Topher Hoffman: Hello Julia! Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for the readers at The House Of 1000 Books. I find it so amazing and motivational that there are so many authors out there that are doing what they love. Writing amazing stories. I am thrilled to get this opportunity to spend the time with you to do just that.
I see that you have a lot of books under your belt! How many novels are you up too?
Julia Colbourn: I’m working on book number four as we speak. I’m averaging a book a year so far.
TH: That’s great! It looks like you have publications that fall into various categories. What is your favourite genre to write?
JC: I love to write in many different genres – there’s usually a romance of some sort going on, but I like to write about real life situations, not cozy, unrealistic storylines. My first book is a dystopian fantasy (no elves or dragons, though!) and I’ve also got some non-fiction books that I’d like to write. My interests are very varied and I can’t see me settling into any one genre just yet. My style, however, remains the same.
TH: I like to find out in all my interviews when authors started to write. Some start at a young age, but others don’t start until they are adults. When did you find your passion for writing?
JC: I think I was born with it! Certainly, I wrote stories as a kid and revelled in writing essays at senior school, inspired by a rare gem of an English teacher. I first started writing seriously when I was at home with a young family. I had several articles and short stories accepted in magazines, but by the time I retired and had the time to return to it seriously, the writing world had changed and so had magazine content!
TH: Writing takes a tremendous amount of time, can you tell me if it ever gets in the heart of home life?
JC: I published my first book while I was still teaching – how I found the time to write it, I don’t know! Secret all-night sessions, fuelled by chocolate, I suppose! But when you have the writing bug, it’s very hard to ignore it. Now I’m retired there still isn’t enough time, as we are travelling a fair bit and have many other commitments, not to mention the time Twitter takes up (purely for marketing purposes, of course!!). It helps that my partner is Asperger – he likes to do his own thing which leaves me free to do mine!
TH: Has your family read your work, and if so what was one point that you got told as feedback that you continue to follow while writing?
JC: My sister is my proofreader, and though her preference is for cozier reads than mine, she still tells me that I write well. My cousin and several friends give me huge support and nag me to get the next book wrote, which is very motivating. My daughters sometimes mutter ‘no sex, please, mother’ but, while there is no gratuitous sex in my books, I do feel it’s unavoidable if you’re painting a true picture. There’s only one scene of a sexual encounter in my current book, so maybe, subconsciously, I’m taking their feedback on board.
TH: What is the one author that you have read that influenced you the most and what is your favourite book of theirs?
JC: If you limit me to just one, I’d have to say Austen (I discovered only a few years ago that I’m actually descended from her grandmother, which was cause for great celebration!). She was the first author to make me realize how you can use humour in a serious novel to great advantage. Trollope was another. And Thomas Hardy showed me how to not shrink from unpalatable truths.
TH: If you met that author and wanted to ask them one question, what would it be?
JC: Oh, I’d love to ask Jane Austen what sort of books she would write nowadays. She would be so pleased with the advances women have made over the last century. Can you imagine what her Twitter following would be?
TH: I read one of your interviews, and you described how you flesh out your characters. Have you ever created an antagonist based on somebody you seen in real life?
JC: No one character is based just on one person, but inevitably I use snippets from all sorts of different sources – people from my past and my present, TV personalities, even people I’ve just heard about. I might use someone’s voice, someone else’s mannerisms or body language, someone else’s facial expressions. It helps, when I write, if I can picture my character in my mind – I can literally see them closing their eyes, or changing their posture, and I can hear the tone in which they speak. The Narcissist in my current book is based loosely on a close (thankfully ex) family member.
TH: With having so many books out, you had a chance to develop so many characters. Who is the one type of character that you absolutely adore?
JC: It’s got to be the feisty female lead!! They’re all flawed in some way (as we all are) and my current main female character is badly damaged from a relationship with a Narcissistic personality disorder and at first appears weak and spineless, but she gradually wins through. Women are incredibly strong.
TH: What about out of the books you have written? Why is your favourite?
JC: My first book is my true love! I put heart and soul into it – some science, some novel religious theories, a bit of philosophy and observations of human society as a whole. There are also some hidden meanings in it, for those who like a book with layers. Sadly, I knew nothing about marketing in those days, and I just pushed it out onto the literary ocean and let it flounder on its own. I hope, at a later stage when I am more established, to come back to it and do it justice.
TH: Have you ever had a real-life problem and written it into the story?
JC: Inevitably. All authors draw on their own insecurities and childhood dramas (and many of their adult ones, too!) I went to quite a posh public school but my social life was always rooted in more down to earth circles, mainly at the local riding school where you had to muck in (and out) to earn a ride. This straddling of two worlds crops up in my third book, Seduction & Destruction, and to a lesser extent in my first book, where the female lead just doesn’t fit in anywhere. And my own partner is Asperger – there’s a whole book there, waiting to be written!
TH: To use a publisher or to self publish that is the question! If you had a chance to tell your younger writing self one piece of advice about publishing, what would it be?
JC: I think self-publishing is still my preferred choice – I’m too impatient to wait patiently for months for an inevitable rejection slip – but self-publishing involves a steep learning curve. I wish I’d known at the beginning what I know now. And I now have a huge support network through writers’ groups on Facebook and the Writing Community on Twitter – whatever question I have, someone will have the answer. And I’ve learnt so much – I never even knew what a beta reader was a few months ago!
TH: Can you tell us about your newest book?
JC: I love to look at dysfunctional relationships. They are far more common than most people think. In my latest book, I turn the spotlight on Narcissistic personality disorder, of which I have some personal experience. It was fascinating researching the topic and realizing just how common it is. I’ve also included a two-faced best friend (also drawn from personal experience). I have never understood why some people are so destructive for no apparent reason. As Paulie says, in my current work in progress, ‘What’s the matter with people, eh, Barney? You’d think they’d settle for a bit of honest love, instead of devoting themselves to making other people’s lives a misery.’
TH: Looks like you worked really hard on it! What is one thing in the book that you want your readers to take away from the novel?
JC: A better understanding of common human flaws. When we are young, we are constantly searching for the perfect job, the ideal best friend, the Mr. or Ms. Right. The sooner we realize that chasing perfection makes us miss the real opportunities in life, the better. Life is golden and so much fun, but it will never be perfect. Just dive in. Ride the rapids and learn to navigate around the immovable objects.
TH: What is the most important thing that you want your readers to appreciate when it comes to your work?
JC: I want people to feel that I’ve created real, three-dimensional characters and touched on some of the ugly realities that often get avoided in romances. I want my readers to be informed by my books and come away from them with thoughts in their heads that weren’t there before.
TH: Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of the House Of 1000 Books blog?
JC: Writing is hard work. The best thanks any reader can give an author is a review. Please, please review any books you read. So many people don’t.
TH: Thank you for taking the time Julia to answer my questions! So there you have it, folks! Yet another lovely story for you all to check out!