Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Author Interview: Julie Coulter Bellon

It's July 1st, and that can mean only one thing: Canada Day. "O Canada! Something something something something something something." Sorry. I forgot the words, but I clearly remember the tune.

Just kidding. Canada has been a good neighbor, and has produced a lot of talented people. Among them is my friend, Julie Coulter Bellon (say bell-ON), who is known in LDS literary circles for her fine works of international romantic suspense. Also, she blogs every Thursday on Six LDS Writers and a Frog. Her latest novel, All's Fair, published by Covenant Communications Inc., appears on bookstore shelves today!

Welcome, Julie! How long have you been writing? What made you start?

I have always loved writing and creating stories and I knew I wanted to be a writer from a very young age. It feels like I’ve been writing my entire life. As a small example, I’ve kept a journal since I was twelve years old, and sometimes it’s so fun to go back and look at all my girlish dreams and experiences, and see how far I’ve come as a person. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English teaching (a program with a lot of writing) and began teaching a journalism class for BYU as well as working as a part-time reader and editor for a publishing company. It was tough, though, because the writer in me was dying to see my own books on a bookstore shelf, but instead I was helping a lot of other books get published. It was a long road, but eventually I realized the dream of being the published author that I’d had for so long.

When did you sell your first book?

My first book, Through Love’s Trials, came out in June 2004. There’s really no feeling like when you get that first contract. I think I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. A close second was the first time I held my book in my hands or whenever I saw it on a store shelf. It was amazing for me.

What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?

I generally have an idea and a direction in mind, but let the story flow. Several of my stories have taken on a direction that I wasn’t planning at all.

How do you choose your characters' names?

Mostly I name the characters all the names I wanted to name my children, but couldn’t because my husband didn’t like those for kid names. And I have used people from my ward, names from the phone book, and sometimes even the names from spam emails I’ve gotten. You never know when a character name is going to jump out at you!

What is your daily schedule like?

As a mother of six children, and expecting a seventh child later this summer, my daily schedule is fairly hectic. I get a ton of interruptions: “Mom can I . . .” “Mom, where is my . . .” and such, but I love it. I am always busy running children here and there, helping them read, playing with them, and working with them, that’s for sure. When I do sit down to write, my computer desk is right in the middle of all the action and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How do you handle life interruptions?

As I mentioned above, with so many children I get a lot of interruptions and my computer time is fairly limited. I generally work out scenes for my books in my head while I’m doing chores or carpool or whatever. Then, when I have a moment to sit down at the computer, I quickly write it all down. I also have a little notebook I jot ideas down in because my memory seems to be crammed full of family details these days and I’m afraid I’ll forget my story or scene ideas if I don’t write them down right away. Of course, when I’m on a deadline, my husband is such a great support and makes sure I get as much quality time on the computer as I need. I couldn’t do it without him, that’s for sure.

Do you write to music? If so, with lyrics or only instrumentals?

Well, I don’t admit this to many people, but I like to have 80’s music playing when I write.

What food or snack keeps the words flowing?

Oddly enough, I have to have a bag of baby carrots to munch on when I’m writing. They just help the flow for some reason.

What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?

I love it when the words are flowing onto the page and the story just comes together. It’s a great feeling when that happens. Probably the thing I like least about writing is the possibility or reality of rejection. It’s the hardest part of the business for me.

Tell us about your new book, All's Fair.

All’s Fair is about Dr. Brandon Shepherd, a doctor with the Army who is serving in a small medical outpost in al-Qaim, Iraq. He is on a helicopter with his colleague, Dr. Rachel Fielding, trying to get to some wounded soldiers, when they are shot down. Within moments, they are taken prisoner by insurgents. They are chained to a wall and pushed past their limits of endurance while their hope for rescue dwindles by the day.

Back in the States, political opponents Kristen Shepherd and Ryan Jameson are squaring off over a heated campaign. When Kristen finds out her brother Brandon has been kidnapped, both Kristen and Ryan band together and use all of their political connections to find him. They soon find themselves swept up in international intrigue that could cause Kristen to lose everything she holds dear.

It was an amazing book to write because I got to work with a Marine, Matthew Blair, who has served two tours of duty to Iraq. Both of Corporal Blair's tours were field missions in the volatile Al Anbar province and he traversed more than two thousand miles of hostile territory. He's been in sandstorms that look like something out of the Mummy movies, and in rainstorms that sunk his truck turret-deep in mud. Hearing of his experiences firsthand really made me appreciate what our military sacrifices and what it means to be a soldier. I also studied several POW accounts and I think that added a depth to my characters that wouldn’t have been there before. I hope that comes through in the book.

Because of my experience writing All’s Fair, I am now involved with the charity, Operation Care and Comfort. This organization sends care packages to our military men and women serving in conflict regions, including Iraq. They do amazing work and I’m privileged to associate with them. If anyone wants to know more, or how they can donate to this worthy cause, they can find a link on my website,
http://www.juliebellon.com/, that will explain what is needed.

What is your next project?

I just finished some rewrites on a book set in Paris where an undercover agent has uncovered a terrorist plot that will kill thousands of people, but is branded a traitor before she can expose it. The story is full of a lot of action and adventure, I think, and the main character is a strong woman, which I love.

What is your advice for other writers?

Don’t give up. I got my first rejections and felt like maybe I wasn’t cut out for writing after all. I put the manuscript under my bed for a year! It was only after the prodding of a friend of mine that I finally dusted the manuscript off, made some changes, and submitted again. Of course, it was then that I received an offer. I think now that if I had had a thicker skin and a little more perseverance, perhaps I would have received that first contract sooner.

What other work of yours has been published?

Through Love’s Trials—June 2004—Spring Creek Book Company
On the Edge—August 2005—Spring Creek Book Company
Time Will Tell—March 2006—Spring Creek Book Company
Be Prepared—A Parent’s Guide to the Boy Scouts and Duty to God Awards: What You Should Know—September 2006—Spring Creek Book Company

Thank you for the interview, Julie.

Thanks again for doing this for me. You've been so great!

8 comments:

  1. Marvelous interview, Marsha! Julie Bellon is one of my all-time favorite writers -- and favorite people besides!

    I haven't even told her this, but about a dozen other writers have asked for access to my son while working on books set in Iraq. Julie is the ONLY one to whom I gave his e-mail addy. He was in Iraq when they met, concerned more with survival than his mother's colleagues. Still, he shared Julie's questions with his squad and they answered together.

    It turns out it was a great experience for all of them! When you're a long way from home and pushed to your limits almost every day, nothing means more than knowing somebody you're fighting for cares -- be they American or Canadian. :) Julie has truly been a blessing in Matt's life, as she continues to be in mine!

    But, Marsha, Covenant gets the publishing credit for this one! I know they're thrilled to have her join the group.

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  2. You're so right, Kerry. My mistake. COVENANT COMMUNICATIONS INC. is the publisher of All's Fair!

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  3. Marsha and Kerry, you ladies are so sweet to me. This book was a joy to write and I appreciate everything both of you have done.

    Happy Canada Day!

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  4. It is fun to read and get to know these friends of yours Marsha...my father served his mission in Canada way back in the 50's, the Calgary Alberta Mission to be exact. Thanks for sharing all these talents with all of us...

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  5. Great interview, Marsha.

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  6. You asked some interesting questions, Marsha. I had to smile at Julie's answer to the one about planning/plotting ahead. I think most of us writers have experienced needing to change directions because our characters refuse to go where we think they should.

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  7. Jeri Gilchrist10:39 AM

    Great interview Marsha and Julie! How cool that Matt and the rest of his squad helped to answer Julie's questions!
    I enjoyed learning more about Julie and I think her new book sounds very intriguing! I'd love to read it!
    Thanks, ladies!

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  8. Sounds like a cool new book coming out, Julie! Nice job, Marsha.

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