It’s a great pleasure to welcome indie author, Julie Stock to the blog today. Her first novel From Here to Nashville was published earlier this year and she’s here to tell us all about her debut success and her forthcoming second novel (several of the Write Romantics are particularly interested in that one as its set on a vineyard!) I’ll hand over to Julie to tell us more…
Thanks so much for inviting me to be on The Write Romantics blog. It really has been a pleasure to answer these questions for you and your readers.
The settings of your books are obviously important to you. How do you go about choosing them?
With my first book From Here to Nashville, I had a clear idea of the story already formed when I started writing and I knew that if Rachel, my main character, really wanted to make it as a country music singer, Nashville was the only place for her to go. That was an easy decision for me although at the time of writing my début, I’d never been to Nashville myself! Writing it made me really want to go there though and it was definitely worth it when I visited earlier this year.
For my second novel, Where My Heart Belongs, I knew I wanted to set it in France from the outset but it took me a long while to settle on where exactly. Originally, the story was about a British girl going to France to find her family but it is now quite different. I studied French for my degree many moons ago and I also have French family living in the Bordeaux area so this seemed the natural place but I have travelled to so many parts of France and in the end, I chose Alsace in the east of France mainly because it is a region that is a bit less well-known to British travellers and I felt that would make it more appealing.
Are you a fan of country music? Did any particular songs inspire you while you were writing?
It was definitely my love of country music that inspired me to write From Here to Nashville. I had also been watching the TV series Nashville at the time and it gave me the idea for my story. While I was writing, many favourite songs inspired me, so much so that I created a playlist on Spotify for readers to listen to if they wanted. You can find it here. I love all these songs but my real favourites are Need You Now by Lady Antebellum, Here You Come Again by the great Dolly Parton and I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack.
How would you describe the hero and heroine of ‘From Here to Nashville’?
Rachel lost both her parents prematurely and she has decided that now is the time for her to pursue her dream of a musical career at last. She is very determined about giving it her all. She’s also been let down in love so although she’d love to meet someone again, she won’t settle for the easy option.
Jackson is also a strong-minded character and has worked hard to rise to the top of his profession but after being cheated on by his fiancée, he has a weakness for alcohol and he fears the hold it has over him. He’s looking for someone he can trust completely before he gives his heart again.
We’re really impressed with your website, did you make it all yourself or did you have help with it?
Thank you! I have done it all myself amazingly, although I have asked my husband a million techie questions along the way. I love WordPress though and although I flirted with a paid WordPress.org site briefly, I have come back to the free version because it’s more than enough for my needs and my understanding! There are things I’d like to do to develop it further but I’m happy with it for now.
Have you published to all of the e-publishing platforms? How did you go about doing that?
Yes, I have. Once From Here to Nashville had been out for three months, I decided to expand to all the other platforms to see how that would go. I wrote about it on my blog here. After a bit of research, I decided to use an aggregator called Draft2Digital, which is a bit easier because they do all the hard work for you. I uploaded an ePub file to them and then they uploaded it everywhere else, including the other main platforms like Apple, Nook and Kobo. I also uploaded to Smashwords, which you have to do yourself but again, all they needed was an ePub file. I have had particular success with iBooks on Apple so I’m glad I did this and it was relatively easy.
Why did you decide to self publish ‘From Here to Nashville’?
I think the main reason was that I didn’t want to wait around for agents and publishers to get back to me with inevitable rejections. I was impatient to get on with publishing, especially as I’m not getting any younger! When I realised how easy it would be to self-publish and that I could do it myself, I thought, why not? I made sure to have my manuscript edited professionally and I rewrote it at least a thousand times (!). I then organised a professional cover to be designed and finished with a professional proofread. I don’t regret self-publishing for a minute but there is no doubt that it is very hard to get and then keep the momentum going as an indie author.
Would you be interested in a publishing deal if one came along?
Now that I have self-published and I have had more experience in the whole publishing world, I can see more clearly what a good publisher does to help its authors so I would be interested if the right deal came along.
What comes first for you, setting or story?
The story definitely but the setting follows on very closely. I’m not sure if it’s only my mind that works that way but settings are very important to me and I find that the two things go hand-in-hand when I’m coming up with story ideas.
We know your second novel is set in a vineyard in France. How much research has been involved and how did you go about doing it?
Well, in a former life, I worked for a mail-order wine merchant and as part of my job in their marketing department, I studied for all the Wine and Spirit Education Trust’s exams right up to diploma level. Although I left that job some time ago, I have always had an interest in wine (especially drinking it!) so for me, a lot of the research was already done. I have still done a lot in connection with the Alsace region and its particular wines because my male character owns a vineyard and I wanted to write in a bit of detail about growing the vines and harvesting the grapes so it was important to get that detail right.
We also decided to go back to Alsace on holiday this summer to refresh our memories about all the little things we have forgotten since we were last there. I couldn’t believe that it has been nearly eighteen years since we last went! It is still a beautiful region with lots to see and do, and the people are very special. I particularly wanted to visit the village of Hunawihr, which features heavily in my novel. It has a medieval fortified church and it was wonderful to see it in real life and to go inside.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given and what’s the worst?
Ooh, this is a hard one. I like the advice to just write your first draft until it’s done and not to get too hung up with trying to make it perfect. Finishing that first draft is the important thing and once you have that, you can get started on the lovely job of rewriting!
The worst piece of writing advice I think I’ve heard is that writers are born and can’t be taught. As a teacher, I find that quite crushing. Everyone can write, maybe not all to a publishable standard but we’re all capable of writing something. I see many children blossom to become good writers with some practical advice along the way and I’d like to think that that applies to everyone.
What are your future writing plans?
I am waiting to get on with rewriting my second book once it comes back from the RNA and while I’m waiting, I’m busy writing a novella about one of the characters in From Here to Nashville. I hope to publish my second novel early next year and the novella shortly afterwards if I can.
Blurb for From Here to Nashville
Two worlds, 4,000 miles apart. Can music unite them?
Rachel Hardy dreams of being a successful country music singer in Nashville’s Music City, four thousand miles away from her lonely life in Dorset.
When Jackson Phillips, an independent record label owner, encourages her band to audition for a nationwide competition, she decides they have nothing to lose.
But the stakes get higher when Rachel starts to fall in love with Jackson, who has demons of his own. Now she has a dilemma on her hands – to abandon her dream and take the easy way out or gamble on Jackson and leave the life she has always known behind.
Follow Rachel and Jackson as they learn to trust in love again and to see whether music really can bring them together.
From Here to Nashville is available here:
Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme and of The Alliance of Independent Authors.