Sunday, May 6, 2012



Hello Julie! It is so wonderful to have this opportunity to interview you. You began writing at 8 years of age! Do you still have any of the stories you wrote?

No, I don't. I think Mum kept some of my poetry for years. I remember my short stories were written in pencil in an exercise book and were about a Russian Princess who rode through the snow in a troika and was all wrapped up in a fur rug. She was Tatiana or Ekaterina and I have no idea what happened to her when the revolution came. I suspect I was very influenced by Dr. Zhivago. I learned to read very young and was given a leather bound set of Jane Austen books by my Dad when I was 10; I fell instantly in love with Mr Darcy.

Working in media for over 25 years, what are some of the most important things you have learned, and if you could choose one of your most memorable times during this what would it be and why?

Different aspects of the media teach you different things. I was extremely lucky to train as a radio copywriter. It taught me brevity (72 words is 30seconds, but you have to leave them room to breath) and to paint pictures in the theatre of the mind. You learn to write to deadlines and to hold your nerve, to be disciplined and to write in any situation. When you write film scripts you can only include what the audience can see and hear, so you learn to put emotion into dialogue and to be succinct with description.

I was a TV sports producer at one stage and had to write new openings to live satellite feeds, when the whole programme changed with less than 5 minutes to air.
When I was a copywriter for a radio station in 1986 they had no room in the copy department and so I wrote in the staff canteen and my desk was the dishwasher when the canteen was full. Writing in these situations prepares you for anything and you never suffer writer's block.

Tell us about your novels, and the feature film scripts you have written.

I wrote my first novel when I was 21; it was called "Sweet Melody" and was about a young woman and her professional polo playing lover and about smuggling diamonds in hollow polo canes. My brother was a professional polo player in the UK at the time and I had experience of the polo world. It contained every plot I'd ever thought of.

In 1986, when I was 27, I wrote my second novel. It was called "The Summer of Our Discontent." It was about identical twin brothers who played for the New Zealand Cricket team and a South African Cricket tour (during the time of Apartheid) and protests and smuggling diamonds in hollow cricket bats.

"The Secret Keeper" is my third novel and does not contain the smuggling of any precious stones in any sporting equipment! It's based on fact, a 1742 del Gesu violin, one of the best in the world, was looted in Germany in 1939 and then lost, believed destroyed. This is my "take" on what happened to it. It revolves around a 14 year old American boy who is a violin prodigy but loves playing baseball, and when his parents refuse to let him play in case he injures his fingers, he refuses to continue with the violin. His Great-grandfather was a wealthy German banker and the family home was looted in 1939. His Grandfather survived Dachau. The book sweeps from pre-war Berlin, through Dachau, to Soviet Russia and present day America and is about ownership and possession. It has had over 30 five star reviews and has sold more than 30,000 copies.

I have a total of four books on Amazon and Smashwords, a book of short stories, some whimsical and some heartbreaking, "Stirred Not Shaken"; a book of my Dad's letters home during WW2, "Our Father's War" (he was a Spitfire pilot in the UK and the Middle East) and the first in a wine crime novella trilogy, "In Vino Veritas." This one is about a man who witnesses a gruesome crime, and is forced to commit one in self defence, then enters witness protection and moves to New Zealand where he buys a vineyard and makes wine. He's so successful his past catches up with him and he has to stand his ground...and add to the growing body count. Black comedy, murder and mayhem amongst the vines. Someone gets murdered with a bottle of Petrus and someone else drowns in a vat of must.

I've written several film scripts over the years, a thriller, a murder mystery, a love story, a short film about a killer with aquaphobia. It's a very precise discipline and you need to be very patient, it takes years to bring a movie to fruition.

You live in Cambridge, in England. Some of us have likely heard of Cambridge and how enchanting it is. Tell us about the village and some of the things you love best about living there.

I live in Cambridge, New Zealand. It's about two hours south of Auckland in the North Island. It's a gorgeous rural town in the middle of 'horse country.' The best thoroughbred studs in the country are all around us. The town is full of large oak trees and wide streets and has a village green where they play's very English. There are times when you can see people on push bikes with wicker baskets in front of the handle bars. I moved here from Auckland in May 2011 and love the slower pace and friendliness of the people and peace and quiet. My Mum was born here 88 years ago on a local farm and my Great-Grandfather helped build the local church 120 years ago. Every Sunday I go to a beautiful wooden church where my Grandmother was christened and married and so was my Mum. It feels very much like home.

What draws you to music and who are some of your favorite composers, do you have a favorite recipe, and what is your favorite sport?

I have always loved music and sung from a very early age. My music tastes are eclectic, from classical to musical theatre, soft rock and 70's/80's pop. I love opera and have since I was about 12, Verdi, Puccini etc. My very favourite voice is Placido Domingo and over the years I have seen him perform in concert and opera houses in New York, LA, Vienna, Verona, Hanover and Auckland. I also love musical theatre and have sung it as long as I can remember, my party trick as a kid used to be that I could sing every song in all the old musicals from the 50s, 60s, 70s. I love the voices of Michael Ball and Ramin Karimloo. I was named after Julie Andrews and had seen The Sound of Music about 12 times by the time I was a teenager.

As far as recipes, I love cooking and preserving. I gather fruit from my brother's farm and make jams, chutneys and preserved fruit. Just today I harvested ripe figs from my garden and made fig and ginger jam, yummy! I have a chicken marinade, with ginger, soy, maple syrup, garlic, oil etc that is a family favourite. My favourite food is probably warm freshly stewed cinnamon apple with vanilla ice-cream.

Sport? I love watching rugby (Go World Champion All Blacks!), cricket and golf and I love swimming and dancing.

Tell us about Chloe, your wonderful companion, and whether or not she is an inspiration to your work.

Chloe is my black and white cat. She's three and a half and I got her from the SPCA. I had had her predecessor, Mia, for 17 years before she died of cancer and I waited a year before choosing another one. She is a gentle girl, very affectionate and very intelligent. She loves to stretch out on her back with her paws in the air and snore. She catches mice and brings them to me as gifts. She's more of an interruption than an inspiration, but she seems to know when it's time to take a break and have a cuddle.

I love your motto, "To dream of the person you could be is to waste the person you are." Tell us more about that motto and how it came about.

I love it too. It is a motto I learned from Michael Ball, a British musical theatre star and I had it on my computer when I was working fulltime in my last years in the rat-race of the media. I guess it resonates with me because I always dreamed of being the person I now am, a writer, and then I realised that I had it within my power to move that from the dream of the person I could be, to the reality of the person I am. I believe too many people waste their lives thinking about what they could be and ignoring what they are, the power they posses to change things and be what they want to be. Live in the present, not the past and not the future.

You also have another motto, "It was a brave man who ate the first oyster." What significance does this hold in your life and what do you think is the meaning.

I admire courage and to me this means that someone, somewhere, took a chance on something that didn't look that edible or even safe, and look what happened! Sometimes you have to be brave and try to do something for the first time, be it anything you come across in life. If you don't like it, you KNOW you don't like it, nothing lost. I never intend to die wondering 'what if.'

Tell us about the future, what are your plans and what can we expect next from you.

I am writing the sequel to "In Vino Veritas" which is (provisionally) called "Dripping in Chocolate." I am also looking at taking some of the blogs I've written since last September and turning them into a book called "The Second Half." It will be a look at moving from a working, urban life to a rural, writing life at the age of 52. My blog has proved very popular and it is my quirky way of looking at life.

When the "Blood and Wine" trilogy is finished I have a couple of film scripts that will make good novels and a whole notebook crammed with ideas.

Do you have any advice you'd like to share with other authors, or in general that you think would be beneficial to our readers? Also we'd love you to share your links and let us know where we can find out more about you.

• Well, the usual, read as much as you can and as widely as you can and write, daily.

• Also pay attention to your gifts, your senses and your subconscious. I believe that a writer's creative brain needs to be continually filled with sensory experiences...walk barefoot on grass, sand, tarmac; smell what is in the wind; describe the things you smell as colours; eat meals and find unusual words to describe the way things taste; feel rain and sunshine and cold on your bare skin; listen to birdsong and children laughing and eavesdrop on people talking at every opportunity you get. Being a writer makes you an observer and a listener.

• Take time, daily, to sit quietly and block out sound and sight, and listen to your subconscious, your instinct, the heart of your creativity, it will provide you with creative answers and inspiration. It's not a loud sound and it's easily overwhelmed, but the more often you do this, the stronger and more useful it becomes.

• WRITE THINGS DOWN. Have a pen and notebook with you always, remember that creative inspiration is not like learned procedure or conscious thought, if you don't write down it will not stay in your brain.

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Thank you again Julie for this wonderful interview. We hope to do this again in the near future!

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