Friday, 22 January 2016

Q&A with Julie Ryan, author of the Greek Island Mystery series





Hi Julie! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your books?

I’ve always been obsessed by books. I remember as a child looking forward to our weekly shopping trip to the supermarket. I’d lose myself in an Enid Blyton book for an hour while my Mum did the shopping. I never actually thought that one day I’d write a book myself, let alone four! When I’m not reading or writing I enjoy taking part in our local amateur dramatic pantomime. This year I got to play Mystic Peg in ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’ In my younger days I lived and worked in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand – a great source of inspiration for my writing. Now, I’m settled in rural Gloucestershire with my husband, young son and two cats; one with half a tail!


Was there a moment when you just knew that writing books was something you had to do?

I’ve always scribbled but never consciously thought of publishing anything. It was definitely a case of ‘for my eyes only’. Then a chance encounter with another writer persuaded me to dust off a short story and ‘Jenna’s Journey’ was the result.


You’ve now published three books in your Greek Island Mystery series. Was it always your intention to write a series?

To be honest writing one book fulfilled my dream. When I’d finished writing the first book though, I felt bereft and kept thinking about another book. In the end the story for Sophia’s Secret just had to be written. After that there was no stopping me and the series seemed to develop a momentum of its own.


Callie’s Christmas Countdown is your first Christmas novel. Other than being set at that time of year, what do you think turns a novel into a Christmas novel?

For me Christmas is all about the magic. I’ve tried to capture this through the theme of a Christmas tree angel that belonged to Callie’s grandmother. Then there’s the scenery. I deliberately set the Christmas Day scene in snowy Scotland. Of course no Christmas would be complete without a cute puppy and naff Christmas jumpers!


Do you have a favourite character out of all your books?

I think that there is a lot of me in Jenna so I definitely have a soft spot for her even though we are very different. She’s younger, prettier, taller for a start! I tried to show her on a journey of self-discovery as she realises she’s in a dead-end relationship. She’s also a bit dippy which definitely describes me. I hope readers can identify with her too.


Do you have a favourite of your books?

It’s hard to say. It’s a bit like asking a mother if she has a favourite child! Of course I love all my book babies equally. My firstborn though will always have a special place in my heart.


How do your feelings about writing change with each book? Do you feel more confident the more you write or does it never get easier?

Writing the first book, I made so many mistakes regarding the timeline and the book had so many revisions that I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever finish it. It didn’t get easier exactly with the second book but I certainly learnt from the mistakes of the first and that did make it a bit smoother. After that I thought writing the third book would be a breeze! For some reason it wasn’t and it was back to square one.

Writing the Christmas novella was relatively easy, except that to really create a Christmas atmosphere, I found I could only write it during the winter. I just couldn’t have conveyed the same emotion if I’d tried to write it on a beach or in the garden. It had to be authentic and that’s why it took me two years to write – or rather two winters.


Having self-published, would you recommend that route to other writers? Do you think it has any benefits over traditional publishing?

I am a bit of a control freak and so self-publishing was fantastic as it meant that I had the final say in cover design, proof-reading, when to publish, pricing and so on. It all depends on what you want. I’m glad that I built up a network of fellow authors and bloggers for mutual support and that gave me the courage to submit to a publisher. I chose a hybrid publisher, Booktrope, as it meant that I still kept a lot of control but got to see my baby in print. There’s also a certain kudos attached to being published but I would certainly recommend self-publishing as a way of testing the market. You will need to do all your own publicity though and that can be quite daunting at the start.


Do you judge a book by its cover?

I try not to but inevitably I do, especially if it’s by an unknown writer. The cover and the blurb are the first two things a reader notices. I have been wrong though and dismissed a book because the cover didn’t appeal, only to read it later and find it was totally different to what I was expecting.


If you could co-write a book with any other author, dead or alive, who would it be?

Oh that’s a tough one! I think it would be great fun to co-write a book with Agatha Christie. I’d love to know how her mind worked although she’d probably keep the identity of the murderer a secret from me too! She must have been such an interesting person to know and I’d love to sit in the room where she wrote overlooking the sea in Devon.


What was your favourite book of 2015?

I love all things Greek as you know and one of my favourite writers is Victoria Hislop. I absolutely love her latest book, The Sunrise, set in Cyprus just before the troubles of 1974. It’s extremely well written and gives both viewpoints as we see characters from the Turkish and Greek sides. It really brought it home to me how awful it must have been and especially in such a beautiful place too.


What’s next for Julie Ryan?

I’d love someone to make a film of ‘Jenna’s Journey’ but in the meantime I have several ideas for future books. There may be a fourth book in the Greek Island mystery series, I’m also toying with a sequel to my Christmas novella plus a couple of new ideas including a cosy English village murder series. I just can’t decide at the moment so whichever character calls to me the loudest will win.


Thanks, Julie!

Purchase links: Jenna's Journey; Sophia's Secret; Pandora's Prophecy; Callie's Christmas Countdown


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