Flashback Friday | Julie Anne Long
I’ve been so lucky in my life to not only meet amazing people, but question them and learn from them. I’ve been able to amass a pretty large catalogue of interviews because of their generosity and they have really helped me get my foot in many different doors. So first, to all the people who have been gracious enough to give me their time and patience, thank you!
I’ve created the Flashback Friday series to show these interviews and reviews as they originally appeared. They’ve been locked away in my archives but now it’s time to share them. I hope you enjoy this look back on the articles that got me started and introduced me to some of my best friends. Enjoy!
I first became aware of Julie Anne Long through another author’s website. I can’t remember who, unfortunately, but there was a link up to Ms. Long’s home page. Her site enticed me to buy her book and that first book enticed me to buy all the rest. I emailed her a really long letter saying how much I enjoyed her writing. We email each other maybe once or twice a month. When it came time for this series, I immediately thought of her.
One of the things that I liked best about Julie – and this was before I ever emailed her a word – and the thing that made me really fall in love with her voice was how open and forthcoming she was about her road to publication. She has all these great writings on her site (www.julieannelong.com) about how she deals with stress, how she prioritizes etc. And through each and every one, I really felt how good a person she was and how much she wanted her fellow writers to succeed. It was refreshing to read and incredibly motivating.
Julie is a great writer and person, and I am so glad to be able to interview her! Enjoy!
Julie, you’ve written amazing books and have received many accolades for your work. Your newest book, Perils of Pleasure, has been called “mesmerizing”, “fabulous”, “fast paced and exciting.” In many ways, the books you write must feel like your babies. Is there much trepidation once a “baby” is out on her own in the big, big world?
Thanks for the lovely compliments, and thanks inviting me to guest at your tremendously groovy blog, Bethany. And you know, book releases are always exciting and a bit nervewracking, as you always hope readers will respond enthusiastically to your newest book. But after a while—if you’re lucky—this business turns you into a philosopher. Either that, or you become a flaming lunatic. Those are pretty much your only options. You can walk into a bookstore and hyperventilate over the sheer number of books vying for good homes, or you can just make peace with the fact that you did the best you could, and that your book will find its audience. That’s pretty much the only real thing you have control over in this business—the quality of your own work. So you wish your book babies well when they launch, and you cross your fingers, and you’re grateful for wonderful feedback from readers, but beyond that, you kind of have to let it go. It always helps that you’re usually deeply involved in writing the next book by the time one hits the shelves. It’s a wonderful distraction. LOL.
On your website, http://www.julieannelong.com, you’re wonderfully, refreshingly forthcoming and open about your road to publication. The very funny, very insightful stories you share on your webpage definitely inspired me. Has much changed, in either your writing style or approach, since you wrote your first novel, The Runaway Duke, to now?
My approach to writing…well, I suppose it remains the same as it ever was. It’s a very seat-of-the-pants affair, and I write scenes out of order and then piece them together—kind of like how a movie is filmed—as much as I’d rather be more linear about it. I have a sense of how quickly I can write now when circumstances demand it, which is a useful thing to know. My life has become incredibly full of things other than simply writing—blogs, websites, MySpace, other kinds of promotion, emails, etc—I’ve had to learn to sort of adjust my schedule to accommodate all of that, and try to ensure my writing gets my freshest energy. It’s been a challenging adjustment, and requires constant calibration. LOL. And the circumstances are different for every book, because life does not remain static.
Romance novels seem to have a certain stereotype attached to them. Why do you think there’s such a stigma? And do you think that that will ever go away?
I can’t speak authoritatively to why there’s a stigma, if one indeed remains. I can say that many people who discover I write romances have extraordinarily outdated views of what that means. “Oh, so you write smut?” or “Oh, so you write bodice rippers?” Which baffles me, as romance is by far the largest part of the fiction market, and has grown and evolved to reflect extraordinary diversity in terms of the nature of the stories and the number of genres, and it just seems odd that many intelligent people are still unaware of this. Often these remarks come from people who would never dream of making blanket assumptions about other things they know nothing about. And of course, the quality of the writing and storytelling within the romance genre might vary widely; then again, that’s true of any genre, and quality is a very, very subjective word. It might have something to do with sex—that implicit in the term “romance” is graphic sex—but even the sexual content and context in romances varies widely. And I’ve read suspense novels written by men that contain graphic sex—I read one in fact where a bodice was rather ripped. So I don’t know.
Sometimes I say things to people who make blundering remarks something like, “You know the movie “Shakespeare in Love?” Did you like it? Well, that was a romance.” LOL. Love, sex, good characters, a good storyline. And then I see realization slowly dawning on that person’s face.
Mostly people are delighted and intrigued when I tell them I’m a romance author, perhaps because I live in a city filled with entrepreneurial, creative people who respect the fact that someone else is making a living creatively. Though there’s always this assumption that it’s easy. LOL. Anyone who asks about this…well, I just give them a gentle pat and say, “go for it.” And walk away quietly, smiling to myself.
Covers may have a lot to do with it; many remain quite beef-cakey and florid. LOL. Some readers and atuhors like this; others are less thrilled with it, as it frightens off some readers who might otherwise really enjoy very good storytelling. I once had an email from a 65-year-old man who out of desperation for something to read grabbed one of my books in an airport, then wrote to tell me he “actually really loved it.” LOL. “Actually” being the operative word—he never expected to, obviously, because of the cover. (It was BEAUTY AND THE SPY.)
Then again, those covers are familiar signals to people looking for passionate stories with happy endings—they know to expect those kinds of stories between those covers. If those covers didn’t help sell books, they wouldn’t exist. But even the nature of covers is in a constant state of evolution and calibration. Publishing is stratified, and in order to sell your book effectively, a publisher needs to be able to position it and market it to its most likely audience.
It’s kind of silly, isn’t it, that there’s a purported stigma attached to something that most of the world is doing—reading romance—if you go by the statistics? It’s my hope for every reader that they feel secure and comfortable enough about themselves to read whatever the heck they want to read no matter what anyone says or implies, or regardless of whatever’s on the cover. I read across all genres, and most of the avid readers I know do, too.
James Dean famously said: “If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he’s dead, then maybe he was a great man.” You and your books will certainly live on for years and years. Is it somewhat surreal to think that a young girl from a small hometown could be reading your Beauty and the Spy right now, feeling inspired and motivated to become a writer, and maybe you’ve changed her life?
As a writer, I can tell you that inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime as a result of anything or anyone. My original motivation to write was simply pleasure in the sheer power and deliciousness of employing words to invent a world, a story. And I’m continually surprised—and delighted and humbled and amused—at the life and meaning my books take on long after they leave my hands. I hear from readers inspired, or re-inspired, to write after reading my books; I hear from readers who’ve been struggling through a difficult time — the illness or death of a loved one, their own illnesses, their own breakups or struggles with feeling bored or trapped — and found escape and pleasure in my books; I hear from people inspired by my own story of becoming an author to go after their own goals—not necessarily related to writing—who wrote to thank me for the inspiration. I’m gratified and honored if I can be the source of someone’s inspiration or motivation or respite. If I am, that’s probably the best part of being an author, and I hope that aspect of my career only continues and grows.
But you know…I think we all—we humans—inspire each other, consciously and unconsiously, every single day, in big and little ways. E.g., I might be feeling weary, and then I turn on the news, and some story of heroism or endurance rivets me and in some way strengthens me. Inspiration is universal.
I am, of course, a writer. There’s this flame inside my belly that just urges me to be creative and productive and inventive. Writing however, is a lonely endeavor where most of the work is all played out in your head, and the measures of success in writing aren’t really that quantifiable. (I know, I know, I’m preaching to the choir!! But there’s still some people out there who think writing is instant millions and a stint on Oprah. We have to educate them, Julie!) So my question: what is your advice to the novices, the budding talents, the amateurs to make sure that flame inside their belly doesn’t get extinguished?
Everyone’s career trajectory is different: Every author has a different story about how they became authors and about how their careers grew. And truthfully, despite appearances, only a very small handful of authors ever make a very good living at it. Some make a pretty OK living. Some are scraping by; some never quit their day jobs. You just never, ever know. Here’s the thing: You have to do it because you love writing. You have to ask yourself: what else would you be doing if you weren’t writing? The business of publishing is squirrelly, unpredictable, subject to myriad vicissitudes, and notoriously resistant to our attempts to impose control, order, sense, or a timeline upon it. LOL. If your primary objective is, say, fame and wealth and quickly, you’re bound to find yourself dissatisfied and restless. Just be the best writer you can be, and stay in the moment, and pursue it with diligence, patience and passion. But try not to impose expectations on it, because that’s where the angst originates.
I sound like a Taoist, you say?? LOL. Actually, I sort of had those leanings before I became a writer, and my career only honed them. My agent and I are doing a panel at the San Francisco Romance Writers of America Conference this year in July called, “Why Publishing is Making You Crazy—and What You Can Do About It: The Tao of Publishing.” It’s a philosophical, humorous, pragmatic, inclusive way of looking at the industry and our lives as authors. I’ll write more on the topic in the weeks ahead, and I’ll let you know more about it, Bethany, if you’re interested.
Thanks for having me, Bethany! Here’s to Lux Magazine’s major success.