Kristina: This month your 50th book is being published by Harlequin, so we'll start off with a huge congratulations to you!! That's amazing!! How have you done it?
Julie: Thanks so much! And thanks for having me here today. Hmm… how did I do it? Well, there’s no glamorous answer. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication. When I first published with Harlequin back in 2000, I was still a full-time teacher. So I had to develop some ruthless time management skills to get teaching, writing and raising a family all done. I probably didn’t get as much sleep as I needed back then ;), but I’m taking better care of myself now because I’ve got a lot more stories I still want to write!
Kristina: Great advice - we all need to refill the well and manage our time! Speaking of stories, after 50 books is it hard to come up with new story ideas?
Julie: New ideas have never been a problem for me. I often find as I’m writing one story, a supporting character or event will trigger the idea for a new book. Sometimes, just being in the creative zone of writing get my imagination working overtime, often giving me multiple story ideas. Plus, I travel, read, go to the movies, observe people—you never know what might give me the seed of an idea for a character or story. That’s why I have notepads everywhere—I jot ideas down and file them away for future use.
Kristina: I've been known to halt the conversation in the car to type a note into my smartphone - not while I'm driving! - because those ideas strike everywhere! What is your typical writing day like?
Julie: I write during the hours when I used to teach school. Usually, I’m at my computer 5 days a week by 8 a.m. and go until 4-5 p.m., with an hour break for lunch. (Not that I ever got an hour at school!) I try to schedule appointments and errands during that lunch break, too. I get up once an hour for a few minutes to do a little housework, like empty the dishwasher or change the laundry, or take the dog out for some exercise. I find my eyes/wrists/fingers/back need the break. I try to get all my PR work and emails checked while I’m eating breakfast, during lunch or after my writing day is done. I used to be a night owl and write late at night and on weekends. When I’m on a deadline or have real life things demanding my time, I’ll go back and write after dinner or on the weekends—but I do try to keep that time for my family and friends.
Kristina: I completely agree with you - time must be set aside for family and friends. We have to have lives or what will we have to write about? What is different about your writing process with Book 50 as opposed to Book 1?
Julie: Book 1 was strictly writing the story I wanted to, without a lot of worries about anything except the word count for my target publisher. Now, I’ve discovered, the more I write, the more I know about the “rules”, market, business, etc., the more I stress about things. I’ve also developed some instincts about writing. I’ve never been a plotter, but I think I’ve internalized some good storytelling techniques. I just have a feel for when I need to ratchet up the tension, throw in another dead body, reveal a secret, have that black moment, and so on.
Kristina: I call myself a pant-lotter, for that exact reason. lol What advice do you have for unpublished writers?
Julie: Write complete manuscripts. That might be the hardest thing to learn—what it takes to plot out or pants your way through a complete character arc, flesh out plots, build that rising action, plant clues and red herrings, deliver a riveting black moment and satisfying resolution. And the only way to learn that rhythm of storytelling (as well as the practicalities of knowing how long it takes you to complete a manuscript, knowing your writing process—someone who writes several drafts? Someone who edits as you go? Plotter? Pantser? Something in between?—and knowing you can actually finish a book). I can’t tell you how many aspiring writers I’ve met who have great ideas, or who have started many stories (and some are super talented!), but just don’t get the words on paper and finish them. The best way to learn how to write is to write. You can’t sell an incomplete manuscript.
Kristina: So true, great advice, Julie! And, for those who are published, what's your best advice on building a solid career?
Julie: Write consistently. Be reliable. Meet deadlines—or be honest with your editor and yourself if something comes up and you can’t. In other words, conduct yourself as a professional.
Find your brand (for example, Kansas City cops, Texas cowboys, former Marine heroes, small town settings, sexy romantic tension, your own mythical world, etc.) and write several books with that theme that represents your writing to establish your name and books with readers. Then you can branch out if you want to do something else. The scattershot approach rarely works to establish and build a long-term career.
Kristina: Julie, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing your advice with us. And now, readers, a peek at Julie's 50th Harlequin Intrigue: Crossfire Christmas!
CROSSFIRE CHRISTMAS by Julie Miller
An injured undercover agent must keep an innocent nurse from getting caught in the crossfire in the latest installment of The Precinct
With his life bleeding out from bullet wounds and a car crash, Charles Nash's best option is to kidnap the innocent nurse who stops to help him. At gunpoint, the jaded DEA undercover agent offers Teresa Rodriguez a desperate deal: if she keeps him alive long enough to find out who's blown his cover and set him up to die, she'll be home for Christmas.
As the two go on the run from an unknown killer, the Good Samaritan gives Nash a bad case of unprofessional desire. He's drawn to the sexy little spitfire for her bravery, boldness and attitude. But how can he count on kissing her under the mistletoe when so many enemies are working to ensure they don't make it to the holidays?
Buy Crossfire Christmas: Amazon Barnes and Noble