1. What drew you to write your first fantasy story?
Believe it or not, it was a picture I made from a picture application of me with a dragon next to me. I wrote a short catchy phrase that I only later learned was a ‘blurb’ I still use on what became my first fantasy novel. It all started with a picture I posted on my Facebook page and people kept saying they wanted more of the story…there was no story! So, day by day I wrote more and posted to my Facebook page for the first 30 days, at which time I discovered I was writing a book!
2. Did you plan a series or were the characters/worlds too fascinating to leave behind?
This tickles me pink! Since I had no concept I was writing a novel in the beginning, I just keep writing and the characters took control. When your characters are dragons and they talk to you all night long, you awaken and start writing! There was/is so much about these characters that a series developed.
3. Why did you create a dragon’s world in particular?
This is a great question. The answer stems from that picture we spoke about, but what I didn’t say was that at one time I found out a few people liked to speak behind my back, calling me a dragon. Well, when people cast stones… you build a castle and that’s what I did with my dragons. They are highly intelligent beings and are the protectors of those who cannot protect themselves.
4. What is your writing process? Planner or panster.
I’m a pantster all the way. I’m a visual writer. I see the story in my head. Sometimes it is only flashes or glimpses of a moment, but when my hand hit the keyboard, it pours out.
5. Do you only write prose?
My first outlet in writing was through poetry. I used it as a way to describe my feelings in a more powerful way. Gradually, it morphed into a way of telling stories.
6. Are you a lifelong writer?
Thankfully, yes. I recently turned 64 and the first I remember writing was a poem to my grandmother when I was eleven or twelve, so with more than fifty years behind me, writing is one of those things that has always been with me.
7. What are you working on now?
As writers, we always stretch. My first stretch outside of fantasy came last year when I decided to write a contemporary romance novel. Which, wouldn’t you know it, developed into a series. I’m writing the fourth book in this series currently. I actually have three books I’m writing. One is the fifth book in my current dragon series, The Spires of Dasny, one is the one I mentioned, the fourth in the Hope Falls series under my pen name, C.H. Eryl and the third book is one for a romance anthology I was fortunate to be asked to contribute. It will be a starter book for a companion series to the Hope Falls romance series.
8. Where do you see your series going and for how long?
I have to laugh at this question! I really don’t plan on a series, but they just grow and expand and sometimes make me mad when a character acts up near the end of what ‘should have been’ the last in the series… like now. The Spires of Dasny should have been a four book series, and here I am writing book 5. But wait, not only that but now the same character has stretched beyond his boundaries and now new books will come as a result. At the present I’m unsure if it will carry the same series name or if it will have a new series title.
Quite often we snack while we read, our choice of snack varies with our personal taste, but it may also reflect the genre we are reading. Here is a list of suggested comparable foods for several genres.
Romance – Red wine & dark chocolate covered strawberries or cherries. Chocolate or vanilla flavored foods are also popular. Hot chocolate for an alternative to alcohol. Smooth, rich or decandent foods are best.
Thriller – This snack is right up there and is a real mixture – popcorn with cinnamon, olive oil and pesto or mixed with M&M. You can imagine popping each morsel into your mouth in quick succession as the tension grows within the narrative.
Fantasy – Linking back to a childhood fantasy – Snow White, this pick is the ‘bad’ apple choice. Apples covered in cinnamon, honey, or caramel. Red velvet cookies. Hummus and pita chips or french fries with ketchup.
Comedy – Animal Crackers. Tea and biscuits/cookies.
Historical Fiction – Tea and crumpets (or scones or crackers). Charcuterie. Coffee
. What affect has your extensive travel made to your writing?
. A large part of my adult life has been spent overseas, and that of course informs my writing. Both my books have international settings, and I feel comfortable writing about international affairs.
· When did you begin your hiking adventures?
I am not a hiker normally, and I didn’t really train to hike the Camino de Santiago. Still, I had no problem doing the long-distance walking; I just didn’t love it. I set off from St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France on May 3, 2016.
· What made you want to write your book Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike?
In my early 20s, I read James Mitchener’s book Iberia. In it, his last chapter is on the Camino de Santiago. So, in about 1972, I put traveling the Camino de Santiago on my “someday” travel list. I just didn’t know that “someday” would take 45 years.
· Do you have a message within the hiking narrative for your readers?
Yes, I do have a message, and it makes me a heretic as far as many Camino purists are concerned. A culture has grown up around the Camino that if one doesn’t walk every step one is not a “true” pilgrim. I totally disagree with that philosophy, as the subtitle of my book announces. I think the pilgrimage aspects of the book are much more important than how the journey is accomplished. My mother and handicapped sister made a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1956, and my sister walked essentially no steps, yet that was a true pilgrimage. Some people get spiritual thoughts while walking; I don’t. I have those thoughts in cathedrals and while gazing in amazement at incredible architecture and art.
· Has the access to nature impacted your life?
Very much so. I grew up in the country and was active in 4-H through my teen years. I rode horses and showed livestock (cattle, sheep, horses) competitively. As an adult, I have been largely divorced from that closeness to animals and nature due to my job. Being on the Camino gave me time to slow down, look at the wild flowers along the way, see the birds twittering in the trees. I loved that part of walking the Camino.
· How did writing the hiking book differ from your process for your short story collections and the children’s book?
I don’t think my book is a hiking book. It is a pilgrimage book and a book about the history, art, and architecture of the Camino. It is most suited to those who are thinking of journeying on the Camino since it offers suggestions and tips, including a list of questions to help readers determine if walking the Camino is really what they want to do. It also is suited for those who will never walk the Camino but who want to be “armchair travelers” as they read my memoir passages about my experiences along the Camino.
· Is adoption a subject close to your heart and the reason you wrote your children’s book?
Yes, it is. When I adopted my son back in 1992, I looked for a book I could read to him about being adopted. I couldn’t find anything suitable. During the pandemic, I couldn’t travel and so couldn’t work on my planned next book. More or less on a whim I looked on Amazon to find out what was available for children on adoption. Amazingly to me, there are very few books on the subject for children, and most of those books are limited in what they cover. For example, the books only focus on the adopting mother and the adopted child, whereas in reality many, many more people are involved in an adoption. So, I decided to write a book that adopting families could use to talk to their child about being adopted.
· Do you consider yourself a nomad rather than a homebody?
I consider myself not a nomad, but a citizen of the world. To quote St. Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” Having said that, I am an introvert, and I am quite content to be alone and read a book—I just like to read that book while seated at a café in Lisbon or Santiago de Compostela.
· What are you writing now?
I have two projects underway. One is a second book about the Camino, and the other is a family memoir. My family, for a lot of reasons, is not a typical American family, and I think readers would enjoy learning about our history.
· Where can readers find you and your books?
My books are available on Amazon. Savoring the Camino de Santiago is available in four formats: hardback, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise is also available from Amazon in hardback, paperback, and ebook. Readers can also order my books from my website, Bayou City Press.com, or from their local bookstores. As for me, readers can contact me through either of my websites, BayouCityPress.com or JulieConnorAuthor.com
Julie Gianelloni Connor is an award-winning author and retired senior Foreign Service Officer. Her first book, Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, not the Hike, garnered no. 1 status on Amazon in both the category for new books on hiking and walking and the category for Spain and Portugal. It subsequently went on to win a silver medal in the eLit national competition as well as being selected as a finalist by Self-Publishing Review (SPR). She released her second title, a children’s book, in 2021. It has just won first place in the children’s book category at the North Texas Book Festival. The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise tells an international adoption story. Her short stories have appeared in four anthologies. Julie is the owner and publisher of Bayou City Press (BCP) in Houston, Texas, which focuses on travel writing, Houston, history, and international affairs. Julie writes a weekly newsletter for BCP updating subscribers about activities. She founded BCP after spending 33 years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, first with the U.S. Information Agency and later with the U.S. Department of State. She had nine overseas assignments in seven different countries: Israel (twice), Paraguay, Guatemala, Indonesia, Colombia (twice), Malaysia, and Chile. In Washington, DC, Julie worked on a variety of matters, ranging from nuclear non-proliferation to narcotics control to women’s issues. She has one son, James, and two cats, Halloween and Charles Augustus V. Her books can be ordered from her publishing website (BayouCityPress.com), from her author website (JulieConnorAuthor.com), or from Amazon.com.
As writers, we are used to being asked why do we write. Our answers are as diverse as we are as individuals and the many genres we write. There is no catch all answer, our reasons are as many as there are stories. No matter if there are similarities in upbringing, location, class, education or a plethora of other influences, how we perceive our world, and the experiences we encounter on our life’s path, make us unique. Therefore, our stories are unique to us. How we tell them, creative them, construct them is ours alone.
So, I will endeavour to answer that question in my own unique way. And hopefully, it will give you an insight into my creativity.
I write because I enjoy creating imaginary worlds, its characters and their stories. To weave a story around characters that I have conjured up in my mind, gives me not only satisfaction but also allows me to be creative. It is a kind of escape really. I become immersed in another world, where everything is possible through my fingertips. As a naturally creative person, who has tried many forms of creative expression, writing has given me the ultimate power. I am omnipotent. I can place characters in different eras, on other planets, in magical kingdoms – wherever I want. After saying that, a lot of my characters do dictate their story lines and propel me into new unexpected directions on occasion. This is part of the enjoyment and magic of writing. I hope to continue writing for as long as I can see and type and even then, maybe I can utilize modern technology to continue!
To another commonly asked question: what do I really want, my answer is – I want my stories to be my legacy. To be read and enjoyed for future generations and hopefully give a glimpse into my personality when I am gone. Instead of just the ‘dash’ on the gravestone there will be a pile of books to note my contribution to literature. It is a way of paying it forward into the future.
I have always loved to read which inevitably led me to tell my own stories. I still have poems and stories I wrote when I was 10 or 12! As for the why, I simply love to tell a good story. Living in a small town, I learned to entertain myself by writing and creating my own worlds.
What drew you to the mystery genre in particular?
I love puzzles – both word puzzles and picture puzzles. I guess it’s only natural that I was drawn to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as a kid. Funny how I never thought about writing them until I entered a Murder in Ink contest sponsored by a small Ontario publisher for the fun of it. That was how my first book, a novella, was published.
Do you feel a book series suits this genre best and if so why?
With cozy mysteries in particular, book series are a great way to go. Readers become immersed in the main character’s town, business, lives and love to watch them grow as the series goes on. Sometimes while writing in a temporary character, I’ve ended up with a whole new sidekick that sticks around for several more books.
Over time, with each new novel, have you found it is easier to write about your main protagonists?
By book two or three, my main protagonists become old friends and I like to get them in lots of trouble! It’s fun to put obstacles in their paths and see how they handle new situations. In Gilda’s case in my Gilda Wright Mysteries, she’s grown from someone who started working in a karate school to gain some confidence to a woman getting ready to grade for her black belt. She’s the main character who has had the most growth arc so far.
Can you give us some details of your latest book, The Conned Lady?
My two main characters in The Conned Lady are Katie Mullins and Danny Walker.
Readers met them back in The Bookstore Lady when Katie escaped from her bosses who wanted her dead because she knew too much.
Danny, who was investigating the organization, was supposed to keep her safe and lost her. Only to find her again in his hometown.
Together, they faced the bad guys and made sure they were behind bars and developed a romantic relationship through the series.
When the bad guys are suddenly free, Katie needs to confront her past and deal with it – with the help of Danny and their friends.
During it all, they both face insecurities and have doubts until… You’ll have to read The Conned Lady to find out!
What is your writing process?
I don’t have a daily schedule for my writing since I have a full-time job as well. Thankfully, during lock down I ended up working with a couple different writing groups and have blocks of time to write Sunday morning and Monday evening. Aside from that, I take time before work, during lunch, and some evenings when things are quiet. After learning to write around the chaos of work and three kids, I’ve learned to grab the free time when I can get it!
Do you list ideas for each series/protagonist specifically?
I really don’t list ideas for my protagonists. They grow as the story grows.
As for my series, I tend to come up with a main idea for the series then break it down in to 3-5 books that I write blurbs for. Sometimes I stick with them, other times the overall series story line takes a twist and I either juggle around the book blurbs or create new ones.
What do you see for the future of your many series?
My Wild Blue Mystery series has now come to an end – with an ending that will allow me to return to it in the future if I choose to do so.
Right now I’m waffling with ending my Gilda Wright Mysteries with the next novel or write two more.
I originally wrote three book blurbs for my Glitter Bay series, then I created a new character named Quinn who seems very eager to stir up some excitement around Glitter Bay!
As for my Sugarwood Mysteries, Book 2 is in the process with at least one more to follow.
Do you have a specific writing area?
I have a beautiful office space I painted Caribbean blue, but usually end up on the couch with my elderly cat, at the kitchen table in the sunshine, or outside if the weather is good. I don’t like to limit myself as to where and when I write, but find I can pick up a pen and paper any time anywhere.
Diane Bator is a mom of three, a book coach, and the author of over a dozen mystery novels and many works-in-progress. She has also hosted the Escape With a Writer blog to promote fellow authors and is a member of Sisters in Crime Toronto, the Writers Union of Canada, and a board member of Crime Writers of Canada. When she’s not writing and coaching authors, she works for a professional theatre. No surprise she’s written her first play, which may lead to more.