Happy Independence Day!
How's the weather where you are?
Good for family and barbeques and baseball?
I hope so!
Today I have Julie Gilbert with me. She's a talented Vella author, though you wouldn't know it from her official biography: Julie C. Gilbert is a writer and a high school chemistry teacher
But she is so much more than that! Let's find out.
Social Media Links and Website:
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I tend to work in 2-4 hour chunks (with random breaks for social media nonsense).
I have a day job as a teacher, so for most of the year, that means 7-11 pm is the writing time.
During the summer, I try to get 2-3 writing sessions in, broken up by naps, meals, and walks (because not moving for hours on end is hard on the body).
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
One of my friends pointed out that most of my stories feature a kidnapping. I suppose that counts as a writing quirk.
Some books have a plan and others are sort of unfolding as I go.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
The first book likely came about during the summer between my senior year of high school and first year of college. For the first years of my writing career, I chose one project and worked on it in the summer. Then, throughout the year, I’d proofread the current work.
I was around 18. (Did pre-K as a five-year-old, so I was a year ahead of my peers throughout school.)
These days, I am all about the Vellas, so I’m working on about 4 projects at a time. It’s an intriguing challenge.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
That really depends on how you’re defining book. If you’re counting titles, over 50. If you’re counting novel-length works, 35+.
Many of my books are novellas or shorter novels that were bundled into longer works.
I’ve also been doing a lot of kindle Vellas. Some of those are complete, some are not. Some are ebooks and some are still just waiting for a season to finish before I repackage it for ebook or paperback.
Picking a favorite is difficult. I write in a lot of genres, so it’s often an apples/oranges sort of conversation. (I like both for different reasons.) Of the Vellas, I’m having a lot of fun with Trials, Tribulations, and Trust Issues.
Of the novels, I’m probably most proud of the combo book for Anotech Chronicles, which contains three of my longest works: Reshner’s Royal Ranger, Reshner’s Royal Threat, and Reshner’s Royal Guard. The combo could seriously damage your foot if it landed.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
(A lot of my craft thoughts are collected in the 5 Steps series—the writing ones, not the chem ones. Topics covered are audiobooks, blurbs, and dialogue.)
If we’re talking the writer life, define what you want out of the business. Is it a business or a hobby or something in between? Admire the success of others, learn how they did it, but don’t let the comparison crush you like a bug.
If we’re talking craft, the easiest way to become a better writer is to do it, a lot. Then, have Word or some other text-to-speech thing read it back to you. You should get a feel for whether the story flows.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I count reviews as hearing from readers.
“This was just the greatest science fiction collection I've ever listened to. It is adventurous, romantic, and fast moving.” ~Faith D (about Anotech Chronicles)
“I have been a fan of Julie C. Gilbert’s writing for years. She knows how to really build a detailed and complex setting with great characters.” ~Catrina P (also on Anotech Chronicles audiobook)
“Amazing. Sad. Wow. Just wow. This is so well written and narrated. I've never felt so many emotions from a book before.” ~ Kindle Customer (About Beyond Broken Pencils—the school shooting book)
“Julie C Gilbert is very skilled at creating a complete world with several different races and various magical abilities. Her characters are robust and well developed. Her plots are convoluted with many surprising twists and turns.” ~Laura (about Aeris Legends Books 1-3, the novel collection not the Vella)
Oh, there are negative ones too, but I am proud of these and a lot more. One of the coolest letters I got was fanmail from a kid who said Ashlynn’s Dreams was her favorite book. It certainly made my day.
What do you think makes a good story?
The best stories balance both characters and plot, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with characters. You can have a really exciting plot, but if the reader can’t connect with (or hates) your main character, it turns the reading into a chore instead of a joy.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I suppose that depends on what else is going on in the day.
I can usually only write if I have a certain level of brainpower.
The types of writing I do take varying levels of energy as well. For example, Trials, Tribulations, and Trust Issues has Superpower Review chapters and Journal Entry chapters. Of the two, the power reviews are a tad easier because they take a different kind of thinking. There’s less emphasis on continuity between the chapters. (It’s just a different kind of story.)
My teaching project involves a lot of interview formatting and questions and such. That’s a different kind of energy too.
It’s really fun work, but it’s still work. So, I guess, I’d say it drains more than energizes me. Part of the writing process is the review process (reading the first draft and such), that’s always exciting/energizing.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Not until very recently. When I decided to do my teaching project, I chose to work under a pseudonym because I wanted to provide unbiased and honest opinions about my job. Such a thing is impossible to do if one fears what others might think.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I started writing to entertain me. I started publishing to share with readers.
That said, I still have a day job, so I have the luxury of writing original stuff instead of worry about hitting a certain market.
I’d like to think that my original stuff is something readers can enjoy. There are certain rules and conventions (like grammar rules) that exist for convenience. One can break them, but there better be a good reason to do so.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
I rarely write standalones these days. Even across genres, my books tend to reference each other or have common characters.
· Heartfelt Cases – some characters are fans of Anotech Chronicles.
· Devya’s Children and Heartfelt Cases share some characters.
· Beyond Broken Pencils – one of the plays was Princess Melia’s Plight (That’s also one of my graphic novels. Okay, so it’s my only graphic novel, but there’s another in the works.)
· The Aeris books sort of spread on their own. It started with Awakening, but that got 2 sequels, then I wrote a prequel story and a trilogy following that prequel story. One of my Vellas is set in that world and discusses a lot of the worldbuilding aspects.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I’m going to go practical: the $750-ish I spent on my laptop.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Solid question. Are we counting Vellas? Because five of my nine Vella projects are on-going.
I have my first novel which I’m not positive I can save, and I have a ¾ finished fantasy that I might be able to turn into something for Aeris.
There’s also a 15-chapter Aeris story that’s more official gamelit. It’s going to be roughly 40 chapters once done, and there are 7 projected stories in that possible series. But I’m not sure when I’ll get the time to flesh out and finish book 1.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success can be defined so many different ways. Goal-wise, I’d like to make more money than I spend doing this.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of hiring the right person to make the audiobooks, so that’s got a big pricetag. I’m trying to learn Kickstarter and see if that will fund the comic/graphic novel side of things.
Ideally, I’d love for my books to take off without me busting my backside for marketing, but that’s not reality. Even the most popular series have ads in your face to let new people know about them.
I’m happy if my ads make a small profit, I get a few loyal fans, and I keep getting to do what I love (and get paid for it).
What do you have coming next?
Summer is almost upon us. In theory, that means I should get more time to write.
In addition to keeping Aeris Legends (the vella) and Trials, Trib, Trust at every other day releases, Dear Ann at 6/7 day releases, and Assassin School on weekly releases, I’d love to get ahead of some deadlines.
That may require Dear Ann (teaching nonfic) to slow down, which makes sense over the summer.
Novel-wise, I’d like to spend a few days seeing if that old, half-finished fantasy is worth salvaging or if I should just start from scratch on the concept. I also want to get that first litRPG/Gamelit story wrapped up.
I want to finish Assassin School Season 2 so the ebook and paperback can be formatted and released.
I am not quite sure how long Trials will run, but I feel like I’m halfway through that. I’d love to hear it on audio someday (and that requires ebook and paperback first).
The plan is to go to the 20Booksto50K Vegas conference in November, so that will be exciting.
Eh, never a dull moment.