Today I’m talking to Julie Howard, author of three mysteries, Crime and Paradise, Crime Times Two, and recently Spirited Quest. She is a contributing author to the Deerbourne Inn series. Spirited Quest is available now.
What’s the first book you remember reading on your own as a child, or your favorite childhood read?
I started reading very early, at age three. My parents even started me in a private kindergarten a couple of weeks before I turned four because of this. I don’t remember what that first book would have been – most likely Dr. Seuss – but my favorite childhood read was My Friend Flicka.
I had a huge horse crush as a girl, and probably read Black Beautyfifty times. All through school, I was in the library every Saturday as soon as it opened and carried out an armload of books.
What’s your favorite place to write?
In cafes! I love the buzz of conversation around me as I write. I think this goes back to my days as a newspaper reporter and editor, working in a bustling newsroom where people moved about, TVs were on, and even arguments broke out. I can shut out almost any noise, but I find it difficult to write in complete silence.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned on your writing journey so far?
Never give up. And never give up on yourself. Writing and getting published isn’t easy. I have much more admiration of writers now that I’m published and understand a bit of what they’ve been through too. I don’t get discouraged easily and the early rejections didn’t stop me. In fact, they urged me on and prompted me to get better. Sort of like “Oh, you didn’t like this? Let me try again.”
What do you do when you feel stuck?
I’m a big believer in outlining my books and this helps enormously in not running into writer’s block. Every once in a while, however, I hit a spot where the plot just isn’t working, and I do get stuck. At that point, I move on to another scene later in the book. Usually, by the time I’m done with another scene, a resolution comes to me for the earlier scene I was stuck on. If not, I just keep moving forward. I never let myself stop writing.
Writers are readers too. Please recommend a romance you recently read and enjoyed.
I loved The Golem and the Jinii by Helene Wecker. This isn’t your ordinary romance since the characters aren’t human (and Golems aren’t technically alive) and it’s more a romance of the heart than the body. It’s a great story and so well-written. I’m anxiously awaiting the author’s next book.
What was it that appealed to you about the Deerbourne Inn series?
To be honest, I’m surprised I ended up writing for the Deerbourne Inn series at all. I didn’t know if I could write a good short mystery. But once I learned there was a ghost at the Deerbourne Inn, the plot came to me in a flash. All of a sudden I HAD to write the story. It was as though the ghost haunted me until I wrote about her. Now I’m hooked on writing shorter novels and would love to write more of them.
What was the inspiration behind Spirited Quest?
Since childhood, one of my favorite types of books to read has been magical realism. It was just a matter of time before I sat down to write a ghost story. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to write this one. I’ve always believed there was something behind the closet door and under the bed, but these days I’m not afraid of them.
Tell us about Spirited Quest in 100 words or less.
My main character, Paige Norman, believes in a tangible, explainable world. When her ghost-hunting niece comes for a visit, she tries not to scoff. But someone, or something, is stirring up trouble at the Deerbourne Inn and her niece, Jillian, is at the center of the mystery. Paige is certain the handsome Aussie photographer is behind unexplained disturbances. Meanwhile, Jillian gets to know the spirit of the Deerbourne, who foretells an encounter with “two men.” Then the pranks turn dangerous. Has her niece attracted a stalker or has she conjured up evil? Can the culprit be the man who has captured her heart?
Do you have an extract you can share with us?
He nodded a friendly greeting to her, his gaze grazing past to include others on the porch. “G’day, ma’am. G’day all.”
An Australian. Her heart skipped a beat. Oh, to be twenty-five, even thirty-five, again. His gaze settled on her niece, and as always happened to men where this girl was concerned, his jaw slackened, then tightened.
Next to her, Jillian grew still, lifting wide blue eyes to the newcomer. The moment passed. He was through the front door and into the lobby, and the door closed behind him.
“You’re in for some nice company this week,” Paige commented with a smile.
A frown flickered across her niece’s face. “I’ve seen him before.”
“Not exactly. He appeared to me in a dream.” Jillian’s blue eyes were troubled as she gazed at the Inn’s front door. She lifted one hand and rubbed the back of her head, then gave a shiver. “There was blood and I was afraid.”
Where can readers find you online?