by Andrea King Collier
Ann Arbor based author Julie Lawson Timmer is the author of the novels Five Days Left and her newest Untethered. Her third novel, Mrs. Saint and the Defectives, will be in bookstores in August, 2017. We are pleased that she will be joining us at A Rally of Writers this year. We asked her a few questions about her writing process.
Q: Where do you go for support and connection as a writer? Do you belong to a group? What do you think being connected in this way does for a writer? And specifically what do you think it has done for you?
A: First, to my husband, who is my first-line editor, go-to advisor about character and plot issues and biggest supporter. Next, to close writer friends, particularly Lansing’s own Lori Nelson Spielman, whose friendship is the single greatestreward of my entire writing career. Then to other writer friends, many of whom I know through online “secret” Facebook groups whose membership is made up of authors who write the same genre or have some other thing in common. My connections with other authors have been invaluable. It’s so helpful to know that someone else has “been there,” whether the “there” in question is doubt about one’s writing, problems with an agent, issues with an editor, disappointment in book sales, or any other aspect of the writing life.
Q: How long were you seriously writing before sold your first book?
A: Two years, almost to the exact day, which I now understand is a nanosecond in writing time. I feel fortunate to have had such a relatively short path to publication.
Q: Would you say that your stories are more character driven or plot driven?
A: Character, character, character!
Q: Who do you read for inspiration?
A: Oh, there are so many! I love Anne Tyler, John Irving, Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Strout, Alice Munro, Pat Conroy. I also read a lot of non-fiction–my novels involve a lot of research. I find tremendous inspiration from non-fiction accounts.
Q: What would you say to writers who get discouraged before they reach the finish line and type THE END? What kept you going?
A: I would say, keep going! I would also say you’re not alone–we ALL get discouraged. It’s simply part of the process, and you have to find ways to write anyway. I would also suggest finding some kind of trick or reward or *something* to help you push on when you’re feeling discouraged. I have found that what keeps me going is imagining the dedication page and the acknowledgments section. Once I focus on those things, writing the novel becomes a labor of love. What can seem impossible to complete for ourselves often seems quite doable when we are doing it for someone else.
Q: What was one of the biggest surprises you found about publishing and making your book a reality?
A: Perhaps the biggest surprise is that landing an agent and a book deal doesn’t make any of the self-doubt go away. There will always be times when you question your writing, your characters, your story. There is no magic cure that makes those kinds of stresses go away. You have to learn to write in spite of them.
Q: How hard has it been to move back and forth from writer mode to book promoter mode?
A: Ha – so hard that I don’t actually do it. I really am a terrible sales person/promoter. Usually, when people ask about my books, my response is to change the subject and/or to recommend another author’s books.