Garwood, Julie

Today, I am very lucky to speak with the very talented and successful Julie Garwood.

Aspiring writers want to know is how you felt about your own writing in the beginning and if you always wanted to be a writer?
Julie Garwood: I didn't set out to have a career in writing, but from the time I was a young girl, I loved telling stories, a trait that comes from my Irish heritage. I was encouraged by teachers and family to write, and I did a little freelance work, but for the most part, it was just something I loved to do, not an ambition. It wasn't until the youngest of my three children started school that I became serious about writing a book.

What was your first book?
Julie Garwood: My first story was for young readers and was called A GIRL NAMED SUMMER.

Describe your first break.
Julie Garwood: I had become acquainted with some aspiring writers in my community, and one day I was invited to a gathering after a local writers' conference. I met a New York agent there who asked what I was working on. I told her about my young adult book and she asked me to send it to her. It wasn't long before she called me to announce that she had sold it to Scholastic. She then asked if I had anything else. I described a story that I was writing about a knight in the Middle Ages. Its title was GENTLE WARRIOR. After I summarized the plot for her, she informed me that I was writing a historical romance novel. I was so naive, I hadn't even known what to call it. I sent that to her as well, and it was accepted at Pocket Books. It was the last entry in their sales catalog, but I was thrilled nevertheless. I figured I had no place to go but up, and luckily, it did well enough for Pocket that they asked for more. I guess you could say the rest is history. As more of my books sold, I moved up in that sales catalog, and in 1989, my novel, THE BRIDE, made it to the New York Times Bestseller List. As I look back on it now, I can see how lucky I was. I set out to do something I loved, and I've been able to make it my life's work.

Many aspiring writers find agents more elusive than editors. What qualities would you suggest a writer look for in an agent?
Julie Garwood: I think the relationship between an agent and a writer is so important. I've had the same agent my entire career. I don't know that you can pinpoint particular qualities to look for in an agent. Of course, you want to know that he/she is professional and has your best interests at heart, but there is something intangible that comes when you click with someone. There's an ease in your communication because you know you're on the same page.

You've written in Regency, Medieval, and even Western, which do you consider your favorite?
Julie Garwood: I've learned a great deal writing about different time periods, but the medieval and contemporary stories are my favorites. I'm especially fond of the Middle Ages. I fell in love with this era when I took a class in medieval history in college. The discipline of the feudal system fascinated me, so I set many of my historical stories around that time.

Why historicals, although I love them, when they are so much harder than contemporaries?
Julie Garwood: One period really isn't more difficult to write about than another. They're just different. A historical setting requires a specific kind of research, and the plotting for a contemporary story presents a different challenge. If a character in a historical novel gets into a tight situation, you can build tension and make the reader wonder how he's going to get out of it. In a contemporary novel, you have technology to deal with. Too many dilemmas can be solved with a cell phone.

You have written YA novels, do you have any interest in going back to writing YA?
Julie Garwood: I absolutely love writing for young readers. My career veered toward the adult novels early on, but I've always wanted to write more YA's. I've got a couple of stories that I've worked on over the years but just haven't had time to write. One of them has a bit of a sci-fi element to it and would be so much fun. If time allows, I plan to finish it someday.

Your characters are so multi-layered and fun, how do you develop a character into the vibrant being that literally jumps off the pages and into the hearts of the readers?
Julie Garwood: My characters take up residence in my head while I'm writing a book. I know that sounds weird, but as I type, I can see the scene and hear them talking. Except for the villains, most of them are people I'd like to know. After all, they live with me for several months. I might as well make them characters I want to spend time with. I hate to say good-bye at the end of the book. Therefore, when readers tell me they feel the same, I know I've done my job.

What do you see the direction of your future writing taking? What can we expect next? Give us a little taste.
Julie Garwood: Right now, I'm working on a book called SWEET TALK. The heroine, Olivia MacKenzie, is an attorney for the IRS and is on the trail of an elaborate Ponzi scheme. The only difference between this investigation and any other is that she has a personal connection to the people involved. Olivia accidentally stumbles into an FBI sting operation and reduces it to chaos, and it's there that she meets Agent Grayson Kincaid. Later, when she asks questions of the wrong people, her life is suddenly endangered. She's accustomed to looking out for others, but she needs help now, and this is where Kincaid comes back into the picture. Discovering they can work together to solve their cases, they join forces, but it doesn't take long for this very professional relationship to turn into something very personal.

What do you see as the future of romance as a genre? Will we all be using Kindles? (I don't look forward to a Kindle in the tub.)
Julie Garwood: Romance is here to stay. I don't see the audience for this genre dwindling at all. In fact, I believe it's growing. There are certain sub-genres that become popular from time to time. For example, the paranormal has had a terrific resurgence the last few years, and we may even see another trend take hold in the years to come, but in the end it all fits into the category of romance.

The way we read is also going through a transformation, and I think that will only create more demand. The number of printed books may be decreasing, but sales of books for electronic readers like the Kindle are increasing by leaps and bounds. I believe the availability alone will make readers buy more, and I'm for anything that gets people to read. I still buy printed books and prefer holding the printed copy in my hands, but I love my Kindle and carry it with me everywhere. At any given time, I can pull up one of the dozens of books I have downloaded. The convenience actually encourages me to read more. On the whole, I'm very encouraged about the future and feel that, if we adapt to the changes, we'll come through this transition better than ever.

I appreciate you speaking to Novelspot readers and writers alike. It has been a pleasure learning more about the different facets of Julie Garwood. I am looking forward to reading SWEET TALK. Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule.

© Morgan Wyatt 2011