First, Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a gazillion questions for me. (Ok maybe not a gazillion, promise). As a mother of six myself, I often find the idea of trying to be a full time author a bit daunting! It is such a pleasure to be able to get some first hand knowledge from a lady who has paved that road already.
- Tell us a bit about yourself…
Well, as you know, I have six children and I live at the center of Utter Chaos. I write, and I delete a lot more than I write so if the world implodes it will probably be my fault.
- What was the “Yup, I’m gonna do it,” moment that started you down the road to publication?
Oh, wow. There’s been so many of those moments that it’s hard to choose. I started writing when my oldest son left for college. Suddenly, I could see a future where I wasn’t only the mom, and I needed to find my place again as a person.
- How do you manage a day of writing amidst the chaos? Do you have a special planner, method or trick to get your writing done?
Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a supportive husband. He and the boys built a writer clubhouse in my back yard. It is eight by eight feet of pure bliss. Before that, I’d get up at three in the morning to write, or in the evening, I’d take my laptop and hide in the minivan in the garage or go to the park. Now, as soon as I take the kids to school, I write. The housework isn’t going anywhere.
- How do you make it through the “Everyone wants/needs Mom” days?
Some days you just can’t write. There are emergencies and sick people. The real trick is to get your children to understand that if they let you work, when you’re done, you’ll spend time just with them. I also tape a list of jobs on the door of the room I’m writing in.
BEFORE YOU KNOCK, PICK A JOB FROM THE LIST BELOW.
Kids are smart and they hate housework as much as we do. Mine know the rule, and that the only exceptions to the job list are blood or fire.
- What is your favorite genre to read? Write? Edit?
Oh sweetie, I am a genre ‘ho. I read everything from westerns to scifi. I write YA and middle grade, and I like to edit everything. (Except erotica-I might have been doing it wrong all of these years.)
- What advice would you give a new author on finding an Editor? Are there “red flags” to look for when hiring an editor?
Anyone who claims to be able to *fix* your book is yanking your chain. I content edit, which means that I tell people what is wrong and what doesn’t work for me. They have to fix it themselves. I would say to look for someone with a strong web presence, someone who has been around the publishing block a few times.
- What advice would you give a new author when submitting their work to an editor?
When an agent or editor looks at your story, to them it is a first draft. I don’t care how many times you’ve re-written the thing. IT IS A FIRST DRAFT. There will be changes to make. Don’t get your panties in a bunch when they ask you to re-write.
- How would a new writer find Beta Readers? Is it something that should be paid for?
Beta readers should be other writers that you know. If you don’t know anyone, post your story on Book Country,(One of my friends posted there and got a publishing deal.) or ask your twitter friends. I’ve had awesome advice and support from the online community. I would have quit a thousand times over if the lovely writers on twitter and facebook hadn’t had my back.
- What is one piece of advice you could give a new writer?
Keep going and finish the first book. Then you know you can do it. Resist the urge to fix all of the things. Finish. No one can make you quit and take away your dream—except you.
- What are you currently working on and can you give us any ’sneak peaks’?
Right now I’m revising a YA apocalyptic thriller and I just yesterday finished a middle grade time-travel proposal and sent it off to my awesome agent, Deidre Knight.
Here’s some of the thriller:
Water made everything better. The mist from the fake palms at the water park cooled the already hot August morning. Angel Graves dropped her baby brother’s diaper bag on the lounge chair next to her Mom. Her other brother, Zach, squealed five-year-old joy, and barreled into the kiddie pool. “Are you sure you’ll be okay if we leave? We can stay here with you and the boys.”
Mom shook her head and laughed. “I think I can manage. I raised you, and you’re not dead.”
“I know, but they can be a handful. You’ve been working every day, and you look kind of tired.” There were dark circles under her eyes and tight lines of strain at the corners. There’d been some kind of big problem at FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where she worked, and she hadn’t had a day off for almost two months.
“Thanks a lot, Sis, really.” Mom’s voice was droll. “Lily, please take this child and throw her someplace wet. She’s been playing mother so long that she’s forgotten how to have any fun.”
“Sure thing Mrs. G,” Lily grabbed her by the hand. “Your mom is right, Angel. Let’s do this.”
“Go on with you.” Mom bounced baby Justice on her knee until he giggled. He was only one, and chubby, and totally adorable.
“If you’re sure.” Angel’s thoughts went bubbly with freedom, and she ran with Lily to the entrance of the Lazy River ride. Even though it was only ten o’clock, the sun already burned the concrete until it shimmered with heat and scorched the soles of her feet. The Missouri sky was a bright summer blue, unmasked by even the lightest cloud.
Delightful shivers goose-bumped her skin as she stepped down into the water. She ducked the rest of her body under. Her head cleared the surface; she shook her wet hair from her eyes, and grabbed a clear inner tube. “This was the best idea ever.” She used the water’s buoyancy to bounce up and land butt first into the float.
“I know, right?” Lily arranged her tanned self to the best advantage. “It’s the only place to be when it’s this hot.”
Angel pushed off the wall with one foot into the man-made current and they floated down the channel. “This is the first time I’ve been totally cooled off this month.” She leaned her head back so her hair could float behind her. “Do you have all your stuff for school? I can’t believe our senior year starts next week.”
“Yeah.” Lily drug her hand through the water, way too interested in the wake it left in the artificial blue. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
“So ask already.” Angel wiggled around until she faced her friend.
“Do you still like Bobby Dean?” Her words tumbled out so quickly they jumbled together. “Because if you don’t, I think I kind of like him. He’s cute. But it’s more important that we’re friends. So…” Lily lifted a plucked eyebrow.
Angel didn’t have to think about that particular question for more than a millisecond. “You’re welcome to him, but I don’t think you’ll want him for more than an hour.” She had strong feelings about Bobby Dean Garrett and their one date, and those feelings weren’t catalogued in the “good” category.
“Well,” Lily started, frowning. “You haven’t gone out with anyone else this summer. I thought maybe you still liked him.”
“I haven’t had time to go out. I’ve been watching the kids for Mom every day. But, if I did have time, it wouldn’t be with him.” Angel closed her lips before she sounded like a whiner. Mom had needed her. Sometimes, you just had to shut up and soldier on. That’s what her dad would have said.
“Then if you don’t care, I am totally getting him to take me to senior prom.”
“Prom is like, nine months away.” Angel paddled with one hand to avoid the splatter from the fake palm fountain. “Why worry?”
Lily scooped up a handful of water and sprinkled her legs. “Seriously? You can’t leave important stuff like prom to chance.” She looked horrified at the thought. But then, Lily was the queen of planning. If Angel ever wanted to conquer a small country, her friend could organize the invasion.
“You need someone easy on the eyes because you’ll have those pictures forever.” Lily’s eyes glowed with fervor.” If you don’t want to go with him, then I will, and we’ll pick someone else for you. Maybe that lifeguard,” she said, gesturing toward the tall chair coming into view.
“Don’t even go there.” Angel splashed at her friend. The guy on the stand was cute. His hair was dark and thick, heavy with russet streaks from the sun. She couldn’t see his eyes, hidden behind sunglasses. “I don’t know him. I’ll worry about prom after Christmas.” When she did, she’d pick someone ordinary like she was. Not a bronzed cover-model who was obviously out of her league.
“No time like the present.” Lily jumped from her float and flipped Angel’s inner-tube. With a kick, Angel escaped (before nothing but her butt framed in clear plastic could be seen by anyone and everyone) and sputtered to the surface.
A short, sharp blast of the lifeguard’s whistle hammered her ears as she wiped the water from her eyes. Even dripping wet, she felt her cheeks burn with blush. “Thanks a lot,” she hissed at Lily, who brashly smiled at the lifeguard.
“No dunking.” His voice was pleasantly low.
“I am so very sorry,” Lily bald-faced lied, and drug Angel to the stairs next to his station. “But she brought it on herself for looking better than me in a swimsuit.” He smiled, and his teeth looked impossibly white against his tanned skin. Angel’s breath hitched in her chest.
“This is Angel.” Lily didn’t loosen her grip on Angel’s arm. “I’m Lily, and you are?”
“Noble Walker,” he said with another flash of white. “But everyone just calls me Walker. Mostly because Noble is a stupid name.” He turned back to stare at the Lazy River and blew a warning toot on the whistle around his neck. “One person on a tube,” he yelled at the half a dozen kids piled on two floaters, riding dangerously low in the water.
Another lifeguard came up to Walker, tapped his shoulder, and took his place on the bank. Lily zeroed in on this fact in a millisecond. “Do you have a break now?” At his nod, she grabbed his arm, and merrily talked all the way to the snack stand.
“I’m sorry,” Angel blurted out. “We shouldn’t be bothering you.” Seriously, who in their right mind chatted up a lifeguard? As good looking as Walker was, he probably had cute girls hitting on him all day long.
“Hey, Cherry,” Walker handed his water bottle to the older woman behind the counter.
“Two Cokes, please.” Lily dug a five out of her miniscule top.
“I don’t need anything.” Angel tugged on Lily’s arm. “Besides, he probably wants to relax on his break.”
“I’m good.” Walker grinned and removed his sun glasses. His eyes were a rich, chocolate brown. “I can’t talk to people when I’m on the stand. It’s nice to have a conversation with someone who isn’t two years old for a change.” After he’s gotten his water bottle and grabbed a tray for their drinks, he led them over to a cement table under a big red umbrella.
Lily talked and laughed like she’d known Walker for her entire life. Angel sipped on her Coke and tried not to stare. He was just so pretty—in a rugged, I-forgot-to-shave kind of way. Certainly he wasn’t a truck-driving, beer-drinking, good old boy like the guys at school.
“Do you like movies?” he asked, and the question was for her. Angel blinked and choked on the sip of pop. Seriously? Walker helpfully pounded her on the back while Lily gave her a wide-eyed stare.
“I’m okay.” Angel gasped, and then proceeded to cough and hack like she was about ninety. “It just went down the wrong pipe.” Could she sound any grosser?
“I’ll get you some water.” He hurried back to the snack stand.
“Are you out of your mind?” Lily was around the table quicker than snap and whispering in Angel’s ear. “I’ve been working like a dog here to get you set up with him. You’re not even paying attention. He’s trying to ask you out, dweeb.”
For about three seconds Angel’s brain stopped mid-spin with shock. “Why ever would he want to do that?”
“Why wouldn’t he?” Lily gave her an exasperated look. “You’re cute, you have a good figure, and you’re a nice person. Most of the time, you’re fun. The only big problem you have is that you don’t know when a nice guy likes you, and you can’t handle the bad ones.”
That was the understatement of the year. Her only date with Bobby Dean had been a disaster of epic proportions. “Are you positive about this?”
“Is the sky blue?”
Walker rushed back to the table with a bottle of water, and Angel gave him a more serious look. Not the fan-girl eye-balling you gave a handsome movie star or a gorgeous lifeguard you knew was way out of your league. Angel wasn’t an expert about guys—like Lily, but she’d picked up a few things in the years since Mom had divorced Dad.
Walker’s eyes crinkled when he smiled. She liked that. Even when he wasn’t smiling or talking, his face was set in pleasant lines. “Thank you.” She took the water bottle.
“So, about the movies…” He looked at her anxiously, and not once did his gaze move down to the rest of her—even though she was wearing a swimsuit. This was good too, respectful-like. There was something restful about Walker. He had a calm quality that reminded her of the oak trees at the farm, a timeless strength that seemed much older than his age.
“I live a long way out of the city. We’re on a farm, north of the river.” It was only fair to warn him, right? After all, he’d have to come and pick her up. Mom had strict rules about dating.
“I don’t mind.” His teeth flashed white against his tan. “I’m getting a new car this week, for college. No, not a new car.” he said, “a used car, but it’s new to me. I didn’t earn enough this summer for a new one. You don’t mind?”
“Not one little bit,” she assured him. Actually, it was a relief. Angel didn’t know one guy with a new vehicle except Bobby Dean. Besides, since Walker needed to work for a car, he probably wasn’t loaded, and maybe he wouldn’t mind so much that she lived in a farmhouse that was almost older than dirt.
A whistle blew, one long blast and two short ones, and Walker stood. “My break is over. Um…do you want to walk me to the kiddie pool and maybe give me your number?”
Still a little light-headed by the quickness of it all, Angel almost floated beside him as he wrote her number on his arm with a Sharpie. “I’ll have another break in a couple of hours. Maybe we can talk then?”
“Sure, I’d like—“.
“Sissy!” her little brother Zach made a running leap into Angel’s arms, one that nearly knocked her on her butt. “Mommy is looking for you.”
Angel’s mom hustled up with a worried crease in her forehead. “Sweetie, I’m so sorry but my boss called and I have to go into work.”
Behind Angel, Lily blew a loud sigh. “We haven’t even gone on the water slides.”
“Don’t you even start, Lily Rachelle.” Mom jumped on her attitude like a hungry duck on a June bug. “It’s not like I have a choice.”
“Call me later?” Angel asked Walker. Mom might not be saying much, but there was a faint, underlying note of fear behind her words. She didn’t know what caused it, but it wasn’t the best time to introduce Walker or to have Lily in a pout.
Only big things scared her mom.
“Did they call an alert?” Angel kept her voice low, sure that the water park noise would keep her words only for Mom’s ears. Mom jerked her head in a tiny nod, like she was strung on a wire so tightly if she bent, she’d break.
“Get your stuff,” Angel ordered Lily in her don’t mess-with-me voice. She grabbed her purse and the baby’s diaper bag. Walker was still there, and she gave him a strained smile. “We’ve got to go. Mom got called into work.” She shrugged. It wasn’t her fault.
“I’ll call tonight,” he promised, and made his way to relieve the other lifeguard who was knee deep in the baby pool.
“I’ll be there,” Angel promised. After all, it was a sure thing. If Mom had to work, then Angel would be home watching her brothers.
A low, gnawing grind of worry settled into the pit of her stomach. Homeland Security had called an alert, and Mom worked for FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency only got involved if things were really bad—like call out the National Guard bad. She waved at Walker, slung the diaper bag and purse over her shoulder and picked up her baby brother, Justice.
She’d be waiting for his call. Unless, of course, the government was right this time, and it was the end of the world—and then she wouldn’t be.
And lastly, I have to ask, what is it like being the sibling of a famous author like Jim Butcher? Do you find people compare your work to his?
It is way past wonderful being Jim’s sister. I get a kick watching readers “fan” him at signings. So far, no one has compared my work to his. But then, we don’t write for the same audience. We don’t look alike, either. 😀
It was such an honor and privilege to be able to ask some questions about writing and editing! Thank you Julie, for your time answering these questions! I am really looking forward to your YA Thriller!
You can reach Julie through various methods:
Leave a message below if you enjoyed this interview! I had a lot of fun coming up with the questions. What other authors, editors or people would you like to see interviewed?