Jenna’s Journey is the first novel in Julie Ryan’s Greek Islands Series, a series she did not set out to create but which took on its own life and grew, rich and fascinating. This is the first of three published so far, and now as a newly released edition in the USA from Booktrope, it promises to delight readers looking for the hidden dark sides of dream vacations in the Greek Isles.
A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and dippy cat with half a tail.
Hello Julie and welcome to Booky Ramblings of a Neurotic Mom
Was there anything particular that inspired you to start your journey of being an author?
I think the desire to write has always been there. Even as a child I was always scribbling little stories yet I never really dreamed that I would actually write not one but three novels. Somehow life seemed to get in the way and it’s only now that I have more time that I can indulge my love of writing. A chance encounter with another writer who moved into my village, was the trigger to develop a short story into what eventually became ‘Jenna’s Journey’.
What would you say is the hardest part of writing/publishing a book for you?
All of it! Joking aside, finding the discipline to write even when you don’t really feel like it can be hard. I don’t so much enjoy the writing process as the satisfaction that comes from having written. I’m a pantster so I seem to be constantly rewriting and replotting. I wish I could be otherwise but it’s what works for me. I’d have to say that overall, editing is my least favourite part.
If you could only read four books for the rest of your life, what would they be?
That is such a hard question as there are so many books I really love. I can’t bear to part with any of the books I’ve read and enjoyed, so to choose just four would be like cutting off an arm or leg. Anyway here goes.
John Fowles’s ‘The Magus’ has to be up there in my top four as it is the book I wish I’d written. It’s set in Greece (where else?) for starters so I’d get my Greek fix. It’s wonderfully written and an exploration of the psyche so each time I read it I find something else in there that I hadn’t noticed before. The author manages to capture the magical quality that Greece has always had for me.
My second choice is Ken Follett’s ‘Pillars of the Earth’. I read this when it first came out years ago and it hasn’t lost its attraction. The amount of research that must have gone into medieval church construction is phenomenal and I love anything to do with that period. It’s also a rollicking good read with some great characters.
Apart from Greece, I love France and studied this book for ‘A’ Level. My third choice is ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’ by Alain Fournier. I love the fairytale quality of the masked ball that Fournier describes and the watercolour illustrations in my copy capture this mood superbly. The writing evokes that time between childhood and adulthood and reading this book brings back memories of that half-forgotten period and one’s first love.
Finally, my list wouldn’t be complete without a good ghost story. Normally I wouldn’t red this kind of book twice as having read it once, the mystery has usually disappeared. Not so with Henry James’s masterpiece ‘The turn of the screw’. It is cleverly written and leaves the reader to make up their own mind as to whether the children can see ghosts or if they are a figment of the governess’s imagination. It’s a beautiful read that needs to be savoured and one I can read over and over.
Do you and your main character share any personality traits?
I think many authors subconsciously or otherwise put a little of themselves into their characters and especially in their first book. Whilst Jenna in ‘Jenna’s Journey’ is most definitely not based on myself, we do share a few common traits. I like to think she has some of my good points, for example, she’s loyal to her friends, down-to-earth but with a romantic streak, intelligent yet slightly dippy. I think that perhaps she’s a taller, younger, slimmer version of me!
If you could live in any book what book would it be?
Most of the time I live in books so again to choose just one is nearly impossible. For sheer passion and escapism I think I’d choose ‘Gone with the wind’. After all, who knows what tomorrow will bring? I’d love to be swept off my feet by a Southern hero and get to wear a beautiful ballgown.
Where do your ideas for your books come from? Dreams? Music?
My books are based on my experiences of living in Greece during the 1980s. inspiration comes from many sources for the plot. Sometimes it can be sparked by something I’ve read or heard on the radio. I usually start with a few characters and a location and then leave to simmer. Sooner or later my characters will ‘speak’ to me and their story has to be told.
Any advice for aspiring authors?
The best advice that I was given was to believe in yourself and never give up. Sometimes that can be easier said than done but you have to keep at it. When just one person says that they like your book, it all becomes worthwhile. Other than that, just keep writing even if you think it’s rubbish as it can always be edited later or you may find it sparks a germ of an idea for another project. A blank page on the other hand is just that!