Julie Evelyn Joyce talks to us about the inspiration for prize-winning novel Steeped in Love. Julie shares how writing Gilmore Girls fan fiction taught her about craft and how a chance meeting at RWA led her to entering and winning Kobo’s Emerging Writer Prize!
All About Julie and Her Early Love of Romance
Julie is a Canadian based in the national capital, Ottawa. She teaches physical education in high school full time. Her job gives her a lot of material to write about, and she channels her physical energy into her creative process. Julie spends a lot of time playing sports, watching sports, and accumulating footwear: “I buy athletic shoes by the boatload.” She loves to enjoy the city, spending time touring, walking along the canal, running, hiking, and dragon-boating. Julie makes use of every amenity in the city she finds truly beautiful.
Julie has been a longtime fan of the romance genre. The book that shaped her as a young girl was Anne of Green Gables. It has the small-town vibe and the quirky characters, but what Julie loved most was the relationship between Anne and Gilbert. The friendly rivalry that turned into a romance. She dove deeper into the romance genre in her 20s, and once ebooks were established her ereader was always loaded with love stories.
Julie loves the excitement and hope of the romance genre and the journey along the way that the characters experience, as they change and learn about themselves. As a single woman, she likes to live vicariously through the lives of characters, their sparks of romance and happily ever afters. For Julie, the butterflies, the emotions, and the roller coaster you go on with a romance are incomparable to other genres. Some of her favourite romance authors are Maggie Wells, Kristan Higgins, and Sarah Addison Allen.
Steeped in Love
Addie Mitchell is a woman in her thirties who is struggling to find “the one.” Addie has tried every dating method and is frustrated by lack of progress. She lives alone in the house formerly owned by her deceased great-aunt. Addie hears the voice of her great-aunt telling her to try reading tea leaves, and so she turns to tasseography as a real source to find love. The book follows her on adventures and dates in a local coffeeshop. In the same coffeeshop, Ethan Holtz struggles to write his novel. He starts to eavesdrop on Addie’s dates and wonders what is going on. The key takeaway of Steeped in Love is to follow your heart and your gut. It’s about what you want to write about and who you want to fall for.
Ever since writing her novel, Julie continues to eavesdrop on passing conversations. She got the idea for her novel through her own experiences and the interactions between others. We asked Julie if she knew much about tasseography before writing her novel. She knew little of studying tea leaves, so she did a lot of research and consulted blogs. There was one woman’s journey to understanding how the leaves predicted her life, which Julie found really interesting. It was her interpretation of the leaves, rather than the pattern. It is about how you react to what you see, since the same pattern can be interpreted many ways.
Journey to Novel Writing
Julie wrote erotic short stories under a pen name for several years with a small publisher. The publisher was unable to sustain itself and the rights were eventually returned to her and she decided to try writing under her own name. Julie got her start writing Gilmore Girls fan fiction and learned a lot about craft writing these stories. Her debut novel has a lot of the small-town quirkiness that echoes the television series. Julie has affection for the minor characters in the story. The show gave Julie so much joy in her life and made her want to be a writer. The writing is witty and fast-paced and Julie tries to emulate that in her writing.
Julie did a lot of soul-searching and her mother encouraged her to write a book. A few months into the process of writing the novel, her mother died. She kept pushing, because even though she could not write it for her mother, she would write it for the world. The book wasn’t hitting the mark with publishers or agents. It was originally 32,000 words and at the time they were looking for something bigger. She brainstormed with her critique partner and realized it should be a series. It has a Love Actually feeling with secondary characters that do not stay for long or who show up later. All her characters are interconnected.
Self-Publishing and the Writing Process
Julie says it wasn’t easy to complete her novel. It was a very difficult task requiring a ton of discipline and dedication. It was a few years in the making, but she had been working on her craft for more than a decade beforehand. She developed her writing skills through fan fiction. Her friend became published and she was in awe of this and had to follow suit.
Julie got to a point where she did not care if publishers wanted her novel or not. She wanted to get it out into the world, but she was fearful of self-publishing. She had a fear of technology and learning a whole new system. It felt like a mountain ahead of her after she had slaved on her book. Nothing mattered more than getting the book out into the world. She had her critique partner, the help of other writers, and a bible for indie authors. When Julie approached the publishing process step-by-step, it became less scary.
Julie has nothing against traditional publishing, but she appreciates how much work indie authors have to do and how much they help one another. Indie authors like to pay it forward and they all like to see each other succeed. There is less of a competitive atmosphere compared to traditional publishing. Every victory gives more relevance to indie authors, so many of which were nominated at RWA this year.
RWA and the Emerging Writer Prize
The Romance Writers of America conference was instrumental to Julie winning Kobo’s Emerging Writer Prize. Last year, Julie’s friend Kristan Higgins introduced Julie to an established writer based in Canada. After Julie’s book was published, this acquaintance reached out on Facebook and told Julie about the contest and encouraged her to apply. When Julie won the award, she took her out to dinner as a thank you. Everything fell into place when Julie joined the Ottawa Romance Chapter, almost like everything was meant to be. She took a giant book cover home on the subway. Her dad was at the ceremony and days after her father would randomly shout “woohoo! Woohoo!” He is her biggest cheerleader. Julie feels “surreal and wonderful and still buzzing with excitement” about her win. She has never felt the level of support for indie authors that she feels with Kobo, and she is honoured on so many levels to have been chosen for the award.
Learning to Love
Learning to Love is the sequel Julie is working on now. The story features a high school PhysEd teacher who teaches at a school with children that have behavioral issues. This is a big part of the book. The woman’s love interest originally started in the world of advertising and decided later in life that he wanted to be a teacher. He is a student teacher and it is a forbidden romance at the beginning, since she is his superior. This adds tension and conflict, plus they come from very different backgrounds. The woman lived a similar life to the children they work with, whereas he came from an affluent family. She plans to release Learning to Love in early 2020.
The key theme for the second book is palm reading. Julie had her palm read in NYC for research purposes. The palm reader made her think about things that she wouldn’t normally think about. For instance, the reader said that the guy she is meant to be with is already in her life. Julie thought, who do I know that I have not given a proper chance to know? What if someone is hiding from me? Every girl can dream. The palm reader says that she will never be rich, but Julie chose to ignore this. (As you should, Julie!)
Parting Advice for Emerging Writers
“This not an easy journey and you have to kind of know that going in. Don’t expect it to magically fall in place, but if there is a book you want to write, if this is what you’re passionate about and what your dream is, there are so many ways to get your voice heard. Do not let anything stand in your way. Type your words, get them onto paper, and the rest will fall into place. Do not let anyone tell you what you should be writing.” — Julie Evelyn Joyce
Julie Evelyn Joyce is an award-winning author and a proud Canuck. When she’s not writing quirky and witty romances, she spends her time molding young minds, playing sports, singing karaoke, juggling, and dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Sometimes simultaneously. She’s also in hot pursuit of her own happily ever after, and anxiously awaits the day serial dating becomes an Olympic event. Her debut novel, Steeped in Love, has received glowing reviews and is the winner of the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in romance.
She surely have a passion for writing and telling good stories. The award is just right for her dedication.