Today I’m talking to J. A. Newman, author of No One Comes Close and Where There's A Will as well as many short stories and magazine articles. She's going to speak to us as a writer and as a reader.
As a writer
When I moved to Cornwall (UK) in 2008 and my husband retired, I grabbed the chance to write the book I had been promising myself for ten years. I saw an advert for a creative writing course in my area and signed up. This was a revelation. A whole new world opened up for me. I learned so much about the craft that it gave me the confidence I needed to write the book I had been planning for a decade!
I have kept a daily diary for most of my life which made it easier to write my memoir No One Comes Close which was published in 2017. I wrote the story longhand in three A4 notebooks in 1997 and put them away, unsure whether to release them into the world or not. Finally, ten years later I transcribed these to Word and tried to assemble them in some sort of format. I didn’t know if I wanted to write it as my true life story (memoir), or as a novel. I finally settled for a memoir written in diary format. In all, it took me 20 years from the start of my idea to publication day, but I am very happy with the result. I have over 12 five star reviews on Amazon’s international sites.
When No One Comes Close was published, I felt I had given my story wings and set it free. I felt it was unique and something that ‘only happens in books’. Now, I would love it to come to the big screen. It’s very visual and spans two decades, 1966 to 1987. It’s reminiscent of the classic black and white movie ‘Brief Encounter’. It would strike a chord with people of a certain age!
During this time, I found belonging to writers’ groups immeasurably helpful. Being able to discuss your work with other writers and exchange advice is exciting and inspiring.
In 2018, Where There’s A Will was published. It’s a Rom Com that’s a bit of fun. It sprang from my first writing course when, at one session, we were asked to create a character and put them in a situation.
I am now writing a ghost story set in Cornwall, working title The Bay. I intend to write a historical novel set in the English Civil War (1640s) and I’m busy researching that at the moment.
In between writing and rewriting my memoir, I had 9 nostalgic magazine articles published. I was SO excited about my first publication I was on a high for a week! Such an amazing experience to think someone wanted my work enough to pay for it! I have also written numerous short stories.
I occasionally write about my projects and gentle articles on times past on my blog which you can find at julieannnewman.wordpress.com.
When you’ve lived as long as I have, you have a lot of material to draw from. Places I’ve lived, people I’ve known and experiences I’ve had all have a part to play in my work. The settings for my stories are a combination of places I have visited and places I have lived. There’s something of me in my characters but I also enjoy creating completely independent characters. Once I start to write their dialogue, they seem to come alive on the page. They tell me what they want to say and I never cease to find this amazing! My readers tell me my characters are very believable.
I write every day. Sometimes it’s continuing my novel, sometimes it’s editing, sometimes it’s creating a short story or an article but I write every day unless I’m going out. I write in my upstairs study, overlooking the garden, in complete silence. I stay focused, I don’t let my surroundings inhibit my writing. Being retired makes this a whole lot easier!
As a Reader
I read the types of books I like to write and vice versa. On average, I read about six books a year. They are mainly women’s literature and biographies although I enjoy historical novels too. I like a book to take me far away to a different place. I hate books that take pages and pages to get going and I don’t like being bombarded with too many characters at the beginning. I lose track of who’s who.
I rarely read a book that’s been recommended by a friend because we all have very different tastes. I find new reading material by browsing the library and book shops. Second-hand books have a certain quality in that they pick up other readers’ energy which fascinates me. I get quite excited by old books that have a hand-written message on the fly leaf; it appeals to my imagination.
When I’m selecting a new book, first of all, I look at the book cover, the blurb and the first page. If all three draw me in I usually buy the book or choose it from the library. The length of the book has no bearing on whether I read it or not. It depends on the plot. These days the size of the print does influence my choice; I can’t read very small print! And I generally go for a stand-alone book, although I love the Harry Potter series.
My all time favourite book is A Woman Of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford, which was published in the 1980s.
More recently I have read all of Kate Morton’s sagas. She writes with her senses and the scenes open up before me. I love that. I also love the way she slowly builds the tension and unravels the secrets. I try to emulate her in my writing.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences as a writer and a reader with us today, Julie.
You can find out more about J.A.Newman at: