Today, on my Wednesday interviews with fellow Honno authors, I’m thrilled to be interviewing Juliet Greenwood, author of Eden’s Garden and We That are Left
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I live on the edges of a village in Snowdonia, in a traditional quarryman’s cottage with a large garden. I worked in London for nearly ten years after studying there, so I really appreciate the peace and quiet – although I love going back to the big smoke every now and again.
When did you decide to become a writer?
The moment I began to read! I was a bookworm when I was a child and always writing stories. I took an English degree thinking that’s how you become a writer. I didn’t realise that you also needed to do a bit of living as well! I’ve always chosen jobs that allowed me to write, it’s the only career I’ve ever wanted. I’m glad it’s taken time though – I’m not sure I could have taken the criticism when I was younger.
Where do your ideas come from?
From all sorts of places. Often they are sparked by novels or factual books I am reading, or by something I catch on TV, and sometimes it can be something I’ve heard from my own family history. Since I’ve concentrated on writing historical fiction, much of my inspiration has come from stories of ordinary women doing extraordinary things who have then been largely forgotten. Women have done amazing things right throughout history, as inventors and explorers and businesswomen – it’s those stories that fascinate me and that I want to tell. I’m currently writing about the suffrage movement, the women and men who campaigned peacefully for the vote for decades before the suffragettes appeared. It’s something I knew very little about, but that I came across while I was reading around my previous novel ‘We That are Left’, which was set in the First World War.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I write serials as well as novels. When I’m writing a serial I need to outline the plot as my proposal to the magazine. They then agree the plot and sometimes ask for changes – which is fine as they know their readers and they know what works. It’s only then that I write the full story. I have some freedom as long as I stay within the general outline. Because I’m writing one instalment at a time, there’s no opportunity to go back and change anything drastic. It’s a real discipline and I enjoy the challenge.
When I’m writing a novel I have more freedom. I usually know the beginning and the end and a general idea of the rest, but things can change. I like the fact that solving one problem can lead to a completely different strand of the story, and characters can take on a life of their own, so you never quite know what might happen.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Starting the next book. Writing a 120,000 word novel is such a long process and it always feels a bit daunting to be right at the beginning again. I’m always in love with the idea of the next book, and that stays with me – it’s the long, hard slog of getting it down that is tricky and keeping hold of the faith that it will work.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
When the book finally falls into place and starts to get a life of its own. I find there’s usually a place in the middle where I’m quite convinced this was all a bad idea, and all my other books were flukes, and why don’t I just get a proper job? It’s usually about this point that I solve a knotty problem, and I know it’s going to work, and then I’m just racing to get it down. I know there’s still a lot of work to do, but once I know it’s going to work it doesn’t feel like work at all however bleary-eyed I get.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I have part-time freelance work as an academic proofreader/editor to help support my writing. I enjoy it, as it’s still words but it’s someone else’s thoughts and ideas, and I’m just doing the tweaking. Since many of the students are from all around the world, including Saudi Arabia, I get to see many different viewpoints, which is fascinating.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Because the proofreading isn’t always predictable, I need to be flexible. It’s also done to strict deadlines, so I need to get it done first. I generally get up early, do a couple of hours proofreading and social networking, then I take my dog out for a walk.
This is usually my thinking time, when I work on the next chapter of my book or knotty bits of the plot. I then return to the proofreading for another couple of hours. So it tends to be the afternoon and evening when I shut myself away to work on my books. If I don’t have a piece to proofread I just go for it and get as much done as I can.
Do you write every day?
Most days – especially when I’m in the final stages of a book, then I can’t stop!
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To make a full-time living from my writing.
So, what have you written? (books, short stories, poems, blogs, awards or anything of interest.)
I’ve written a time-shift mystery ‘Eden’s Garden’ and a historical novel set in WW1 ‘We That are Left’, both published by Honno and I’ve had a previous short novel published. I also write novellas, short stories and serials as ‘Heather Pardoe’.
What are your views on social media for marketing?
I think social marketing is essential for a writer nowadays. There are so many books out there it’s a great opportunity to promote your work to a much wider audience, especially if you are published by a small press like Honno. It’s also a great opportunity to meet and interact with readers. That’s the bit I enjoy most. It’s great to get feedback – especially if someone really enjoys a book.
Which social network worked best for you?
I think each social network plays a different role. I like Facebook for building up relationships and sharing photographs. Twitter is faster and more fleeting – but it’s a great way of getting the message out to lots of people, especially if your book is on an Amazon kindle special offer. Most people are really supportive and get behind each other.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
Be positive and cheerful. Don’t expect instant results, for both Facebook and Twitter it’s important to do favours for others out there and build relationships. If you help other people, they will help you. Don’t be too pushy of your own books – it only puts people off. If you are out there they will find out about you. NEVER friend or follow someone and immediately send a direct message suggesting they buy your book, or, even worse, promote it. I’m not the only one who immediately unfriends, unfollows, and blocks. It’s unprofessional and insulting. No one likes to be used. Most of all, enjoy! Sharing information can be fun, and I’ve met some wonderful people from all over the world.
‘We That Are Left’, Honno Press, 2014
The Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month, March 2014
The National Museum of Wales Book of the Month, March 2014
Waterstones Wales Book of the Month March, 2014
Amazon Kindle #4 May 2014
‘Eden’s Garden’, Honno Press, 2012
Finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’, May 2014
Amazon Kindle #5 June 2014