Author Spotlight: Julia Sykes
January 15, 2018 • News
1) How did you get started as an author and what made you want to pursue that field?
I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. When I was twelve, I decided I wanted to write young adult fantasy novels. I ended up abandoning that dream to pursue my other love, archaeology. In college, I wrote bits and pieces of stories as a way to unwind from academic stress. By the time I got to my MA, I wrote my first full novel. Once I gave myself permission to be creative, the words came pouring out. I’d always told myself I wasn’t capable of writing a novel. That first one opened the floodgates, and now, I can’t imagine doing anything different with my life. In 2013, I quit my PhD in Archaeology to pursue writing romance novels full-time.
2) What hurdles have your overcome while striving towards your goals?
Mostly, self-doubt. I told myself that being an author wasn’t practical, and that I would never be able to come up with enough material to write a whole book. Once I self-published in 2012 and found out that people actually were interested in my writing, I let go of those doubts and fell into this wonderful indie romance community.
3) Which novel has been your favorite to write and why?
Oh, that’s hard! There are some books I definitely like more than others. Usually, each book I write becomes my favorite in terms of craft. I try to push myself and grow with each new project, so if I don’t feel like it’s my best work to date, I know it’s not ready for release. Out of my earlier books, Knight will always have a special place in my heart. It was my first truly dark book, and it was scary releasing that part of my mind into the world for other people to see. I also have a soft spot for Czar, which is definitely my darkest book. It’s not even a true romance novel, but it helped me deal with some personal trauma, so that was a harrowing but important experience. Finally, I am still really proud of Sweet Captivity, my latest dark romance release. And of course, I am so excited to share War of Hearts and the prequel, Battle for Love!
4) For those looking to become an author, what advice would you give them?
Believe in yourself. Give yourself permission to be creative. Then, study the industry. Find out where your voice will fit in, and tailor your project to fit that market. When you have a clear direction, find a great editor (or three), and make sure you have a professional cover that will grab readers’ attention.
5) Favorite motto?
Well, I have two favorite quotes from Harry Potter that really inspire me. The first one is “Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” When JK Rowling wrote those words in the climactic sequence in Deathly Hallows, I feel like she was speaking to the readers who had been living and breathing these books for years; just because it’s fiction doesn’t make it any less real. The words we write and the characters we create can mean so much more than idle entertainment.
The second Harry Potter quote I love (can you tell I’m a Potterhead?) is “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” I’ve dealt with Bipolar Disorder and Depression my entire life, and there have been points in my career when I’ve considered myself a failure and a fraud. This wisdom from Dumbledore reminds me to stay positive and keep going.
6) In one word, how would you describe your writing style?
7) Which author inspires you the most and why?
Another hard one! I’m choosing four(!), because they have been my touchstones since the beginning of my career. First (obviously) is JK Rowling. The characters and the world she created are simply sublime, and the Harry Potter books kept me company through some tough times growing up.
Second is George R R Martin. I started reading his A Song of Ice and Fire series when I was sixteen. A Storm of Swords blew my mind. It was so dark, and Martin was fearless in sacrificing fan favorite characters in a way that serviced the plot rather than going for pure shock value. That gave me my penchant for darkness in my writing.
Thirdly, I will always be grateful to Cherise Sinclair. Her books gave me hope and direction in my life when I felt like a weird misfit. Without going into too many personal details, many of my bigger choices that shaped my life were made in pursuit of the kinds of relationships she portrays in her books.
Finally, I love Anna Zaires. Whenever I’m worried that something I want to write is too daring, I think about her Twist Me series. She’s another fearless author who writes from the heart, and that encourages me to follow my gut instincts instead of listening to the doubtful little voices in my mind.
8) What is your writing process like?
Outlines, outlines, outlines! With my academic background, I learned to always start a project with a detailed outline. I can’t start a book until I have one, broken down chapter by chapter. It changes quite a bit as I get into the book, depending on where my characters take me. But I always go back to the outline and re-work it rather than continuing on when I need to make a change. My process is completely linear, and skipping around pains me. I am in awe of writers who are “pantsers”. That process is a mystery to me.
9) Goals for this year?
Every year, I try to be a little more successful than the year before. I want to constantly push myself and grow my brand. However, this year is also about self-care and getting more organized, so I’m shifting my focus a little bit.
10) What new projects are you currently working on?
I have so many projects I want to release in 2018! I have one more novella in my Dark Grove Plantation series coming up soon. I also have a brand new series about one couple coming out in the spring. I’m keeping the details under wraps for now, but my initial inspiration was The Blacklist meets Fifty Shades. I also want to start a new romantic suspense series set in Europe, as well as continuing the Subversive Series.
11) Any final thoughts you would like to share with the CJC Photography readers?
I can’t say often enough how much I value this wonderful romance community. Absolutely everyone—from authors to bloggers to readers to industry professionals—is so supportive. We all lift each other up and maintain a positive, welcoming community. I can’t imagine being in a more wonderful career, and I am so grateful for the people who surround me every day.