Q & A

Q & A with Julie Shackman, Author of A Room at the Manor

To celebrate the release of A Room at the Manor, author Julie Shackman’s new novel published by Allen & Unwin, I have a Q & A with Julie I would love to share with you all. It is true pleasure to welcome Julie to Mrs B’s Book Reviews for a Q & A session. This Q & A coincides with today’s review of A Room at the Manor, on the blog.

About the author…

Julie lives in Scotland and is married with two teenage sons.

From an early age, she always knew she wanted to write novels and after reading “Princess Daisy” by Judith Krantz at the age of thirteen, Julie was bitten by the bug.
Julie trained as a journalist and studied communication and media.

julie-shackman-photo-1-preferred-credit-trevor-graham-photography1084295059

Her first two novels were published electronically in Kindle format by a London based digital publisher but A Room at the Manor, from Allen & Unwin, is her first traditionally published novel.


Hello Julie. It is my pleasure to welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. I greatly appreciate the time you have provided to answer a few questions. To begin, A Room at the Manor, your new novel published by Allen & Unwin has just been released. Can you give us an outline of what we can expect?

Thank you for inviting me onto your lovely Blog, Amanda!

When her Maltese love affair turns sour, Lara McDonald returns to her quiet Scottish hometown of Fairview heartbroken, yet determined – instead of looking for another PR position, she decides to follow her dream of baking. She impulsively takes the first job offered and finds herself working for local dragon Kitty Walker in her tea room, True Brew.

Lara’s life is full of surprises, however, not the least being an unlikely friendship forged with one of Kitty’s elderly customers, the former laird Hugo Carmichael. The Carmichael family has lived at the beautiful Glenlovatt Manor for almost three hundred years and, although in need of renovation, Hugo, his son and grandson currently make it their home.

There’s something about Lara that Hugo likes, and when Hugo suddenly passes away, Lara is stunned to discover she is mentioned in his will. But not everyone is happy with the old Laird’s faith in Lara!

Q. What came first in the creation of this novel – the title, the plot, the characters or the setting when you first set out to write A Room at the Manor?

A. When I started to come up with the idea for A Room at the Manor, it was a combination of the plot and characters which started forming first, followed by the setting.

For me, it’s the excitement of coming up with my characters and an imaginative setting, that really helps to kick off my writing process.

I love to read books where I become totally absorbed, visualising what the people and places look like, as well as savouring the colours, sights and sounds.

I hope readers will feel I have achieved that with A Room at the Manor!

Q. Did you need to undertake any research to bring A Room at the Manor to life?

A. Oh yes! For my research, I had to spend longer than normal in my favourite tea shop, The Honeybee Bakery – purely for research purposes of course…!

It was tough but someone had to do it..!

Seriously though, The Honeybee is my inspiration for my tea shop in the book, Thistles, so I asked Vittoria the owner, and the lovely staff all sorts of questions about how she got the business started; her baking process; health and safety implications… the list was endless but they were very patient and helpful.

I also got a tour of their kitchen and worked for a couple of hours in there as a waitress.

It was all so helpful to give Lara my protagonist, more grounding as a character.

Regarding Vaughan, my moody sculptor, I read up a lot about this art form and studied pictures of famous pieces of sculpture, as well as reading interviews with well-known artists and looking up photographs of sculptor’s studios. It was fascinating to see how demanding yet rewarding and beautiful this particular form of art is.

Q. Let’s talk setting. What made you decide to base your new novel in Scotland?

A. As I live in Scotland, I find its scenery and places very inspiring.

There are so many gorgeous little towns and villages, each with their own unique personality. My imaginary town of Fairview, where A Room at the Manor is set, hopefully encompasses a lot of that; the tangles of woodlands and forests; cobbled side streets and majestic hillsides.

The Scottish weather has been wonderful to us the last few weeks, but, unfortunately, it isn’t always like that….!

Q. What character did you most identify with in A Room at the Manor?

A. I think I identified most with Lara. She’s creative but suffers from pangs of self-doubt like we all do from time to time. She worries that she isn’t up to the challenges she faces, but she is much stronger than she thinks.

Q. Is there a particular scene in A Room at the Manor that you are proud of?

A. I think one of the scenes that really stands out for me and which I had a lot of fun writing, is the “bruised finger” incident with Lara and Vaughan.

I won’t give too much away, as I don’t want to spoil it for readers, but I really enjoyed the verbal sparring between the two of them during this.

You also see a different side to Vaughan.

I wanted it to be funny, tender and a bit sexy, all at the same time.

I just hope the readers agree!

Q. Will you celebrate the official release day of A Room at the Manor in a special way?

A. Oh yes. Definitely! I’m not planning on doing any cooking whatsoever on 27 June and will be marking the occasion with some tasty food; great music and toasting my magnificent agent and publisher.

Q. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?

A. Oh, my goodness! How long have you got?!

It has taken a long time for me to be able to hold my first published novel in my hands – and nothing prepares you for the thrill of it.

My first two books were published digitally by a London based e-book publisher, but like many writers, I always dreamt of securing a traditional publishing deal.

After I had written my third novel, I submitted it to agents and despite receiving positive comments, nobody would bite.

I therefore decided to move on and write Book Four (A Room at the Manor) and began the submission process again.

I read an interview with the amazing Selwa Anthony and knew I had to approach her. To be honest, I didn’t really expect a reply, but when she responded two days later, to say she had enjoyed the first ten pages and synopsis and wanted to read the full MS, I was shocked and delighted.

Selwa promised me she would get back to me with her decision within two weeks and it was awful, trying to distract myself and not get too optimistic.

Then, on Day 12, Selwa emailed me to say she wanted to have a chat. When we spoke and she said she loved my writing and wanted to offer me representation, I remember bursting into tears and talking incoherently for about the next ten minutes!

My message to all writers out there is to please persevere and NEVER give up. 

Q. Your writing has been compared to prolific authors Cathy Kelly and Maeve Binchy. What writers have inspired you along the way to publication?

A. That comparison is very humbling!

I think as a writer, you are always learning and honing your craft. I love to read and am an avid book buyer.

You learn so much from reading other writer’s work and I don’t think you can become a great writer if you’re not a keen reader.

I am inspired by so many writers but the stand-out ones for me, are Jenny Colgan; Trisha Ashley; Wendy Holden and Sophie Kinsella. They create such loveable characters and their settings are so real, you think you can taste, feel and touch them.

Q. Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?

A. I have tried to write at home but it never works. I get far too distracted by housework (sad, I know!) and social media – mainly social media…!

So, I gather up my notebook and pens and take myself off every weekday morning to my favourite tea shop to write.

I find it easier to write in long-hand first and then type it onto the PC when I get home.

I love music and seem to write far better when there are songs playing in the background. I listen to the lyrics and they can be very inspiring.

The only down side is being surrounded by such delicious baking, so I make sure I also exercise every day to compensate for any temptations there might be!

Q. How do you balance life with writing? 

A. This is something I think most writers find they struggle with from time to time.

To try and even things out a bit, I always make sure I carry a notebook with me everywhere and scribble down ideas as they come to me.

I try to write Monday to Friday and give myself a bit of a break at weekends, but if I’m on a deadline or need to finish something urgently, I will do some writing at the weekends too.

Things have a habit of working themselves out in the end.

Q. What is next on the horizon for Julie Shackman? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?

A. I’ve written the first drafts of my next two novels and am currently researching for the one after that, which I am on the brink of beginning to write.

I also write captions and verses for greetings card companies.

All I can say about my next two novels, is that the first is about it never being too late to fall in love and accept yourself for who you are; the other addresses the importance of never judging people on face value and for sticking with your beliefs…!

Q. Finally, what 2018 book releases are you most excited to read?

A. There are so many great titles on the verge of release this year, but I am particularly looking forward to reading “The Island Christmas” by Jenny Colgan; “The Summer Holiday Survival Guide” by Jon Rance and “A Spark of Light” by Jodi Picoult.

I love books that have compelling characters and original settings.

Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews Julie and congratulations on the publication of A Room at the Manor.

Thank you so much again Amanda for having me on your Blog and I very much hope you enjoy reading A Room at the Manor every bit as much as I did writing it!

Julie X

Mrs B –  I sure did enjoy your novel very much Julie. My review of A Room at the Manor can be viewed here.


Connect with Julie here:

Blog: https://julieshackman.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/G13Julie


If this Q & A enticed you to read A Room at the Manor, here is the blurb: a room a the manor small

When her Maltese love affair turns sour, Lara McDonald returns to her quiet Scottish hometown of Fairview heartbroken, yet determined – instead of looking for another PR position, she decides to follow her dream of baking. She impulsively takes the first job offered and finds herself working for local dragon Kitty Walker in her tea room, True Brew.

Lara’s life is full of surprises, however, not the least being an unlikely friendship forged with one of Kitty’s elderly customers, the former laird Hugo Carmichael. The Carmichael family has lived at the beautiful Glenlovatt Manor for almost three hundred years and, although in need of renovation, Hugo, his son and grandson currently make it their home. 

There’s something about Lara that Hugo likes, and when Hugo suddenly passes away, Lara is stunned to discover she is mentioned in his will. But not everyone is happy with the old Laird’s faith in Lara. 

A story of love, family, hope and trust, A Room at the Manor will delight every reader keen to find their place in the world.

A Room at the Manor by Julie Shackman was published on 1st July 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.


 

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7 thoughts on “Q & A with Julie Shackman, Author of A Room at the Manor

  1. Fabulous interview Ladies I love hearing how a book comes about and the journey to get there so many interesting things to learn, this book has been added to my must get list it sounds awesome and I look forward to reading it

    have Fun

    Helen

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds delightful. The book, the journey, the fact there are a few others on the way… and Selwa Anthony. Almost all the Australian books I listen to which resonate for me, give credit to Selwa in the acknowledgement. I’m already smiling or awestruck at the endings, and smile even more when authors thank her. I’ve always wondered what her magic is.

    So, I’ve been thinking that because I love her book choices, she may just love my story!

    Congratulations Julie. I can’t wait to read this and your future releases. And thanks Mrs B for being such a great ambassador for our authors. X jay

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Jay. I enjoyed your thoughts on this one and thanks you for your continued support of my reviews and Q & A’s. It truly is appreciated!
      I found the Selwa Anthony aspect of this Q & A illuminating too. Selwa seems like an influential figure in the Australian publishing industry. She sure is one fairy godmother to our Australian authors! I hope you can contact her about your own manuscript.
      I’m very keen to see what Julie releases next after this one. I’ll be following her writing journey very closely now!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds right up my alley, I’ll be adding this to my ‘must read’ list.
    Another fab interview, Amanda, I always look forward to reading your Q & A sessions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it sure is right up your alley. So pleased i makes your ‘mus read’ list.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the interview… heads up, I have a special one tomorrow that I know you are going to love!

      Like

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