When did you decide that you wanted to be an author?
Well there are a couple of answers to this question. If you’d met me in year six primary school and asked me what I wanted to do when I ‘got big’ I’d have said “I’m going to be an author.” Absolutely, one hundred percent, I knew that was what I was going to do but then life happened so I didn’t start writing properly until I was in my early thirties. I’d done jobs which involved writing for organisations but not creatively. I was on maternity leave and by child number three this was a lot easier so I had quite a bit of spare time on my hands. I wrote a book called ‘Secret of the Sirens’ which I sent to a publisher who very luckily read it. They liked it and told me that it wasn’t right as it was but if I worked on it they would like to take it further. After this it became a contract. In many ways it was a slow process but then again I did get picked up by the first publisher I approached which was quite unusual.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I went through different stages. I remember I was really into historical novels when I was around seven or eight. I absolutely loved ‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘A Little Princess’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett which are set in the Victorian/Edwardian period. Each book has a common theme in which the children within them create an imaginary world. In the case of ‘A Little Princess’ they create riches from poverty through pure imagination. In ’The Secret Garden’ it’s the dead garden that they clear; that for me was a particularly strong image.
What is your favourite book now?
I’ve done all sorts of serious degrees in English so read very widely and it would be really difficult to choose. Restricting myself to novelists so I don’t have to even start thinking about playwrights and poets, I suppose the most perfect novel is ‘Pride and Prejudice’ because everyone thinks it is romance but really it’s just so funny! It does have the romance element but I don’t think that’s the main interest for Jane Austen- I think she was interested in the way people treat each other and of course her dialogue is just brilliant.
What caused you to decide to set your Cat Royal books in the Regency period?
It’s really my doctorate. I have a doctorate in English which involved four years of reading around a certain period. Afterwards I had all this knowledge: I knew the landscape, the voices and various historical events so it seemed appropriate. I kept coming back to Drury Lane because it really was quite a centre. It had the politicians there as well as the artistic figures and I just thought it seemed like a fantastic place to set a story. I tried it first as an adult thriller; like a detective story but it didn’t quite work because of the gender roles of the time – it was quite hard to get a convincing female voice that would conceivably move between classes. For this reason I recast the book as a children’s novel, as which it worked much better because children have that ability to remain uncategorized. In fact as my character, Cat, grows up it gets harder to put her in that space in a plausible way. She probably can’t dress as a boy anymore like she could get away with when she was flat-chested and pre-pubescent.
Why do you write under three separate names?
Well there is a practical reason and a benefit. The practical reason is that I’d found a lot of my reviews for Julia Golding were talking about the fact that I write a lot. I came to see that really to get some proper attention I should restrict myself to one book as Julia Golding a year; but that doesn’t equal a living wage. I then decided to split myself into different areas so that I could do more than one thing a year but stream them. So Julia Golding is literary fiction for upper end of primary to beginning of secondary school. Joss Stirling is very clearly that quite commercial brand of dark romance which had very much my teenage daughter, Lucy, in mind. Eve Edwards is historical fiction. The thing about being a writer is that I’m so not interested in the name on the spine; I’m interested in the book. If it could come out anonymous I really wouldn’t mind.
Do you change your writing style for each different name?
Yes, there are some changes: it’s like a voice. Within the Julia Golding books there are different voices depending on whether it is fantasy, romantic or historical. The style changes with the characters and also based on the audience. For example; Joss Stirling uses some more mature content because it’s aimed at older readers.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
There are three main things. The practical tip is get a notebook- carry it around and write down little snippets of conversation or random ideas because otherwise they will just fizzle out and you never know when they might be important. The second thing it once you get writing do not worry about getting it right from the start otherwise you’ll just keep looping round. Write it out and then go back. Thirdly, and this is really important: don’t write to be published. Publishing is the icing on what should be a really happy cake – you should really like the book. Publishing may not happen on your first book, it may not happen ever but you spend a lot of time writing and the reward should be the thing itself rather than getting it printed. Otherwise, because there’s so much rejection in writing, you may feel as if you’d failed. Finally, if you have a dream now of being a writer, it may be that the next ten years or so are spent doing other things, but don’t let that spark die out. It may be that you can do it at some stage later on in your life that you can’t possibly imagine now. For me the gap opened up when I had children but for somebody else it might be a career breaker. So don’t give up: just wait for that moment to come.