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Julie Chapman

Q&A with Julia Chapman

3 January 2017

Julia Chapman is the pen name for Julia Stagg.

She is the author of the Dales Detective novels and lives in a small village in the Yorkshire Dales. Tempted by a love of cycling and a passion for mountains, she moved to the Pyrenees in France in 2004 to run a small guest house. Her Fogas series of books was published by Ulverscroft in large print.   

Did you always want to be a writer? How did you become a published author?
Yes! I was given a diary when I was five and that started it all. But like so many people, finding the time to write as an adult was difficult. It took a move to France for me to complete my first novel; it took a second novel before I landed an agent and a publisher.

Where do you get the ideas for your books?
I think ideas come from everything – from people, from the landscape, even from dreams. But of course, not all of them are worth following up!

You have travelled widely, and lived in France for six years where you wrote the Fogas series. How important is it to live in the location where your books are set?
For me it has been important to have a real feel for the places I write about – possibly because the landscape and the weather are characters in their own right in my books. I don’t think you get the same sense of place from a map! Plus, it makes life more interesting if you up-sticks and move every so often in the name of research…

Why did you decide to return to Yorkshire?
Coming to the Yorkshire Dales wasn’t a return – it was an arrival. I’d never lived here before but had always been attracted to the area. There’s something about the limestone hills that captivates me. So when life offered me the chance to move here, I didn’t think twice.

You’re a keen runner and cyclist, does exercise help the creative process?
In my case, running and cycling are a vital part of the creative process. There’s something about being alone on the fells that releases my mind and I often find that if I set out on a run with a plot problem, I’ve usually solved it by the time I get home all hot and tired. Cycling is the same – unless I’m out with the cycling club in which case I’m too busy chatting to be plotting murder!

What do you find are the best and the worst things about writing?
Oooh – the best thing? The whole creative process. Starting with a hazy idea and concluding with a book in a bookshop with my name on the cover. I love it. And the worst? I’m finding long hours at a desk difficult to get used to, never having had such a sedentary occupation before. Is that a good enough excuse for more cycling?! 

What are your thoughts on library closures? What should be done to keep more libraries open?
I was raised on library books and during a life lived around the world, the first thing I’ve always done in a new country or a new city is join the local library. So I’m confused and disappointed by the extent to which our library service has been cut back and the speed with which smaller branches have been closed. It’s short-sighted in the extreme. Before we lose the service completely, we need to reinvest in libraries and the staff that run them because what they offer is so much more than a mere selection of books. For many communities they have the potential to be a vital hub of learning and social interaction.

What’s the best writing advice anyone’s ever given you?
Get the damn thing written first! Actually, no one ever said that to me but I think it’s the best advice for any aspiring author. It’s all too easy to dream about finding an agent and getting published but if the words aren’t on the page, those dreams will never be realised. 

What about your working day, do you have a favourite time to write?
I tend to work office hours but when a novel is coming to a close then I’ll work longer days, often seven days a week as the words come tumbling out.

What are you working on right now?
I’ve broken away from editing book three of the Dales Detective series (Date with Mystery, which will be published next March) in order to answer these questions – so thanks for a very welcome break! And for publishing my novels.

Date With Death is now available in large print.

Interview by Nicky Solloway at Magna.