Time to settle down with a nice cuppa of your favorite brew - not forgetting a biscuit or two (hand's off - the chocolate one is mine), sit back and enjoy another fabulous interview. This time I am interviewing children's fantasy author,
For Jonathon, the Home wood that borders his grandfather’s farm has always been a source of mystery and dread. Strange half-heard rumours passed among aunts, uncle and cousins never quite add up.
More than twenty years ago, his father—when he was Jonathon’s age—was swallowed up by the Home Wood for more than a day and came back badly injured. That was when his grandfather forbade any family member from venturing back there.
And so when, from his bedroom window one morning Jonathon sees his father once again cross into the Home Wood, he knows something is very wrong. Deceiving his grandfather, Jonathon sets out after his father and makes his way, for the first time in his life, into the woods.
What he finds there is beyond even his wildest imagination.
Hi Julie, and welcome to the blog. As enjoyable as this cuppa is, we really need to get on with the interview!
JW: I began writing stories when I was nine years old. I had been living inside books since I could hold them myself, so I thought I could tell my own story. The following decades found me still passionate about reading and writing, but it wasn’t until I finally retired from nursing that I was able to devote the time to honing the story that was to become my debut novel. I had written lots of short stories over the years. I’ve always been one who seeks the next challenge and what could be more challenging than writing a book? I took on-line courses, in-class courses, became part of a writing group and finally polished the last draft at the Humber School for Writers. I found my wonderful editor, Valentina, at Humber. However, writing and publishing are two different animals. I didn’t have a clue about how to go about independently publishing or even where to start the research. I chose FriesenPress to help me. They guided me through the process of further edits, cover design, and most importantly gave me an introduction to marketing. They also helped me with pricing and placed my books in all the on-line avenues. The last year, has been all about learning more about marketing and building up my readership. It has been a slow process, since my grandson was born at the same time as my book launched and naturally he has been a wonderful distraction over the last 10 months. As an introvert, one of things I dreaded most about marketing was putting myself forward. What I have learned is that has been my greatest joy in the last year. I just love talking to potential readers and then having them choose my book. It is the best thrill ever.
MY: Children are always such a lovely distraction - I have four of my own! What does your 'average' writing day look like?
JW: If I am allowed to organize my day, I like to write in bed in the morning for a couple of hours or until the characters stop talking to me. It doesn’t happen very often these days, but I live in hopes of being able to set a routine again.
MY: Writing in bed? I can't think of anyone else who does that...me perhaps!! Are there any authors that you particularly admire? And if so, why?
JW: Walter Farley (the Black Stallion series), Agatha Christie, Mazo de la Roche and Georgette Heyer were my first obsessions. I had to read everything they wrote. I love authors who give us distinct characters to cherish. Now, I look forward to new stories from Janet Ivanovich, Sue Grafton, Jordan Dane, PJ Parrish, Jean Gill, Michael Connelly, Harlan Corben, Maeve Binchey, Cassandra Clare, James Patterson, JK Rowling…and William Shakespeare. I don’t have a favourite genre. What I look for are engaging characters in a vivid setting well described. Once those are in place, I stay engaged with the story through a minimum of spelling and grammatical mistakes. To me, it is a sign of respect for the reader if the writer takes the time to smooth out all the rough patches…and we all have them in our early drafts!
MY: I like your author list very much, a few of my favourites are in there! What are you currently working on?
JW: I am currently working on the sequel to Secrets of the Home Wood: the Sacrifice. It is called The Stalker.
MY: If you could give advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
JW: Write often; take courses, especially ones that offer you the opportunity to receive critiques on your own work and learn how to critique others; join or create a writing group; find an editor with whom you connect and can work well.
MY: Fantastic advice. Authors are often portrayed as being cat owners who drink a lot of coffee. Is this true for you?
JW: I have two cats who like to put in their two cents when it isn’t nap time. I’m a tea drinker though, since I was forced to give up coffee. I cannot start my day without Bengal Spice tea.
MY: What is your biggest vice?
JW: Being easily distracted and trying to complete too many things at once and sometimes getting none done.
MY: One more question, where do you see yourself in five years?
JW: Still writing and still being distracted by my grandson.
MY: Thanks you for such a wonderful insight into your life. Would you mind sharing an extract of your book with us?
JW: It would be my pleasure
Do I want to be dinner? Cripes, what kind of question is that?
Jonathon passed an assessing glance over what held Pugg fast. The world, at that moment, consisted of Pugg’s alarmed face and an intricate trap the size of a bus woven between the branches of the tree. Jonathon’s heart thudded against his breast bone. He drew in a breath and began to slash at the sticky web. He struggled to maintain a determined focus as he sawed with all his strength on the hawser-sized strand of the web that kept the warrior captive. Jonathon blocked out Pugg’s tension and the hissing, clicking sound from the higher branches. Clicking? It sounded like giant castanets. He cut harder. With a grunt he was through. Another down. He moved to the next while trying to stay clear of the sticky strands himself.
The clicking grew closer. Jonathon avoided looking at Pugg’s face and continued to hack until he had made a hole large enough for Pugg to drop through. The boy grabbed one of the warrior’s legs to guide him. He pulled hard but Pugg didn’t move.
Jon looked up. The web had stuck under one of Pugg’s arms. The warrior’s eyes were huge and black, pupils fully dilated, as he cast a quick glance down at Jonathon. Jon followed the direction of Pugg’s stare. Two enormous hairy legs pushed aside the leafy branches above him and revealed the clicking’s source.
The razor fangs and mandibles of a black spider smacking together in ravenous anticipation, red eyes aglow.
The beast was the size of a bull elephant. Jonathon screamed out loud and with all of his strength pushed out from the trunk of the tree while clinging to Pugg’s legs. His added weight finally freed the San and together they fell through the curtains of moss and the branches until the rope of moss around Jonathon’s waist pulled them to an abrupt stop a few feet shy of the ground. The force of gravity ripped the larger warrior from the boy’s grasp and Pugg hit bottom with a thump.
“Get up. Get up. Get up! We have to get out of here!” Jonathon cut the moss rope from around his middle with a single swipe of Pugg’s blade. He helped the warrior to his feet, and together they set off through the circle of frozen trees towards the grassy gold promise of the plains. Pugg took the lead. In a much shorter time than it took them to enter, they were back out of the sour forest and wading through the grasslands skirted earlier in the day because of the intense heat.
Pugg set a swift pace. Jonathon was in no mood to disagree. They would both feel safer, he decided, the more distance between themselves and the spider’s dinner table. Despite the heat, the plains grass made an easier traverse than the deep ravines. Jonathon felt the miles melt under them as they pushed through the tall grasses. The sun sailed well past its peak, but they still had lots of good travel time ahead. Pugg signalled for a brief rest. Jonathon fell to the ground, more spent than he had realized.
“Where are we going now, Pugg?”
“We seek help from the Maorrr. That route not safe for you.” His ear pointed back the way they came. “Too much danger to go to Snugg’s camp just us two. The Maorrr will lend their muscle. Here.” He handed Jonathon a bit of nut loaf and the bag of sweet water. “Keep up your strength.”
What’s he mean by ‘not safe for you’ Jonathon thought. Who saved who back there?
He jumped to his feet, ready and eager, when Pugg again signalled to move on. The grass crept higher, until it was over Jon’s head. He pushed to keep up to the warrior even though the ground grew rougher. If they lost sight of each other now, they would lose precious time.
The sun sank lower in the sky. Jonathon felt his restlessness grow. He sensed that Pugg had slowed down. They needed more speed. They had to keep going, move faster. Another night was crashing towards them, and his father was still out there somewhere. He pushed himself in front of Pugg.
“Come on, Pugg. Let’s not stop till we have to. Let’s keep moving. We’re getting close to my dad, I can feel it. We can go faster can’t we? It’s only gra—”
With a lightning reflex, Pugg grabbed for Jonathon’s arm as he tumbled over a grass-edged cliff. Far below at the bottom of a gorge the swift current of a deep, narrow river severed the plain.
“Hold onto the roots!” Pugg yelled. Jonathon looked down at the protruding rocks thirty feet beneath his dangling legs.
“And don’t be looking!”
Jonathon raised his eyes and stared into Pugg’s grim face.
Jonathon raised his eyes and stared into Pugg’s grim face.
“Don’t let me go.”
Where can I buy this fabulous book?
About the author
Julie Whitley is a retired nurse who lives in Ontario, with her husband and mother. Julie is the proud mother of one daughter and enthralled new grandmother of grandson, Hamish. Secrets of the Home Wood: the Sacrifice is her debut novel and represents a labour of love over twenty years in the making. Julie also loves to fill her time with painting, travelling, sailing with friends and scuba diving/snorkelling. Life is good!