, and how our helicopter-parenting style today can be overprotective. I think I’ve achieved both objectives.

Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?

My research was rather solitary, but after the book was published I was contacted by a lady in her 80s who wanted to share her harrowing experience of being an evacuee. Her story was more amazing than anything I’d written! But the message she wanted to give me was that she wasn’t destroyed by her experience and that life can turn around – she was just brilliant.

What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?

I read books about first hand accounts of evacuees from South Wales, and used the internet, particularly the BBC history website.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Portraying elements of child sexual abuse that makes the reader understand the emotional turmoil the child is going through whilst not making the actual abuse too graphic.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Feeling I’d succeeded with the hardest parts as outlined above!

What inspires you?

Listening to ‘ordinary’ people talking about their lives

How did you get to be where you are in your life today?

By not being scared to take chances and change direction – which could be construed as blind optimism!

Who are some of your favourite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

The much under-rated, in my view, Monica Dickens, and Elizabeth Jane Howard, both of whom succeeded in building wonderful stories around everyday people and multi-stranded novels. They helped me to look at the subtleties of human behaviour and made me want to express those subtleties in short, often oblique descriptions or sentences.

What did you find most useful in learning to write?  What was least useful or most destructive?

Most useful was writing a weekly column for a local paper which had to have a strict word count, so I learned how to edit my work and make it ‘less is more’. Least useful were some of the rejections from agents rather than publishers, who seemed to enjoy a critical put-down rather than a polite ‘no thanks’.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

Part time, which occasionally makes it difficult to get back under the skin of a character.

What are some day jobs that you have held?  If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

Nurse, health visitor, school matron, town clerk, actress, theatre-in-education director to name but a few. Health visiting in particular I think increased my empathy and understanding of family dilemmas and I think has helped me to describe characters’ emotions.

How do you feel about eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I think there is a place for eBooks but they will never replace the feel of a print book in one’s hands and the anticipation of turning to that first page… Alternative publishing, when done well, can challenge conventional publishing, as long as it’s well edited.

What process did you go through to get your book published?

I had already had two books produced by the same publisher, so this book was already agreed. For my first book I went through the usual tortuous process of trying to find an agent or publisher and in the end worked my way through the list of publishers who would accept unsolicited manuscripts.

What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

It’s a page-turning story, with a number of characters that resonate with the readers, and has a strong emotional content, set in a turbulent time, but in a beautiful place.

How do you find or make time to write?

I try to carefully portion out my week to include writing time amongst my other commitments, but it often goes wrong!

Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?  Summarise your writing process.

I have a story and main characters in my head, and know how I want it to begin and end. Then I write, and often change the flow of the story as other characters work their way in, but the main plot ends the way I envisaged.

What are some ways in which you promote your work?  Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?

I do numerous book signings, talks, writing classes, book fairs and festivals. They do take up some time but are invaluable for meeting people and getting my name known – and often give me ideas for new characters!

What do you like to read in your free time?

Predominantly novels but of no particular genre – whatever intrigues me.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’ve just finished my latest novel so am doing a final edit.

What do your plans for future projects include?

One of my books has been published in Germany, so my publisher is trying to get rights sold in other European countries. I may start another novel after the summer, once this year’s panto has been written, which has to be ready by September.

And my favourite for dealing with popular authors who’ve already done a lot of interviews: What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? Write it out here, then answer it.

Question: Who is your favourite character in ‘Don’t Pass Me By’

Answer: It has to be Arfur, the young lad from the East End who finds it so hard to settle in a small Welsh village, and is so determinedly loyal to his good-time Mum, even in the face of all the evidence that she has deserted him. Once I’d got his character established I wanted to take  him home with me!


Find Julie here:


6 thoughts on “Today With Julie McGowan

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