To celebrate the release of her new novel In Another Life (which has one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen), we sat down with author Julie Christine Johnson and asked her questions about her new novel, her writing, and what she has coming up next. We are so excited to have her on the blog today and loved getting to know more about Julie – we hope you do as well!
Thank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session.
Karen, thank you so much for hosting me on your beautiful blog. It’s such a joy to be here!
What was your inspiration for In Another Life?
My husband and I spent a few weeks in the region in spring 2011. We’ve both lived in France and traveled all corners of L’Hexagone, but it was the first time we’d explored Languedoc in depth. We were enthralled by the scenery, the history, the culture—which are inextricably linked. History lives and breathes in the medieval ruins and Roman roads, the vineyards and the mountains. It is a culture shaped by the contours of its lands and one that worked its way deep under my skin. I left with a mental image I couldn’t shake: a woman standing on a cliff’s edge; below her stretches a valley laced with vineyards and studded with wind towers. Behind her, a man steps out from the ruins of a Cathar citadel. I was aching to find out who they were, but I knew she was from the present, he from the past. Then I read about the Cathars’ belief in reincarnation and I had my way into the story.
How long did it take you to write In Another Life?
The first draft took 18 months. I wrote the first words in July 2012 and made the last changes to the publishers’ proof in late October 2015.
What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your book so far?
A reader told me she was just about to add my ARC to her teetering “To-Read” stack, but she took a quick peek and set everything else aside to read In Another Life. Unputdownable. I was over the moon!
What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline and do you write every day?
When I began In Another Life I had a beginning, a handful of characters, but I had no middle or end; I wrote scenes out of order. About two-thirds into a first draft, I had 140,000 words and no sense of where I was going or how it would ever end. I stopped in my tracks, started from the beginning, cleaning up as I went along, putting things in order.
I’m still a pantser at heart. I don’t start with an outline, I don’t edit as I draft, I let it all pour out. But now, once I’ve got a solid first draft in hand, I use Michael Hague’s brilliant Six Stage Plot structure to discover and refine my character arcs. And I keep a process notebook for each novel, working out plot holes, asking myself questions, tracking key details. I draft in Scrivener, but I have to solve problems and plug plot holes in longhand.
I do write every day, but I have several projects going on at once. What I work on any given day is a matter of balancing writing with non-writing life, my energy level, scheduled commitments, and deadlines!
I love the cover of In Another Life! Who designed it and how many different ones did you go through until you found the right one?
Isn’t it gorgeous?! I can’t take even a smidgen of the credit. It was designed by Laura Klynstra, who is on the design team at my publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc. It was the first cover they showed me, and the last—the only. We all knew at first glance it was something magical.
Do you have a favorite author and what authors or books have inspired you to write?
If I can choose only one, Jane Austen would be my main squeeze. Other favorites are Hilary Mantel, Kate Mosse, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, Mary Doria Russell, Elizabeth Gilbert, Lily King, Dani Shapiro, Tim Winton, Cormac McCarthy, William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Jess Walter, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I tend to binge on authors. Last year it was Elena Ferrante and Francesca Marciano. This year I’ve joined an online group reading a Virginia Woolf work each month.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
It takes a village to publish a book. No matter which path to publishing you take, traditional or independent, you cannot do it alone. Find mentors—writers at different stages of their careers—and listen, watch, learn. Ask questions, be humble, and don’t wait—reach out now. Writers’ blogs, Facebook groups, Twitter chats are all great resources for connecting with writers and finding your tribe. Reach out in both directions—up and back. Always be willing to help someone right behind you.
And always, always be working on your next story. Don’t sit hitting refresh on your e-mail when you begin sending out queries or your novel is on submission with editors. The process can take months, a couple of years, even. Always be writing the next book. The first thing my now-agent asked me after reading and expressing enthusiasm for In Another Life was, “What else do you have?” I sent her a draft of my second novel and I had an offer of representation by the end of the week.
If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?
My second novel, The Crows of Beara, will be published September 15, 2017 by Ashland Creek Press. I’m in the midst of working with my editor on revisions. It’s set in contemporary southwest Ireland, with a thread of magical realism woven through (of course, it’s Ireland!). I sent a draft of a third novel to my agent recently. Set in New Zealand, it’s perhaps the most personal of my stories. At least it started out that way. It became something else entirely by the end. It’s the first time I’ve written a child as one of the main characters.
But I don’t think I’m finished with Lia. I’m researching a sequel to In Another Life. Tentatively titled The Salt Road, it will be set on the border between France and Italy with Lia on a modern-day pilgrimage through the mountains, following closely in the medieval footsteps of a character from In Another Life, whom we met only briefly. Who else returns from In Another Life will be a surprise—even to me, at this early stage!
I would love to hear from your followers about recent reads they’ve loved—I’m always looking for great suggestions. Some of these books may end up in my newsletter subscriber raffle basket!
Thank you for the wonderful interview, Karen!
About the Author:
Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt, and the anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs.
Her second novel, The Crows Of Beara, a finalist in the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, has sold to Ashland Creek Press for publication in fall 2017. In this work of women’s fiction, a struggling American PR executive and an enigmatic Irish artist face off over the development of a copper mine in rural Ireland, finding love and redemption amid the rugged, mystical land.
A runner, hiker, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State with her husband. In Another Life is her first novel.
Connect with Julie:
About In Another Life:
It is January 1208 and in a village on the border between Provence and Languedoc, a monk whispers a benediction over the body of a slain papal emissary. The Cathars—followers of a heretical faith—are blamed for the assassination. The Pope declares a holy war and Languedoc is forever changed.
Eight hundred years later, historian Lia Carrer returns to southern France to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. Instead of finding solace in Languedoc’s quiet hills and medieval ruins, the woman trying to heal risks love, and loss, again.
Reincarnation is familiar ground for Lia—an expert in the mystical beliefs of the ancient Cathar faith—but to reconcile the truth of that long-ago assassination, the logical researcher must accept religious fantasy as historical fact. Three lost souls enter her life, each holding a key to the murder that launched a religious crusade in the heart of Europe.
In Another Life is set amidst the medieval intrigue of thirteenth century Languedoc and Paris, intertwined with Lia’s modern quest to uncover the truth of an ancient murder and free a man haunted by ghosts from his past.
To celebrate the release, Julie and her team have graciously provided Karen’s Korner a copy of her new novel for a giveaway! Enter to win via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):
a Rafflecopter giveaway