Today I have the lovely Julia Platt Leonard here with me for an interview. Julia is the author of the recently released middle grade novel, Cold Case.
Why did you want to be an author?
The short answer is that I love to read. I’ve always loved books and think that reading is one of the most amazing things you can do. I wanted to write a book that people would enjoy reading – like the books I love.
What was your inspiration for Cold Case?
I started out writing a book about time travel, Victorian England and a pair of silver candlesticks. But it just didn’t work. I was out in Santa Fe on a hike and I asked myself what I really cared about. The answer was pretty simple: food (I worked as a professional chef), Santa Fe, and mysteries. So I thought, what could happen in a restaurant? And then an idea popped in my head: what if you found a dead body in a walk-in refrigerator? And it took off from there.
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind of music? If not, why not?
I don’t listen to music. I’d love to but I get distracted easily and find I work best if it’s absolutely silent. I’m working on a book now that may have a cello player in it so I’m thinking about downloading a bunch of Bach but we shall see…
What was your publication process like? Was it any different than what you thought it would be?
When my agent told me that Simon & Schuster was interested in Cold Case I was thrilled. But they told me the editor liked to be very hands-on. I was afraid they were going to want massive changes but it wasn’t like that at all. Actually everything they suggested made sense – tightening up plot lines, making sure character’s actions were believable – that kind of stuff. It made Cold Case a better book and the process was enjoyable. I learned a lot.
What is your writing process like?
I stare out the window. A lot. My office faces the back garden and I find myself looking outside when I’m trying to figure something out – what a character would do or how to get the plot moving. I also do a lot of thinking when I’m walking. I find that I can get ‘work’ done in my head first and then translate it on to the page. I do a lot of preliminary work – plot lines, synopses – that kind of thing. It’s not because I have a great system for writing but because I find the first bits difficult and I need to write my way into the story. At times, it feels like words fly on the page but most of the time it feels like a lot of hard work. I’m in a writer’s group which helps. When they like a chapter it puts a smile on my face.
What is a typical day in your life like?
I get up around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. Breakfast with my husband and daughter and then the school run. We walk to school through a lovely wooded area on a small river. For London, it’s actually quite full of nature – moorhens, ducks and even a heron. After I drop her off I head home and work for the rest of the morning. Lunch, emails and then copywriting or food consulting in the afternoon. A workout or swim at the gym, collect my daughter then back home. The homework/dinner routine then I try to get in a bit more work in before my husband comes home. After dinner it’s television – anything thriller or crime-related – and needlepoint (it’s a bit like meditation for me). A couple of squares of dark chocolate and in bed with a good book.
Using five words, describe yourself.
4. Voracious (food & books)
What are your favorite books?
That’s a tough one. I often have three books on the go at any one time. I’m usually reading something related to what I’m writing. So for Cold Case I read a great biography of Robert Oppenheimer, the man who headed up the Manhattan Project. I’m always reading a MG or YA book. I just finished a book by an English author named Annabel Pitcher. It’s called My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and it’s the story of a 10-year old boy whose sister was killed in a terrorist bombing. It sounds dark and parts of it are but it’s also incredibly funny and moving. And I usually have a mystery by my bedside too. I love lots of different kinds but especially noir writers – Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, James Ellroy.
My favorite all-time books? I loved To Kill a Mockingbird. I love Virginia Woolf (To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway) and Thomas Pynchon (Gravity’s Rainbow). I just re-read the Odyssey and adored it.
You said you live in London... what is that like? What is different there from the US?
London is amazing. I’ve lived here 14 years and love it. Before London we lived in a small town north of Boston. I thought I’d never want to live in a big city again but here I am. The neat thing about London (actually one of many) is that it’s really a series of villages. Each one has its own character and the entire city is layered with history from Roman and pre-Roman to modern day. Incredible museums, fantastic restaurants and easy access to the country.
Ask yourself a question and answer it. :)
If you could be anything, what would you be?
How cool would it be to be a flamenco dancer? I’d wear an amazing ruffled dress and strut across the stage to the mad applause of the audience.
Thank you, Julia!
You can check out Cold Case on Amazon or Goodreads. Find out more about Julia on her blog.