Thursday, 7 July 2016

Q & A with Julia Roberts

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1.  Did you always dream of being a writer? 

     I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I won second prize in a short story writing competition in my home town of Nottingham, aged ten – a mere fifty years ago.

2.    How did your writing career develop? 

     I have written columns for a few magazines over the years and have been doing a blog for QVC for about five years. I came up with a new approach to writing a memoir that was not in chronological order but had chapters numbered from one to a hundred with each number having a relevance in my life. The finished manuscript was submitted to Preface Publishing (Random House) who published it in hardback for sale on QVC – it is still available as an ebook but now out of print. Just after it was published in 2013 I had the idea for the Liberty Sands trilogy and started writing novels.

3.    Your newest novel is called It’s Never Too Late To Say... what is it about? 

     It’s Never Too Late To Say… is the final part of the Liberty Sands trilogy and in it we find out the reasons why Holly (the main character)’s  estranged mother turned to alcohol to escape dreadful memories from her past. She is suffering from alcohol-induced dementia and is dying from liver cirrhosis and after seeing her daughter on television wants to reconnect with Holly to apologise for the way she treated her throughout her childhood. We also discover which romantic interest Holly will choose for her happy ever after. 

4.    What was your inspiration for the book? 

     The trilogy was inspired by a holiday to Mauritius when I was convalescing following a year of oral chemotherapy drugs to bring my leukaemia under control. One of the main characters in the first book, Life’s a Beach and Then… is called Rosemary and she suffers with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia but has a less promising prognosis than me.

5.    Can you tell us more about the main character(s)?

     I’ve mentioned Rosemary, but the main character, whose journey we are on, is Holly. At the start of the trilogy, Holly is a thirty-nine year old single mum who works as a freelance copy editor but who has recently landed a fantastic job as an undercover travel blogger for a company called Soleil, who have five star resorts around the world. The trilogy starts in Mauritius but because of Holly’s job we also visit the Maldives, Barbados and Hong Kong, as well as the Gower peninsula, Cuba, Nottingham, Reading and Bath in books two and three.

6.    Where and when do you write your stories?

     The first book took me fifteen months to write and although a lot was done at the dining room table at home, I also worked through several holidays in Corsica, Spain, Dubai and Barbados – the last holiday was definitely research!!! The second book, If He Really Loved Me… took me five months and was split between the aforementioned dining room table and my son’s flat in Swansea – in fact that was the inspiration for locating one of my characters on the Gower peninsula. The final part of the trilogy was written at home, in Swansea and also Spain. I write when I have free days. My shift at QVC means I work eight days out of nine but then I have a five day break every fortnight – these are my writing days.

7.    What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

     I’ve just mentioned working for QVC, where I am a television presenter, but I am also a huge football fan. My team is Crystal Palace, who I have supported for twenty seven years, since I presented a programme about them for a cable TV show called Palace Chatback. I also like vegetarian cooking, pilates, gardening and of course reading.
8.    If you could switch places with a character from a book, who would it be and why? Any book with a cat in it – I fancy a cat’s life, eating, playing, being cuddled and lots of sleeping!

9.    What books have most influenced your life most?

     I read Jamaica Inn, Daphne Du Maurier, when I was fourteen and loved it so much that when we went on a family holiday to Cornwall I went in search of the inn on Bodmin moor – it was so atmospheric. Mind you, as a nine year old I wrote to Enid Blyton asking her where Kirren island was as I wanted to go and visit – seems I’ve always loved a location.

10.   What are you working on at the moment?

     Now that the trilogy is finished, I have various options and haven’t really decided. I may work on a Christmas novella and my next full length book at the same time.

11.   What do you enjoy most about writing?

     It seems obvious but seeing the story unfold. I have an outline plot when I start to write but some of the best sequences in all three books have come to me while I have been writing – almost as though they have been given to me. I like to feel the emotions of my characters and have been known to sit sobbing as I’m writing.

12.   Pick three authors you want to have dinner with and tell us why.

     John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark and Adele Parks. I admire and read all three of these authors, diverse I know, but would be interested to see how we would interact coming from very different backgrounds.

13.   Imagine the Liberty Sands trilogy would be turned into a movie, who would you cast for the main characters? 

     I really have no idea but it would be a dream come true.

14.   Last year your book Life’s a Beach and Then… was published, can you tell us more about it? 

     This was the start of the Liberty Sands trilogy. Travel blogger and single mum, Holly, meets British couple Robert and Rosemary on her latest assignment in Mauritius and strikes up a close relationship with Rosemary as a replacement for the one she never had with her own mother. They introduce Holly to handsome novelist, Philippe whose first book was a number one bestseller but who is struggling with book two. Holly hasn’t allowed herself a lover since her boyfriend deserted her when she was pregnant  twenty years previously but she instantly falls for Philippe. Back in the UK she is shocked to learn that her friend Rosemary wants her help to end her life at a Swiss clinic but worse is to come. Philippe has used their more intimate moments to spice up his latest book. Holly immediately severs all contact with him and then discovers she is pregnant.

15.   You do a lot of charity work, can you tell us more about it?

     I made a donation from the profits of my first book, One Hundred Lengths of the Pool, to the British Polio Fellowship (for whom I am now an ambassador) and End Polio Now. I contracted paralytic polio as a fourteen month old baby and spent most of my life not admitting to it – almost as though I was ashamed. At the age of fifty I realised that actually I should celebrate surviving the killer disease and decided to do all I could to raise awareness about it, the importance of getting vaccinated, and also highlighting a condition called PPS – Post Polio Syndrome – which is a sting in the tail of the disease and affects over eighty percent of people who contracted the disease in childhood. Thankfully polio is almost consigned to the history books thanks to a massive vaccination programme in countries like Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, largely funded by the End Polio Now campaign which Bill Gates is heavily involved in. I also support Bloodwise, a blood cancer charity, with a percentage of profits from Life’s a Beach and Then… It was shocking to be diagnosed with CML in 2012 but thanks to research, funded in the most part by charities like Bloodwise, the new generation of blood cancer drugs give people like me an almost ‘normal’ life.

16.   Coffee or tea? 

     Neither really. I don’t drink tea at all and usually only have one black coffee a day with breakfast. The rest of the day it is fruit teas or water.

17.   Paperback or e-reader?

    Both, although I must confess I prefer the feel of a ‘proper’ book in my hands.

18.   Mountains or the sea?

      The sea – the sound, the smell, I just love it.

19.   Summer or winter? 

      Summer – I don’t like being cold.

20.   Sweet or salty?

      Probably sweet, although I do love salted nuts and halloumi!

Julia Roberts is probably best known as the trusted face of the UK’s most successful shopping channel, QVC, but she had enjoyed a rewarding and varied career in the entertainment industry for many years prior to launching the channel in 1993.
She was born in Nottingham in 1956. At fourteen months old she contracted the deadly disease Polio which left her fighting for her life and subsequently hospitalised for five months. Swimming and dancing lessons, which helped her to walk without the aid of a calliper, have both played an important role in her later life.

Julia started her professional career at the age of 16 as a dancer in a summer show in Guernsey. This was followed by pantomimes in Leeds, Croydon and Watford as well as further summer seasons in the Channel Islands. Deciding to leave the UK and see a bit more of the world, she danced on cruise ships, in a theatre show in Barcelona, and performed as a singer/dancer in a cabaret show in Hong Kong. In 1980 Julia appeared in The Song for Europe as part of a band called The Main Event performing alongside Cheryl Baker, who went on to join Buck’s Fizz the following year while Julia signed a record deal with her band Jools and the Fools before moving into television.
Having featured in various TV commercials, notably the Woolwich Building Society and Head & Shoulders shampoo, and small television acting roles in Citizen Smith and Doctor Who, Julia became a hostess on the first and second UK series of the hit American game show, The Price is Right. This was followed by becoming a member of the ‘Hit Squad’ on comedy series Beadles About before she took a short career break to have her two children.
It was during this break in her career that Julia decided to try her hand at presenting. Her first presenting job was for Vauxhall motors at the 1989 Motor Show at Olympia during which she was approached and offered a job presenting several weekly ‘magazine’ style shows for her local television channel in Croydon. One of these was called Palace Chatback and led to her passion for Crystal Palace Football Club, a team she still supports today. In addition to this show, Julia has produced and presented several features for Sky Sports.
In 1993 Julia successfully auditioned to become a Presenter for a new shopping channel, QVC, and appeared in the opening sequences which launched the channel with co-presenter, Jon Briggs. Little did she know that this was the start of a long, successful career with the channel which now boasts over 25 million viewers in the UK alone, with over 1 million active customers. Throughout this time, she has shared the screen with many famous names, including the likes of the late Joan Rivers, Marie Osmond, Sir David Attenborough, Joan Collins and Lulu, to mention a few.

Julia has now written and released 4 books. Her first book, a memoir entitled One Hundred Lengths of the Pool, was published in 2013 by Preface Publishing for Random House and sold out of 5000 hardback signed copies exclusively on QVC. The title of this book was inspired by her battle against polio in her early years, and the huge part that swimming played in allowing Julia the chance to walk unaided. A percentage of proceeds from her book sales were donated to the End Polio Now campaign as well as the British Polio Fellowship.
Close to completing the finishing touches to her first book, Julia was faced with a new health challenge. She was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer, Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia. After such a tough year continuing to work full-time at QVC, signing her book deal, and battling her new illness, Julia needed some R&R so booked a much needed holiday for herself and her partner, Chris, to a place she had always longed to visit, Mauritius.
On the first morning of the holiday Julia had an idea. Using her recent experience of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia as a basis for one of her main characters she began to write her debut novel Life’s a Beach and Then... she donates a percentage of profits from this book to the charity Bloodwise (formerly Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research).
Julia published Life’s a Beach and Then…, part one of the Liberty Sands trilogy, in May 2015, followed by If He Really Loved Me… in November 2015 and the final part of the trilogy, It’s Never Too Late To Say… in May 2016. All three books have featured in the top 100 Amazon Kindle Romance charts and enjoy an average 4.8 star rating from more than two hundred and fifty customer reviews.
Now living in Berkshire with Chris, her partner of 38 years, Julia divides her time between QVC, writing, Pilates, attending Crystal Palace matches and supporting the two charities that she holds close to her heart; British Polio Fellowship, for whom she is an ambassador, and Bloodies.      Life's a Beach and Then...       If He Really Loved Me...         It's Never Too Late To Say... 

Julia has a signing July 16 at the Waterstones in Windsor at 11am.  

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