Author Interview Monday: Julie Helms

Author Interview Monday is back! Yay! This month I’m super excited to share an interview with one of my friends from my weekly writing group back in PA. Alongside a life-long passion of writing, Julie Helms has been a professional editor, a business owner and animal wrangler. Read on to hear about her journey in the world of writing and her tips she has for every level of writer! And be sure to connect with her on twitter @julie_helms !

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1. Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

I am a 50-year-old wife, and mother to two grown daughters. I own a homeschool bookstore and do freelance editing for R.R. Donnelly. My husband and I live on a small farm where we breed sheep and goats. We also have 30+ chickens who provide us with tons of fresh eggs!

2. How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?

I have only been writing for pleasure for several years. I started at Helium.com–one of those sites where you can freely post a variety of writing from creative writing, to poetry, to informational articles. I used a pseudonym in case my writing was really bad so no one would know it was me.

3. How would you describe your writing style?

I’m not sure how to answer that. My writing teacher in a class I took this fall said it was lyrical and formal. I suspect that I have been heavily influenced by my favorite writers who are all from the 19th century (Hawthorne, Poe, and Austen). Writing was much more formal then than it is in contemporary works. I do read lots of contemporary stuff but it is only in the classics that I’ll stop and repeat a sentence or passage aloud just to hear the language roll around on my tongue. I’m also a fan of children’s poetry, and I forced my kids to memorize great swaths of it when they were young. My favorite poets are AA Milne, Edward Lear, and Lewis Carroll. I love the way they play with words.

4. What would be your ideal working environment and how much time do you spend writing?

I generally must be alone to write and in complete quiet. I’m also a night owl and most productive in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else is in bed. Unfortunately, I don’t spend nearly the amount of time writing that I would like to–usually twice a week.

5. Do you have any specific goals for the rest of this year?

I am working on a project now that I would like to have the whole thing written in basic form by the end of the summer, with editing completed by the end of the year. It is my first novel. It is a fictionalized account based on the apocryphal Hebrew scripture of First Enoch. It tells the story of angels rebelling against God and coming to earth to marry human women. This leads to catastrophe. It is the basis for our biblical concept of fallen angels and is briefly mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 6.

6. Who has impacted you most in writing and how?

Without a doubt the greatest impact was negative. In 10th grade, my English teacher sent a progress report home to my parents that stated I could not write at all and would never be able to. That convinced me that I had no ability. In college, several professors tried to change my mind on that, but I wouldn’t listen. It wasn’t till I started posting my anonymous writing on Helium that that changed. Internet sites were purchasing my articles and several went on to commission me to write more, I won some contests, and even having several of my pieces stolen and posted elsewhere online was kind of flattering. So at the age of 45 it finally got through that maybe I could really give this a try! I recently took two writing courses online from Gotham University (Fiction and Novel Writing) and am finally making a go of it.

7. What is your greatest achievement outside of writing?

My baby girls! The elder is married and works as a computer programmer, the younger is a senior in college. I homeschooled them and they are a joy to me now as bright, independent women. (Now that I am an empty-nester though, I do have more time to write!)

8. What do you do in your spare time?

Reading and writing is what I do in my spare time.

9. How has your editing background helped direct your writing? 

Several times people who found out I was an editor commented that writing must be easy for me then. This is not true–the two skills are very different. Editing is precise and logical. You just follow rules. I find it very easy. Writing, specifically fiction writing, on the other hand, introduces an element not found in editing–creativity, imagination. These I struggle with! I wouldn’t say that editing has directed my writing, but I think it will help me polish my own piece in the final stages. One influence editing has had on me is just from exposure to a lot of other people’s writing. In one job, I worked editing on a self-publishing site. I saw so much atrocious writing that maybe it helped me see how NOT to do it!

10. What suggestions do you have for other writers? 

I have two suggestions. First–read, read, read. Good writing starts off as imitating great writers. Then once you can do it properly, you can develop your own style. It’s much like the masters in art. They all had to learn and master the basics of classical painting, then they could develop their own take on it–thus leading us to styles like impressionism or cubism. And second–just write and write more. Let someone who is a better writer critique your writing and don’t get offended by their comments. Take their suggestions and improve yourself!

Thanks for sharing a glimpse of your life with us, Julie! It is a great encouragement to hear from someone who heard discouraging words when younger, but has had the courage and strength to rise above the negative impact and come into your role as writer. I hope this interview can inspire others to reach for their dreams, no matter what! 

Readers, feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions for Julie! We would love to hear your feedback! 

Happy writing, friends!

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