So for my next interview I present to you the beautiful, funny and talented Julie Spiller, whose debut novel 'The Cornubian' is out on 9th April and is currently available to pre order on Amazon.co.uk. Julian 'Downton Abbey' Fellows himself described it as 'a terrific piece of work'!!
Julie is another of my Britain’s Next Bestseller colleagues who has been kind enough to join me for an interview. So, without further ado, over to Julie and ‘The Cornubian’…tell us a little about it?
Well, I wrote The Cornubian back in about 2003. It’s the tale of a star-crossed smuggler battling for vengeance – and his life. The undertones are quite dark, but it’s layered with light-hearted fun, most of which comes in the shape of jocular, roguish privateer, Sparky.
Smuggling, treachery, adventure and a love story…what was your inspiration?
We never had a lot of money when I was growing up, so holidays were often spent in the neighbouring county of Cornwall, with its idyllic beaches and its little villages and moorlands steeped in myth. The north coast is a haven for surfers, but the south coast is dotted with quaint little fishing villages that are perfused with tales of smuggling deeds; some dark and dastardly, with characters thought to be from Hell itself, such as Cruel Coppinger, others light-hearted and heroic, with colourful, witty folk.
Cornwall, almost in its entirety, supported smuggling, and saw their ‘fishermen’ as providing them with a great service. They would do anything to help, clergymen and men of court included, and the land was shrouded in subterfuge and trickery to keep the authorities at bay. There was just so much fodder for a good story, and it’s got a little bit of everything so should suit most tastes.
How do you create your characters? Are they based on real life people you know or completely fictional?
I think the answer to that probably lies somewhere deep in my subconscious. We must base our characters on someone we’ve come across in our lives, whether it be from media or out on the street, right? They are certainly a broad mixture of different characters I’ve come across that I have stuck into a bit melting pot… and then out came Martin MacBride and Sparky Vaquero.
MacBride, a rugged, nonchalant but charming character visited me one day and then he simply grew until I knew everything about him; how old he was, when his mother died, what he would have had for breakfast… I picture him in my mind and he looks like Mel Gibson – but from 1987. J Sparky I see as a Yul Brynner. If they ever make it into a film they had best get someone better than I to do the casting! Brynner, despite his genius, couldn’t help but be a little wooden on the acting front now I feel!
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Getting it historically accurate. Blimey, that was hard. ‘Write about what you know,’ they say. So what do I, a then 22 year old lass from the millennium write about? A suicidal smuggler in 18th century Cornwall. And I’m a stickler for getting things perfect. Don’t you just hate it when you’re watching something on TV or reading a book and thinking, ‘Well they wouldn’t have had/done/said that back then!’ You don’t believe what you are reading anymore. The author has lost their audience.
I did five years of research before I picked up a pen for this book. I carried out five edits and two re-writes. And even then, the final line-edit was picking up rookie mistakes. Did you know clip-clopping was a term not used until much later than 1791? Neither did I!
Which part (if any) was the hardest part to write?
The hanging scene. It needed to be fast-paced – but not too fast. It needed to be accurate and high with tension, but also believable. I had to swap rural Cornwall for crowded London and I needed to make sure my facts with regards to the process of hanging someone were correct.
Although, as an author, a little artistic licence is perfectly acceptable…right?
Who are your favorite authors/books?
Whenever I was asked that question as a child I would immediately reply, ‘Enid Blyton’ and it still feels like an automatic response now that I am reading her stories to my own children. She represents what a good book should be; true escapism. Forget the technicalities, for me, skilled writing has always been about how much I am entertained. In the answer to that question lies the true worth of the writer.
These days I am a lover of things such as Lord of the Rings and light-hearted chick flicks. Some days I’ll pick up a Dickens or an autobiography of someone who inspires me. Tolkien was a true master of the art. He didn’t just create a wonderful book; he was the creator of a whole parallel universe with its own intricate languages and histories. Just incredible. And beautiful to read.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Is it un-P.C. to say Brad Pitt? Because he’s alive and I fancy him?
Or Johnny Depp? For the same reasons?
I think it is.
Sod it. Honest answer.
Because I think he would be an incredibly interesting person. Especially if, in an ironic twist, he actually IS Joe Black.
Anyway, I’d whip him up my Bakewell Tart and he’d be mine.
(When I say my Bakewell Tart I mean Mary Berry’s… Shhh…!)
If you could meet any of your own characters, who would it be?
Martin MacBride. I know him and I love him and I’d love to nurture him back to happiness. Which he’d hate. He’d probably punch me if he wasn’t so chivalrous. His profound wit is often understated next to Sparky’s, but if you were to spend a night on the tiles with him then you’d certainly be guaranteed a laugh.
And do you have a favourite character in ‘The Cornubian’?
I love Sparky. He colours every scene he is in and I loved writing his dialogue.
If you were going to go out of your comfort zone, what genre would you like to try?
Been there, done that. The next book is going to be well inside my comfort zone!!! J
As ‘The Cornubian’ is your first novel, what were the high points of getting it onto the page and published?
Just to see so many of year’s hard work encased in a proper, polished book. No more sifting through hundreds of A4 pages pouring off the desk to find the next page; now anybody can read it, and they can read it in comfort while lying in their bed at night, or on the beach, or in the staff room.
There are many twists and turns but I know the story inside out and I think it is worth telling.
And the low points?
I spent a lot of time on my laptop promoting it and trying to get pre-orders. My family got quite impatient with me in the end, understandably, and if I went a day without promoting then I felt guilty. I put myself under a lot of pressure to give it the absolutely best shot. But you have to. Success doesn’t come easy.
Do you have any advice for other writers who may be starting out?
Stick at it. Write. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t think, ‘I’ll start it tomorrow.’ Start it today.
And try not to get every sentence perfect like I did. It breaks the flow. Just write it. And then edit it. And be prepared to edit and rewrite it again and again if you want to be successful. It’s hard work, but it’s so worth it.
What are you working on at the minute?
Promoting The Cornubian, but by the summer I’ll be working on my next novel, ‘Airport Girl’, and a children’s book.
Do you have any special message you would like to say to your readers?
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Without readers, there would be no authors. Well, not successful ones at any rate.
I’ve always wanted to write, and friends and strangers alike have always encouraged me, but there is a difference between casually offering optimism and actually putting your hand into your own pocket to back the cause.
I have had people give me their time, their advice and their skills for nothing in order to help me succeed. I was, and still am, overwhelmed and humbled by the support I have had. There will be bad times. Inevitably, in this day and age, there will be plenty of critics who will tell me my work is hogwash and I can’t write for toffee. But with this team of backers I feel an awful lot stronger.
I sincerely hope that my book brings you the joy and entertainment you deserve.