I’m very happy to welcome Julie Gilbert to my inaugural launch of “10 Questions” author interviews, which will post every Wednesday (possibly more often). Julie writes in a wide range of genres, including Children’s and Young Adult, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, mystery and science fiction.
Linda Covella: Julie, when and why did you decide to become a writer?
Julie Gilbert: High school English class frustrated me because they wanted everything to have meaning, but I just loved stories. One day, the summer after high school, I sat down and decided to write a story. Since it was a fun experience, I decided to write another … and another. Eventually, I fumbled my way around the publishing process, settling on a self-publishing company. A few years later, Amazon’s program made it very easy to self-publish. Draft-to-digital joined the game a few years after that. I’ve been using both platforms.
LC: What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?
JG: My writing process varies with the time of year. During the 10 months school is in session, I try to write from 7 pm to 11 pm. Typically, I can accomplish 1 full chapter of about 2K words in that time. The last book I wrote had weirdly sized chapters though, so the pattern didn’t stick very well. In the summer, I try to write 2-3 times in a day. I’m working through a screenplay adaptation, so I’ve been fitting that in many smaller chunks because it’s a different kind of work than normal writing.
I’m a full-time teacher, part-time writer, though a few years ago I started doing it all year round. Before, I’d only done proofreading during the school year, not actually participated in the creation of new stories.
My stories start as a few random paragraphs describing the general gist of the story. The last one began something like: this is a story about a school shooting. I then started listing character names and wrote little profiles for who they are and what they’re like. Next, I wrote an extensive timeline that followed the events of the story as it should unfold. Finally, I started writing. The outline changed as I added details or veered away from certain plot points. That’s typically how it happens anyway, so I’m not disturbed by the fact that the outlines tend to be fluid.
LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?
JG: Inspiration comes from multiple sources. Many of my stories have specific themes. Beyond Broken Pencils, the new one, is about a school shooting. Several revolve around kidnapping. Other themes that have cropped up are cancer, human trafficking, siblings, family, duty, honor, duty vs honor, and using one’s gifts to the fullest.
LC: You write about difficult topics, and important themes!
Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?
JG: That’s a tossup between Jillian Blairington and Victoria Saveron. Truth be told, I love nearly all my characters to pieces. A few of the bad guys might not fall into that category, but I’d love to meet 90% of the characters. If forced to choose, I’d say Jillian is a favorite because she was one of the first characters who truly had a voice. That very clear voice shaped the first series of short stories about her and then led to the longer saga unfolding in the Devya’s Children series.
Jillian Marie Antel Blairington has the Gift of Dream Shaping. This leads to all sorts of issues, like her being kidnapped by the scientists who created her, so they can train her. She’s got a very well-defined sense of right and wrong and no fear of standing for what she deems right. At first, she doesn’t really understand the relevance of her Gifts, but she dutifully trains to protect her babysitter, Danielle, who later becomes more of a friend. Jillian’s wired with a very strong protective streak. There are little bits of practical wisdom she’s clung to for years, thanks to her Nana. Life hasn’t necessarily been kind to her, but she’s not the sort to complain about it. Jillian would much rather face the problem directly than run, but she will run and hide if doing so will better protect those under her care, which is practically everyone she’s ever met. She also has a charming Southern accent.
LC: Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?
JG: Probably. You don’t really see a character’s true personality shine until bad things are happening all over the place. Thankfully, I lead a much more mundane life (so far!), but yes, I do believe most of my characters share some of my beliefs and passions. I dislike confrontation and would much rather be inconvenienced than cause issues. While my characters tend not to seek out trouble, they won’t shrink from it either. They’ve also each got this dangerous self-sacrificial mode that kicks in when their friends and families fall under threat. I think there’s a certain quiet stubbornness in them that’s also in me. They’re flawed but they work really hard to uncover and cultivate the innate gifts given to them.
LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.
JG: Ha, that’s a really tough question, and I’m probably going to give you one of those “it’s a bit of both” answers. It’s a chicken and egg question. Plot and characters are inextricably linked. Let’s take Redeemer Chronicles as an example. Victoria (Vic) Saveron is the Chosen Redeemer. At the beginning of Awakening rumors are flying that she can save the world. She’s highly skeptical about it and isn’t afraid to say so. The notion that she’s been Chosen attracts lots of bad guys who draw her into a trap. In other words, something about her character drives others to act. Much of the plot is driven by people reacting to who Vic is and what she can do. On the flip side, Vic doesn’t truly embrace her gifts until well into the story after several key plot points have shaped her.
In all fairness, since you asked and you’re probably hoping I choose and defend one side, I guess I’d say characters. As I said, there’s a push-pull effect in stories as in real life. Events can help shape a person, but there’s also quite a bit already built into us. We choose how to react and that in turn changes the ways others perceive us. Their perceptions in turn affect their actions. Same holds true for story characters.
LC: Did you read much as a child?
JG: Believe it or not, I grew up in a time before ebooks, but yes, I read a lot. My mom used to read to me quite a bit. Poor lady. I think I made her read the same three stories over and over again. The library was a regular trip when I grew old enough to read on my own. Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, ND/HB Supermysteries, Star Wars expanded universe books, and historical fiction stories formed the backbone of my reading fare.
LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?
JG: I’m assuming you mean reading other people’s works. Pretty sure most fiction writers grew up loving fiction. I actually don’t read a lot of other people’s works anymore. However, I do still listen to a lot of audiobooks. Listening can be done at times when I’m walking or ironing or whatever. So, it comes down to this: I think stories are vitally important for writers. All stories, movies, video games, choose your own adventures, audiobooks, ebooks, paperbacks, hardcovers. The trappings matter less than the essence of the story. If you want to get good at crafting tales, you need to understand what works and doesn’t work for you. If a movie bores you, why does it bore you? If a game enthralls you for hours, why? What do you find compelling in each piece? Every medium has its ticks, but the key elements, character and plot, still drive the story forward.
LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?
JG: I guess the answer depends on which genre we’re talking about. Brandon Sanderson’s amazing at world-building. C.S. Lewis has charming, lighter fantasy tales. The collective writers who became Franklin W. Dixon and Caroline Keene held large parts of my childhood in their hands. They used a formula of course, but it worked. I still love The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as I knew them growing up. No matter how complicated or simple the plot, for me, character has always been important. There’s something attractive and charming about the good vs. evil fight, whether that manifests as the characters engaging in an all-out war to save the land or sacrificing their own safety just to find the answers to a mystery.
LC: Anything new in the works?
JG: This summer is an interesting blend of old and new. I just finished a short novel about a school shooting. That was a completely new genre for me. Some of the summer will be spent proofreading that project. The other new thing I’m working on is a script to novel adaptation. I can’t say much about that project, but it’s an interesting process I’d never tried before. That’s the old, now for the new. Kindle Worlds was an Amazon program that let writers craft stories within other people’s worlds. Amazon recently shut the program down, so I’m going to be rewriting every story I put out in Kindle Worlds and republishing it in the Fall and early next year. Also, I’d like to fix up some older projects, including a science fiction trilogy that I started way back when I first got into writing.
LC: You do have lots in the works! We look forward to seeing them. So, a bonus question 🙂 Do you have anything you’d like to add?
JG: I write in quite a few different areas. Check out my Amazon page (see link below) to see the options and grab the freebies. Hopefully soon, I’ll have some more traditional science fiction to add to the list. Thanks for having me. It’s been fun. I enjoy getting to know people better. Join my mailing list for exclusive giveaways, previews, updates, and more.
LC: Julie, thanks so much for sharing your writing with us! Readers, you can connect with Julie at the links below.
Julie C. Gilbert is a writer and a chemistry teacher. She enjoys listening to audiobooks, taking nice walks, drinking tea, and building Legos.
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