Julie grew up in Rumford, Maine, in the USA. She now lives in lives in Berkshire, England, with her husband, a guitar tech for rock bands, and their young son. Julie is an author and creative writing tutor, with over half a million books sold from the fifteen titles published in both her own name and pseudonyms. The Write Romantics are delighted that Julie has been able to spare the time to have a chat with us. Julie’s latest book ‘Dear Thing’, published by Bantam Press, is out now.
We know that, like us, you were once a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you have been a member, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?
I’d always wanted to be a writer, but I decided I wanted to get serious about being published in about 2001, when I was teaching secondary school English full time. I started writing a romantic novel, because I’d always read them for fun, and I joined some online forums. Someone there recommended the RNA and I joined as soon as I could. I submitted three novels to the NWS in total. The first came back with many, many criticisms, but I was absolutely thrilled with that. I’d never had someone read my entire novel before and offer professional, intelligent advice. Unfortunately my reader advised I should probably scrap the novel and start another (it had already been rejected by publishers)…but as I’d already written half of my second novel, I wasn’t too discouraged.
The second novel I submitted to the NWS was actually the fourth novel I ever wrote. It also had some fantastic feedback; I revised Novel 4 according to the advice I’d received, sent it off to publishers, and started writing another (Novel 5), which I submitted to the NWS in 2004.
Things started to happen quite quickly for me after that. I entered Novel 4 in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart competition, and submitted it to Harlequin Mills & Boon, who requested the full manuscript. In March 2004 I discovered I was a finalist in the Golden Heart. Novel 5, which I’d sent to the NWS, was sent for a second read, but by then I’d already submitted it to agents and I signed with my agent, Teresa Chris, in June. In July, Harlequin Mills & Boon called me to say they wanted to buy Novel 4.
So though I started writing seriously in 2001, by 2004 I had an agent and a publishing contract. I think a lot of that was due to the good advice I’d received through the RNA and the NWS.
Please can you tell us a bit about your journey so far and what is next for you?
Since 2004 I’ve had fourteen books published under my own name, by three separate mainstream publishers. I wrote six books for Mills & Boon, and then moved to Headline to write romantic comedies for their Little Black Dress imprint. Eventually I moved into bigger books under the Headline Review imprint, and most recently, I’ve started writing emotional women’s fiction novels for Transworld. (My latest, DEAR THING, came out in hardback in April 2013.) I’ve also published several books under pseudonyms with large US e-publishers Samhain and Ellora’s Cave.
I’m really enjoying the challenges of writing bigger, more complex novels and I hope I’ll be able to continue doing that, and developing my writing, in the future.
Have you got any advice for others who might be hoping to emulate your success in securing an agent?
It took me several years and a lot of rejections to get an agent, but it turned out that by Book 5, I had more than one offer of representation and I had to make a choice about who was best for my career. I think it was a case of having finally written the right, saleable, book…and never giving up!
I remember very well that before I had an agent, I thought that it was all about my finding one who would accept me. But now, after several years with my agent and after speaking to many other authors, agented and unagented, I know how important it is not just to have an agent but to have the *right* agent. You need to sign with someone who you’re confident can look after your career for years to come, and who is as passionate about your books as you are. Although I’ve moved from publisher to publisher and imprint to imprint, my agent has been with me the entire time and she’s my greatest advocate and the source of much support and excellent advice.
What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your long-term career?
I want to keep on writing books that I enjoy writing and that appeal to me. I used to think the holy grail was getting published and whilst that’s important, it’s most important to me that I write the best book I possibly can, and that I still love writing. I hope I’ll be writing books that readers enjoy for a very long time to come.
What was the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?
The NWS introduced me to taking professional criticism and acting on it. That was the biggest benefit by far. I don’t think the NWS got me published as such, but it did help me hone my skills so that I had a better chance of getting published.
Of course there were many other lessons—showing not telling, how to get emotion on the page, how to construct a story and create consistent characters. And I’ve made friends and met colleagues in the RNA that have been very important to me.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?
Keep writing! Even though every writer gets discouraged, if you love writing and keep at it, it is its own reward.
Julie’s website: http://www.julie-cohen.com
Julie’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Julie.Cohen.Books
Julie’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/julie_cohen
To buy Dear Thing in hardback or ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00BFTT056/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i3?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=05E94M786F3CM3C1K5A7&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=358549767&pf_rd_i=468294
Two mothers…and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of them can keep.
‘This bittersweet story of friendship, heartbreak and love is impressively compelling.’ —Closer magazine
April 2013, Bantam Press
Check out Julie’s 2013 creative writing courses on http://www.julie-cohen.com/events