Friday, 12 September 2014

Brook Cottage Books is thrilled to have Julia Ibbotson on the blog today as the first week of her book tour for her book DRUMBEATS comes to an end. Lots of great posts for next week and you can follow the progress of the tour HERE Let's find out what the book is about first.

Book Blurb

Drumbeats: can you ever escape your past?
Drumbeats is the first novel in a trilogy and follows 18 year old English student Jess through her gap year in West Africa. It's a rite of passage novel set in the mid-1960s when Jess flees her stifling home background for freedom to become a volunteer teacher and nurse in the Ghanaian bush. Apprehensively, she leaves her first real romantic love behind in the UK, but will she be able to sustain the bond while she is away? With the idealism of youth, she hopes to find out who she really is and do some good in the world, but little does she realize what, in reality, she will find that year: joys, horrors, and tragedy. She must find her way on her own and learn what fate has in store for her, as she becomes embroiled in the poverty and turmoil of a small war-torn African nation under a controversial dictatorship. Jess must face the dangers of both civil war and unexpected romance. Can she escape her past? And why do the drumbeats haunt her dreams?

Drumbeats Trilogy:
Can you ever escape your past?

Walking in the Rain
How do you cope when your worst nightmare comes true?

Before I Die
Can Jess’s bucket list bring resolution to her life?

Author Interview

JB: Do you plan your storylines or do you start with a general idea and let the writing carry you?
JULIA: To an extent. I do plan out the novel in general, chapter by chapter, and details about the characters and their back-story. I like to think I know where I’m going on the journey and that it’s mapped out. But I find that, as I write, it all changes as the characters, situations and relationships go their own way, down other unexpected pathways – but overall the shape remains the same as my plan and it all arrives at the intended destination.
JB: How do you juggle your writing career with your day job?

JULIA:  With difficulty – but a little less difficulty than when I was working full time at the university! I only do two days a week there now and so, on the other three days, I try to settle down to write, at home, all day if possible. I can’t do it in bits and pieces. My day job has always been one that is difficult to contain, so I have to try not to think about my students when I’m supposed to be writing.

JB: Do you have any strange writing rituals?

JULIA: Not really, I’m very boring! I just have to have my coffee on tap and I work at my antique desk in the conservatory which overlooks the gardens. I have to see fields and grass and trees.

JB: Drumbeats has been shortlisted this year in the Festival of Romantic Fiction in the BEST AUTHOR PUBLISHED category. Tell us how you feel about this.

JULIA: Thrilled to bits! Never mind the presentation to the award winner, for me it’s enough to be shortlisted! I can’t really believe it as this is my debut published novel; I have published before, but only academic stuff and a memoir with recipes (The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen) - no novels. I feel so honoured, especially as it’s real readers voting; it means the intended audience enjoyed it and that’s what it’s all about. I took the assisted self-publishing route for a number of reasons but I still have a sneaky hope that getting shortlisted at the Festival might lead to being adopted by a traditional or indie publisher!

JB: Where did the idea for Drumbeats spring from?

JB: I like to write stories that make the reader think, give them something to ponder, as well as, hopefully, taking them on an enjoyable narrative journey and introducing them to strong likeable characters. Those are the books I like to read too: ones that are a bit different, perhaps with an unusual narrative structure. And I wanted a swoony romantic hero, mysterious and maybe dangerous to know! Drumbeats is about Ghana and I myself lived there as a volunteer teacher and nurse just like Jess, and I’ve always wanted to write about the place. I also wanted to write about a young woman finding her way in life, growing into adulthood.  Although it’s fictionalised, I wanted the novel to evoke authentically the vibrant colours, noises, smells and tastes of Africa, so those were from my own experience, seen through Jess’s eyes. Many of the things that happen to Jess, happened to me!  So, which bits are true? Sorry, but I’m not telling!
JB: How long, from the spark of an idea to publication was the whole process for Drumbeats?

JULIA: Probably the whole process took something like a year and a half, although many years in the dreaming. I did a great deal of research first, as I always do, and I really enjoy that process. It’s set in the mid-1960s so I had to explore the times, the music, fashions, what was going on then, and also research Ghana again, even though I had lived there, I had to make those memories live again in my mind and heart.  A lot was happening across West Africa in 1966 and I wanted to make those dangerous times part of the story.

JB: What’s next for you?

JULIA: I’m already writing the sequel to Drumbeats; it’s called Walking in the Rain, which follows Jess’s story on from the end of Drumbeats, when she’s back in England and has other issues to face through the 1970s and 1980s. The title is from a 10cc song (The things we do for love) which, although written in 1976, was very popular in the 1980s when most of the story is set, although there are flashbacks to past events that build up to the crux of the story. It seemed to evoke the period and experiences that Jess was having at that time.  Again I want to recreate a specific time and place. I’m enjoying getting back into the spirit of those times! Don’t expect it to be all violins and roses; it’s realistic and I hope there are issues here that readers have had to face themselves and will empathise with and be able to come to terms with. There is drama and tragedy again in store for Jess.
Thank you Julia for this great interview! 

About Julia Ibbotson

Julia Ibbotson lives in a renovated Victorian rectory in the English countryside with her husband (four children, now grown up, having fled the nest), along with lots of apple trees, a kitchen garden and far too many moles. She is an author and academic, and loves choral singing, walking, swimming, gardening and cooking (not necessarily at the same time). She started writing as soon as she could hold a pencil in her tiny fist and has not stopped since, much to the bemusement of her long-suffering husband who brings her endless cups of coffee and sometimes even makes the dinner when she is distracted and frowning at her laptop.

She wrote her first novel when she was 10 years old, sadly never published and long since consigned to the manuscript graveyard. She loves writing novels with a strong sense of time and place and that is the basis of her latest, Drumbeats, the first of a trilogy which follows Jess through the trials and tribulations of her life. It starts with Jess on her gap year in Ghana in the 1960s.

She has also written the story of the restoration of her rectory in The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country  Kitchen, which also interweaves recipes from her farmhouse kitchen and which has won a number of international awards.

Recently she found an old manuscript gathering dust in her drawer, one she had originally scribbled when she was still at school, many years ago. It was a children’s story about a boy who slips through a tear in the fabric of the universe to find himself in a fantasy medieval world. She is currently blowing off the dust and redrafting it for her publishers to let it loose on the world in the autumn. It’s called S.C.A.R.S.

She loves to hear from readers (it’s a pleasant distraction from her steaming keyboard), so do get in touch via the links.
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One Response so far.

  1. Interesting interview, JB and Julia :)

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