10 questions with novelist Juliet Greenwood: ‘I vanish – then reappear for company and cake’

Author Juliet Greenwood

Juliet worked in London for nearly ten years and now lives in a traditional Welsh cottage halfway between the romantic Isle of Anglesey and the mountains and ruined castles of Snowdonia. After studying English at Lancaster University and King’s College, London, Juliet worked in a variety of jobs, from running a craft stall at Covent Garden Market to teaching English. Then she was left with debilitating ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after a virus which she says was both the best and worst thing that ever happened to her. She had to re-evaluate her whole life and it made her a writer. The rest is history..

When not writing Juliet works as an academic proofreader, or is dog walking, gardening and working on local oral history projects plus helping aspiring writers. Her latest novel, The Ferryman’s Daughter, is on sale now.

1. What’s your name and where do you come from?
My name is Juliet Greenwood, and I live in a traditional quarryman’s cottage, part way up a mountain at the edge of a village in beautiful Snowdonia, North Wales. 

2. Do you write fact or fiction and in what genre?
I write historical novels, mainly set in Cornwall during the early twentieth century, when women’s lives were changing rapidly, particularly following the upheaval of the First World War. My heroines are women determined to follow their own ambitions and live life on their own terms, rather than being confined by the expectations of the time that their only choice, rich or poor, is to marry, keep house for a husband and have endless children. 

3. Are you traditionally or self published and which route do you consider best?
I’m traditionally published with Orion, with my first book ‘The Ferryman’s Daughter’ published in May this year. I started my publishing journey with three novels published by a longstanding small publisher, Honno Press. Honno also has a remit to encourage women writers who are Welsh, or living in Wales, and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work with one of their editors for a year before my first book was accepted. It was the most incredible experience, both terrifying and exhilarating! I learnt to love the challenge of the editing process and to understand just how much hard, soul searching, work it takes to create a publishable novel. I have huge respect for friends who self-publish, but personally I find I work best when I have the input of an editor to create the final draft. I love being challenged by an external view, particularly as an editor reminds you of how a reader will come at your book – which can so easily be forgotten in the heat of living inside the story for so long!

4. What is your work schedule like when you are writing? 
Much of the time I’m working round my day job of academic proofreading and editing. It’s freelance, so I’m often working to strict deadlines. On those days, I try to work at least a couple of hours on the current book to keep the story in my mind, and I work out plots or scenes in between. When I have a free writing day, I walk my dog early in the morning (good thinking time!), grab breakfast and then go for it until I run out of steam. I find I work at my best when I work intensively, especially when it comes to edits. Friends and family have now got used to my periodic vanishing act and know I’ll soon reappear, in need of company – and cake! 

5.What advice would you give to budding writers? 
Keep going. Keep reading and keep writing. It takes years to learn any skill – and writing a novel takes huge amounts of skill, experience and hard work – lots and lots of hard work! I found it useful to start with writing stories and serials for magazines, as those teach you to write for an audience and for a market while developing your own voice. Keep listening and keep learning. Rejection and criticism is part of the process, this is how every writer continues to refine their craft. It’s painful, however experienced you are, but always useful. So embrace it as part of the learning process. After all, you don’t get fit enough to run a marathon without some painful muscles, and you don’t learn bricklaying by instinct. Every skill needs plenty of practice and a few good teachers along the way and writing is just the same. 

The Ferryman’s Daughter by Juliet Greenwood

6. Who/what are YOUR favourite authors/ books? 
I still love Jane Eyre, which was the first book I read as a teenager that really told a story from a female point of view. It was a revelation. I’ve always loved Dickens’ intricate story-telling, despite his sometimes dodgy heroines, and I love his anger at social injustice. The death of Jo the crossing sweeper in Bleak House gets me every time! One of my unexpected loves was a book I picked up in a charity shop, ‘Reindeer Moon’ by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. It’s the story of a group of ancient humans living on the edge of existence. It strips away everything except what it is to be human, both painful and beautiful. I loved being lost in a distant world, but one that also looked at love, jealousy, the ebb and flow of social relationships and the need to find a purpose. It gave me a real passion for historical fiction.

7. Are you a plotter or a pantster? (i.e do you plan out your work or fly by the seat of your pants?)
Well, I start with good intentions of being a plotter, but then I find once I start, the plot and the characters tend to take on a life of their own. I quite like not knowing fully where I’m going, I find the story evolves in ways I hadn’t expected and much better than my original idea. I usually have an idea of the main characters and the beginning and end, but the rest is definitely an evolving process. It can be a bit scary at times, but I’ve learnt over the years that it usually works out in the end, and it keeps me on my toes! 

8. What helps you focus? 

Having limited time certainly helps to keep me to concentrate when I have the chance! And having a deadline for the next book certainly focuses the mind. But working intensively all the time can definitely lead to burn out and be counter productive, so I also find I need long dog walks and working on my garden when my mind can mull things over, and taking time out to meet up with friends and family in between. There’s nothing like an afternoon talking ‘shop’ with fellow writers to get any waning enthusiasm back! It’s something I’m really missing at the moment, but there’s always email and Zoom and hopefully we’ll all be able to meet up before too long. 

9. How long did it take you to write your book/books? 

It usually takes me about a year to write a book. It takes about three to four months to do a rough draft. I just start and keep going and don’t go back until I reach the end, so it’s a very rough draft, with characters potentially changing personality, age, or even sex on the way, but that doesn’t matter. This is really me working out the story and getting to know the characters and where this is going. The second draft probably takes about a month, which is me pulling it all together and getting the final story in place. Then I do an intensive third draft, when the book starts to take its final shape, which usually takes about two weeks. Then it’s a matter of final tweaking, until it’s ready to go to my agent and my editor. That’s when the real editing begins! 

10. Where can we find your book/s? 
My books are in bookshops and online and they are all available as ebooks. My first book for Orion, The Ferryman’s Daughter, which was published in May this year, is also my first audio book, available from Audible, which I still find incredibly exciting.

The Ferryman’s Daughter: http://mybook.to/FerrymansDaughter

Honno Press: https://www.honno.co.uk/

Social media links: 

Juliet’s Blog: https://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliet.greenwood

Twitter https://twitter.com/julietgreenwood

Instagram: https://twitter.com/julietgreenwood 

Many thanks to Julia! N

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1 Comment

  1. Christopher Ringrose
    August 20, 2020 / 9:51 am

    Nice interview, Nicola — thanks

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