Saturday, October 07, 2017

Julia Thomas, Guest Blogger

What do you suppose it is like to live in a two author household? Type M is most happy to welcome Julia Thomas, author of two well received stand-alone contemporary mysteries, who just happens to be married to Will Thomas, whose Barker and Llewelyn novels, set in Victorian England, is a multiple award-winning mystery series. How do you manage, Julia?

Julia Thomas

Two Authors in the Family

We live in a household with two mystery writers, on a quiet suburban street in a small town. No one knows what evil lurks just inside the door – in our books, of course.

Will Thomas
I’m writing this on a cool fall day as I sit in our den, my husband sitting on the chair nearest me. We don’t often write in the same room because we both like to talk, but now and then, he has his pad and pen in hand and is scrawling a chapter of the newest Barker and Llewelyn next to me while I have my laptop perched on my knees and I’m tapping a few pages of my third book.

We came to writing a little late, both in our forties, and spent five years working on each of our first books. His first attempt was Some Danger Involved, which became a Shamus and Barry award nominee and won the Oklahoma Book Award. Mine was never published. A year later, his second book came out, and I also finished another, which was also never published. We persevered. After another year, he published his third novel, The Limehouse Text, and I suffered my third failure.

I was getting used to rejection slips. There are many different kinds, of course: the form letter; the form letter with a line or two of encouragement scrawled across the top (“Don’t give up!” or “Send me your next one.”) Eventually, there were longer letters from agents telling me what they liked about it but why it wasn’t right for the market today.

It’s not an easy thing to do to learn from your failures, particularly when your husband hit a home on his first try. It would have been easy to give up or to decide that my role in editing his books – a skill I developed over the years – was enough of a contribution to the literary world.

Julia's latest

But I just couldn’t stop. After three failed attempts, I decided to write a book just for myself, something I could love and nurture and which would feed my creative instincts. I wouldn’t send it out to agents. I’d been crushed plenty of times already. And just for fun, I would break a couple of our agreed upon rules. I’d promised not to write a mystery (since he writes mysteries), and I’d promised not to set a book in England, either, since his books are set in Victorian London. But, because this was a personal exercise in creative writing, something to pass the time, I broke both of those rules.
It’s hard not to have his writing rub off on me, anyway. I’d gone along on research trips to Europe; I’d typed and edited each of his books; and through the years, I’d participated in some of the research he did to make certain his books were period appropriate. And then I realized one day that I had seen almost every important British mystery series on TV, and never once watched an episode of CSI. In other words, I had no idea how to write a police procedural set in the U.S., while I knew a great number of the ins and outs of the British justice system.

The book I sat down to write was a story based on a love triangle, two young actors who fall in love with the same woman. When she is killed, the race is on to find the murderer. Although I’d wanted to write since I was a very young girl, and had created numerous characters over the years, I became more deeply bonded with this book than with any of my previous attempts. The characters were alive to me in a way I’d never experienced before. One day, my oldest daughter read a couple of chapters and informed me that I had unintentionally written “the one.” I’m proud to say that The English Boys was published in 2016, and was followed in July 2017 by another standalone British mystery, Penhale Wood.

We never tell each other much about what we’re working on while we’re writing. Occasionally, he’ll read something funny that’s happened in his chapter, or I’ll show him a paragraph or two. But we usually find out what the other’s book is about after the first draft is done.

Will's latest

I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer and a woman through this experience. First and foremost, I am not a quitter. I am willing to learn what it takes to succeed at writing. Criticism is important, and you have to listen to it in order to improve. It’s also true that no one else can give you that magic ingredient it takes to make it in a highly competitive world. It’s a skill that you have to learn and develop on your own, no matter how closely you work with another writer.

I’m incredibly proud of the fact that I finished The English Boys before I handed it to him to read. He made a couple of suggestions, (especially about the fight scenes!) but it was my novel, my hard work, and my persistence in going after my dream that made it happen. And a pretty full file folder of rejection slips notwithstanding, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Julia's facebook author page is  Julia Thomas Author,  and her active Twitter Author page is @AuthorJuliaT  : Will's website is


Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Excellent post and well done for not giving up and congratulations on the success of The English Boys and Penhale Wood!

I also live with a writer but my other half writes science books for a big education publisher. While we are, of course, very supportive of each other, I can't imagine us ever sharing the same writing space the way you and your husband do. I am, you see, a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to writing and like to write alone with no disruptions, I make exceptions for a fire, a flood or if someone's bleeding. My husband is a lot more patient – and long suffering ;)
Thanks again!

Sybil Johnson said...

Congrats! I really believe persistence is the key in so many areas, especially writing.