Our conversation today is with Julie Flanders, a novelist and a freelance writer who also works as a librarian. In addition to her love for reading and the magic of books, Julie is a life-long animal lover. She has written numerous features about the joy of pets and the importance of animal rescue. Julie’s first novel was the paranormal thriller Polar Night, but we will talk to her today about her latest, The Ghosts of Aquinnah (Ink Smith Publishing, December 4, 2013). a blend of mystery, ghost story and historical fiction.
Another freezes a cloaked figure within a frame of salty mist as waves crash against a rocky shore. Her harrowing expression shadows the beacon to a pinprick.
By the next blaze, she is gone. Only the lighthouse remains.
Hannah’s eyes blink in step with each heartbeat. Images of her deceased parents and Martha’s Vineyard explode like firecrackers inside her mind.
She shakes her head.
For weeks this eerie woman dressed in nineteenth century garb has been haunting my webcam, but tonight she stared into my soul. Why? …Who is she? …
Casting aside months of research on historic lighthouses, Hannah drives to the coast and boards a ferry.
What is the strange connection she has to this mysterious woman suspended in time?
Hannah finds out. But, it’s not at all what she expects …
Hannah unravels a century old murder.
Writers-Editors Network: Julie, what inspired you to write The Ghosts of Aquinnah?
Julie Flanders: I travel to the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, often for summer vacations. I got the idea for The Ghosts of Aquinnah when I was planning a trip to the island in 2010 and looking at a webcam on a Vineyard site. The webcam is located in the town of Aquinnah. I started wondering, what if I looked at this webcam often and always saw the same person on it? Who was that person and what were they doing there? What did they want? I eventually made the person into a woman who lived on the island in the 19th century but is seen regularly on the webcam by a writer in 2013. The rest of the story developed from that idea.
Writers-Editors Network: Did you outline this book first? Or just start writing?
Julie Flanders: I didn’t do a formal outline, but I did jot down plot notes to make sure I had the ideas organized and I knew where the story was going. I struggled with writing it for a long time, but then signed up for the National Novel Writing Challenge in November, 2012, and that was great motivation for me. I wrote like crazy all month and had a finished first draft by the time the month was over.
Writers-Editors Network: What or who did you especially enjoy writing about in this book?
Julie Flanders: My favorite character is Stella, the main character of the book and the woman who haunts the webcam. I love her because I found her so sympathetic – she lived in an era where women had few rights, and she was caught in a loveless marriage at a very young age. I think Stella is a tragic figure.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the biggest challenge in bringing this book to publication?
Julie Flanders: I was fortunate in that I already had a relationship with my publisher, Ink Smith Publishing, thanks to Polar Night, so I didn’t have a great deal of difficulty getting this book published. I was able to submit the story to them as soon as I finished polishing the manuscript, and they were interested in it right away. I guess the biggest challenge was getting the story revised and polished after my marathon writing session for NaNoWriMo.
Writers-Editors Network: What is your next project?
Julie Flanders: My first book, Polar Night, is a paranormal thriller set in Alaska during the Winter Solstice. I am currently revising and editing a sequel called Polar Day that is set during the summer. I’m also writing a prequel novella that takes place in Alaska during the early years of the 20th century.
How she writes . . .
Julie Flanders: Not until I was about 41 years old! I am definitely a late bloomer when it comes to writing. I always loved writing, whether in school, in my job as a librarian, or even just in writing letters or emails, but I never thought of trying to write fiction until about four or five years ago.
After turning 40, I was feeling unfulfilled and depressed and wanted a new outlet. I started writing features for the Best Friends Animal Society website as a volunteer, and quickly realized I loved doing that more than any job I’d ever been paid for. I enjoyed crafting the features, and loved writing them as engaging stories as opposed to just a dry recitation of the facts of a situation. This led me to start thinking about the stories I’d always enjoyed creating in my head but had never written down. I decided to give writing them down a try and haven’t stopped since.
Writers-Editors Network: Where is your favorite place to write?
Julie Flanders: My couch! I love to stretch out on the couch with my laptop. My dog curls up at the other end of the couch and my cat stretches out along the top.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any writing rituals?
Julie Flanders: Not really, but I do like to have quiet when I write. I can’t focus with music or the television on, or when people around me are talking.
Writers-Editors Network: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Julie Flanders: I love to read, walk my dog, and hang out with my family. I am also a sports fan and especially love cheering for the Cincinnati Reds and the Ohio State Buckeyes. I’m a tv addict and can be a bit obsessive about my DVR.
Her advice for writers . . .
I am still so new to all this I don’t feel qualified to give advice, but to any aspiring writers out there, I would say it’s never too late to start pursuing your writing dreams. One of my favorite quotes is, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” That inspired me to give writing a try even though I felt way too old to be getting started. I’m so glad I didn’t let that stop me.
Please share your thoughts below. Do you have any questions for Julie Flanders about writing fiction — or starting to write a bit later in life — or writing about pets — or about writing in general?