Welcome to my Authors 40+ Series – sharing the stories of amazing authors who published their first book over the age of 40. The series features talented, experienced and inspirational writers who share their (often non-conventional!) writing and publishing journeys honestly and articulately. Next to feature, is Julie Newman!
1) What is the title and synopsis/premise of your first book and how old were you when you published it?
NO ONE COMES CLOSE is my memoir. I published it in 2017 when I was 68.
‘When Julie meets Ron at a jazz club in South London in 1966, she falls for him in a big way but he is reluctant to relinquish his freedom. They are both very young, she seventeen, he nineteen, and after a few months they go their separate ways after a misunderstanding.
Twenty years later Julie is in a loveless marriage and dreams of finding Ron again. She sends him a 40th birthday card hoping it will reach him. Weeks pass. She’s about to give up hope when the phone rings one evening. It’s Ron phoning from Sydney, Australia! He’s coming to England and wants to meet her, and he’s still single.
After three clandestine meetings in London, Ron declares his love for Julie and wants to come back to England for good and for her. She can’t believe it. She can’t help blurting all this out to her husband one evening but he is devastated at the news. He reminds her she has a daughter; what does she think she’s doing? How can she even think of leaving them both? After a very traumatic few weeks, Julie goes to stay with Ron. But things do not go according to plan.’
2) Tell me about writing the book e.g. where did the idea come from / how long did it take / what did you learn along the way?
I first wrote the whole story from my original diaries, in longhand, in 1997. I found it very cathartic but I didn’t know what I was going to do with three A4 notebooks, although I desperately wanted to set them free.
When my second husband and I moved to Cornwall in 2008, I took a creative writing course and joined a writers’ group. I was 59. I transcribed the notebooks to ‘Word’ and the members of the group were very helpful in critiquing my work and loved the story. I chose to keep it in diary form with flashbacks and approached various agents and publishers but was always met with the same answer – you’re not famous so who would want to read your memoir? They were not prepared to take the risk of publishing my work unless it was a safe bet. Time was running out – it had taken me twenty years to get the manuscript into a publishable state, so in 2017 I took the bull by the horns and decided to self-publish. This was a steep learning curve but I felt very proud of myself when I finally held NO ONE COMES CLOSE in my hand! Since September 2017 I have had some wonderful comments from my readers and eleven 5 star reviews.
3) Tell me about your publishing journey step by step – what happened once the book was finished?
As I have said, I was disappointed every time a publisher or literary agent turned me down but I was determined I wasn’t going to give up. It took me three days to structure the book in the required format for CreateSpace. I then had to go through all the requirements it takes to actually display the book for sale on Amazon. Being a complete novice at all these stages I then had to market and promote my book. This I find harder than writing the book, formatting it and publishing it!
After the success of this book I decided to publish my début novel WHERE THERE’S A WILL. This is a rom-com set in South East London that started life at one of the creative writing evenings in 2008 when we were asked to create a character and put them in a situation:
‘Struggling to pay the bills and unsure of her future, Jess thinks all her dreams have come true when she meets Giles Morgan, a wealthy lawyer, who stumbles in front of her motionless car one Monday morning.
Eddie, Jess’s former boyfriend, has never stopped loving her or given up hope of them getting back together but he can’t give Jess the lifestyle she craves.
Will Jess listen to her heart of choose a life of luxury?’
Having self-published once I didn’t bother taking the traditional route. Now I have two books on Amazon.
4) Who or what has helped you the most in becoming a published author?
Without a doubt the most help I received was from the critique group in Cornwall. It’s so important to belong to a writers’ group, I cannot stress this enough. Writers are, by nature, very solitary beings and writing ‘in the dark’ you’re never sure how your work will be received until someone reads it. The members of the group were invaluable in spotting things I’d missed and we discussed the story structure, format and dialogue. I looked forward to my turn to have my work critiqued and was very heartened by their favourable comments. Although online groups have their place, face-to-face writers groups are far better. It helps tremendously to be able to talk to others and hear their reactions.
5) What are the main obstacles you faced / overcame when writing and publishing your book(s)?
I think the main obstacle was deciding whether or not to publish my memoir or turn it into a novel. By nature a memoir is sensitive because it’s a true story and the people involved could be very upset that you have ‘laid them bare’. For this reason I changed the names of the people concerned and wrote a disclaimer in the front of the book.
6) How do you promote/advertise your book(s)?
I am not accustomed to promotion or marketing of any kind. I have used social media and Amazon book promotions. I have given author talks at a writers’ day and at my local library where I sold some signed copies. It was a lovely surprise when the local paper came to photograph me and published an article on me, but I think the best surprise came after writing an article for my local paper about both my books – this was seen by my library and they bought my novel! I was on cloud nine to think people were taking my book out and reading it.
I also took my books to a Christmas fair and sold some. I have asked another library if I can do an author talk in the next few months and I have emailed BBC Radio Norfolk to ask if they can interview me on air. I have also done radio interviews in Cornwall to promote the short story anthologies the ‘Caradon Hill Writers’ produced. This was another writers’ group to which I belonged. In fact, I belonged to four groups in Cornwall, all very inspiring in their own way, but since moving to Norfolk I am struggling to find any.
7) How did you celebrate the incredible achievement of your first book being published?
I did a happy dance and shouted from the rooftops! My husband doesn’t share my enthusiasm for my writing, so we didn’t go out to celebrate.
8) What advice would you give to other authors about to begin their publishing journey?
Join a writers’ group! Having your work read and critiqued is invaluable. Apart from that, read all you can on the subject of writing and publishing and always have your work edited by a reputable editor. There are so many books out there that have not gone through this process. They are peppered with typos and grammar mistakes and look totally unprofessional.
9) Where is/are your book(s) currently available to read and where can people find you online?
Both NO ONE COMES CLOSE and WHERE THERE’S A WILL are for sale on Amazon.com.
NoOne Comes Close: A memoir by J A Newman
Where There's a Will
WHERE THERE’S A WILL is stocked in two Norfolk (UK) libraries.
You can find me on www.facebook.com/J.A.Newman.author and on my blog: julieannnewman.wordpress.com.
10) Are you working on anything new we can look forward to in 2019?
I am currently rewriting my NaNoWriMo novel titled THE BAY that started life in 2014. I hope to publish this later in the year. This is the story of a family who owned a guest house in Cornwall in the 1960s and the effect this old house has on its previous occupants in the present day.