ashlynn's dreams book cover

Author Interview: Julie Gilbert

author julie gilbertToday I am pleased to introduce to my readers Julie Gilbert, author of multiple novels, many of which are “imaginative” fiction as I like to call it. She and I are both members of an online group of authors committed to writing “clean” books, i.e.those which focus on the good, the true, and the beautiful. We did a long distance, back and forth interview online over the past month or so and I’m excited to finally be able to share our conversation with you.

So let’s jump right in and start finding out about her books and her career as a writer.

Well, first off, when did your first book come out and how did you decide you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

My first book came out in 2005, but I’ve recently updated and re-released it. The technology was kind of old, and I wanted to refine a few things anyway. The first book I put out was Heartfelt Cases, which I’ve been re-releasing as individual novellas as well as a combination book.

The mind shift from writing as a hobby to more of a career is a slower process that’s just started to take root in my head the last few months to a year. Several things contributed to the shift. I think a huge turning point happened about this time last year when I learned that I could get an audiobook version together relatively easily through ACX. After only a few days on the ACX website, I connected with a totally awesome narrator, Kristin Condon, who did a perfect audition for reading Ashlynn’s Dreams. Another contributing factor is joining several Facebook groups for writers. In just the last few weeks, I’ve been considering the importance of re-working the covers. During a conversation about the cover evolution so far, most people were saying that the “new” cover shouted middle grade. Since a few reviewers had echoed those thoughts, I did some asking about, opinion gathering, and finally commissioned a new cover that would say more YA and science fiction. Besides, writing is a career that tends to play nicely as a co-career, which is less scary then jumping in and saying I’ll make it as a writer or starve.

That’s great that you’ve been able to sort of ease into your writing career. I’ve seen the new cover for Ashlynn’s Dreams, by the way, and it looks amazing. It seems like of the many books you have out, this is the one you’re emphasizing at the moment. Is that so? And could you tell us a little bit about this story?

I suppose I am emphasizing Ashlynn’s Dreams, but it may also just seem that way because there are more opportunities to promote online for the Young Adult genre than for Christian mysteries.

ashlynn's dreams book coverAshlynn’s Dreams is the first book in the Devya’s Children series. As you noticed (thank you!), the series is undergoing a facelift so I can present the new images at BookExpo America (May 27-31, 2015).

The story features a young girl who gets kidnapped because she possesses the ability to shape dreams. Since her parents were on a daytrip when she was kidnapped, her babysitter also got snatched. Throughout their adventures, Jillian – the Dream Shaper – and Danielle – the babysitter – meet most of the other genetically altered children who have very different Gifts, including healing and telepathy.

Ashlynn’s Dreams has been generally well-received. It’s written mostly as journal entries, which has thrown a few readers, but most people end up agreeing that the unique approach fits well. Most of the people who didn’t enjoy it fall into the same demographic, so I guess that’s saying something for sticking to the target audience.

That sounds like a really interesting story and I like that way you approached it with the journal entries. It’s a series, right? If so, do you focus on the other children in the other books?

Yes. Nadia’s Tears has Jillian trying to awaken Nadia from a coma, and Malia’s Miracles brings in several of the children as they try to save a woman from cancer. The fourth book that should be released later this year is called Varick’s Quest. I have some other titles in mind for each of the remaining children, but those stories have not been written yet.

Nadia’s Gifts all emphasize mental abilities, but she’s also got a heart for righting wrongs wherever she finds them. Her Gifts allow her to see many more problems than most people are privileged to know. While I think her powers are very cool, I certainly do not envy her the burden they place upon her.

Malia can control emotions. Her Gifts were meant to bring comfort and solace, but she’s well aware of the potential areas of abuse possible with her abilities.

Jillian and Danielle remain the main narrators in the sequels, but most of the other Gifted children at least have small roles. I included Danielle because she offers a very different perspective than Jillian or her siblings.

Wow, there’s a lot going on with these children. You sort of touched on this, but I wonder, besides the story lines themselves, what are some of the themes you deal with in the books and what sorts of things to you hope to leave your readers with after reading the novel and with your work in general?

Nadia's Tears Book Cover
malia's miracle book cover

Usually as I set out to write one of the books in this particular series, I do have a theme. Ashlynn’s Dreams was just supposed to be about a kidnapping. All I knew at the start was that Jillian would be kidnapped. The themes of genetic engineering, types of friendship, and the value of family sort of just happened along the way.

Nadia’s Tears brings up human trafficking. It’s sort of a heavy topic to touch on in a Young Adult book, but it’s something that needs to be said. Although most of us never think of slavery still existing, it’s a reality for millions of people.

Malia’s Miracles asks the question, can cancer be cured? You see a lot of fundraisers aimed at fueling research, but in this book, I got to explore some options that lie just out of current scientific reach.

Hopefully, people find the novels entertaining. I strive for the multi-layered effect, so that one can read it at several levels of depths and find satisfaction in what you get. On the surface you have the story, but deeper in you have the themes and moral questions to wrestle with if you wish. I’m a big fan of closure, so I hope each work gives readers a sense that the particular arc in question has come to a satisfactory close. At the same time, I think all writers hope readers remain intrigued enough to check out the next story in the series.

Yay for closure! I strive for that as well. Now you mentioned the BookExpo America. How did you decide to get involved with that? Is this something you’ve done before? And what will you be doing there?

A few years ago–around 2011? I had the privilege of attending BEA on behalf of the private school I was working for at the time. The librarian focused more on elementary works while I tried to find good YA and MG books for the library. When I was standing in that hall in front of the autographing booths I thought, I want to be here someday. I’d been writing for quite some time but not really concentrating on the marketing side. Attending BEA from the other side, became one of those dreams you just file away and mentally revisit from time to time.

Skip forward to last year, 2014, another dream of mine was to get some of the books made into audiobooks. When another indie author asked me to review her audiobook, I asked her how she went about the process of making an audiobook. She told me about ACX. That particular Amazon company introduced me to Kristin Condon, the wonderful actress who ended up narrating Ashlynn’s Dreams. Just about the time the audiobook version finished, she asked if I’d ever heard of BEA and considered going. The idea stuck, so after school got underway, I looked into it. The biggest hurdle for any author getting to exhibit at BEA is probably cost. It’s very expensive.

No, I have never exhibited at a conference like this before, but I have done small book signings. I expect it will be a ton of fun and simultaneously exhausting. The amount of preparation work ahead of time is quite extensive. At the booth (#2342), I will be giving away copies of my books, running contests for other indie authors, and taking entries for people to win a Kindle Fire as well as a collection of indie works, including the first three in Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Series. No conference would be complete without lots of other stuff to giveaway too, so I’ll bring some pencils, wrist bands, and other goodies too.

Just listening to all of this gets me excited. Audiobooks, conventions, this sounds like an exciting time in your writing career. It’s really been interesting to see how writing has gone from a hobby to where you’re at now. To wrap things up, if you could just tell us where readers can connect with you, that would be great.

Thanks, DJ. This is a fun way to run an interview. I like the back and forth touch.

Here are a few helpful links:

Email: devyaschildren@gmail.com
Twitter: @authorgilbert
Facebook: Julie C. Gilbert

And be sure to check out the trailer for Ashlynn’s Dreams:

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