Write what you love. Research what you don’t know. And reach out to those around you who can help.
–Julie Coulter Bellon
Author Interview by Terra Luft
Julie Coulter Bellon is the author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels. Her book All Fall Down won the RONE award for Best Suspense and Pocket Full of Posies won a RONE Honorable Mention for Best Suspense.
Julie loves to travel and her favorite cities she’s visited so far are probably Athens, Paris, Ottawa, and London. She loves to read, write, teach, watch Castle, Hawaii Five-O, and eat Canadian chocolate. Not necessarily in that order.
What has been your publishing journey?
It feels like I’ve been writing for my entire life! I won an essay contest in second grade and it fueled my writing fire for sure. I earned my B.A. in English-Teaching from BYU and started teaching a journalism course for BYU while working for a publishing company as an editor. I was teaching, helping other authors make their dreams come true, and trying to write my own manuscript in my free time. But it all paid off when I was offered my first traditional publishing contract. It felt like I’d been handed everything I’d ever wanted! I published six books traditionally, then my journey took me in a different direction. The third book in my trilogy was rejected by my traditional publisher, so I indie published it. It was a steep learning curve in doing everything myself, but I loved the control I had over my cover, my back copy, editing, marketing, and my royalties. Everything aligned just right and I’ve now indie published eight books. Two of my indie published books have won awards, so that’s been really validating for me. There are definitely pros and cons to both traditional and indie, but I’ve loved having experience in both.
You’ve published a lot of books – tell us which ones you like the best and why you love writing.
That is a super hard question! I love all my stories because I highlight strong women paired with strong men in impossible situations that stretch them, but are really entertaining to read. It’s all action-packed suspense with a touch of romance. I am definitely passionate about my writing because it allows me to create characters and settings that take me to a different place and gives me a glimpse into their lives. I love that little bit of “escape” time when I write.
How do you juggle wearing the ‘author’ hat and the ‘editor’ one and do they ever get in the way of each other?
When I was an editor, I marked up people’s manuscripts with my red pen until it looked like the pages were bleeding and had no qualms doing it. I was helping them create a stronger story! Now that I’m on the other end of that red pen, I can sometimes feel overwhelmed with the edits I need to make. That’s when I remember that my editor is just like I am when I have my editor hat on—she’s just trying to help me create a stronger story. And I think my editor hat keeps my author hat from getting too tight (so my head doesn’t get too big.)
What is your secret weapon – the one tip or trick that makes you the most effective?
I have learned so much about writing just by writing. My tip is to keep creating, keep moving forward, keep getting those stories out of you and on paper. The more you write, the more you learn. It sounds so cheesy, but it’s true! I am still proud of the first book I ever wrote, Through Love’s Trials, but I’m a completely different writer now and my last book, Ring Around the Rosie, really shows that. I think all of my books are a snapshot of where I am in my writing journey. And it’s fun to look back and see how far I’ve come. I’m proud of that journey and the path I’m on now. So, don’t get discouraged. Keep writing. Keep going. You never know where it’s going to lead or what’s just around the corner for your writing career.
If you could help aspiring writers get a leg up (like learning a lesson it took a long time to master) what would you tell them?
Grow a thick skin. When I got my first rejection, I was devastated and put my manuscript under my bed thinking I must be a terrible writer. After a year, I dusted it off and edited it, then submitted again and got a contract. I wish I hadn’t wasted that year feeling sorry for myself and just taken their suggestions and not let my ego get involved. Those sort of issues don’t go away after you’re published either, because then you still deal with possible rejection and add on harsh reviews or negative fan response. But, the way I’ve been able to not end up crying in my cornflakes every time one of those things happen is, I’ve made myself a Happy File. When I get a great review, I copy/paste it to my Happy File. When I get a fun and positive piece of fan mail, I copy/paste it to my Happy File. Then when the bad stuff comes along, if I feel upset, I can go to my Happy File and look at all the good things that have come from my writing. And then I dust myself off and go write some more.
Do you ever hear writing advice that you wish you could tell others to steer clear of?
“Write what you know.” I had no idea about how conditions were for American soldiers in Iraq, but if I only wrote what I knew about, I would have missed out on some incredible experiences researching and connecting with a unit stationed in Iraq who graciously answered all my questions and gave authenticity to my story, All’s Fair. As I got to know them, they mentioned that they missed candy like Skittles and sometimes felt forgotten by the people back at home, so I started a campaign called Skittles for Soldiers where I had donation stations set up at all my book signings where people could donate food and hygiene items to the soldiers. I was able to collect over 900 lbs of food (including Skittles) and hygiene items that were sent overseas to our soldiers who were serving. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life as I got to connect with people and help our soldiers know they’re not forgotten. But if I’d stuck to only writing what I knew, I would have missed that whole experience. So, my advice is to write what you love. Research what you don’t know. And reach out to those around you who can help.
What is the best thing about UAA?
How awesome they are at helping authors reach for their dreams and providing a place where writers know they can get the best help and advice.
Just for fun: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Stars Wars for sure. Who wouldn’t love Han Solo? Plus, when I was young, I was sitting in the theater watching the end of Return of the Jedi and I felt so ripped off that the final party scene with the ewoks wasn’t celebrating Han and Leia’s wedding. So I rewrote it with how I think it should have happened and a writing career was officially launched.
Where can readers find and connect with you?