PODCAST SHOW NOTES
Join hosts Veronica and Darren for a jam packed episode 61 featuring discussions about sunbaking wombats, the power of fashion to help shape your reality, the wonders of cultural differences and how they have helped build Australia, how dangerous art can be and how parachute pants must never return.... Not only that, but Australian Book Lovers is proud to present an astronomically awesome author interview with the truly inspiring Jules Van Mil who discusses her upcoming book A Remarkable Woman as well as a whole lot more!
When did you first admit that you were a writer?
I've always felt like a writer. Even as a child I wrote poems, stories, plays, and lyrics in my teenage years. I took any creative writing options that were available at high school and majored in English and Fine Art when I did my Education Degree.
The pivotal moment came in 2018 when I signed a two-book published deal with Pan Macmillan Australia for my children's novels. Gemma Riley and The Fashion Fiasco was released in June 2020. Once I saw my book in stores, I felt comfortable referring to myself as an author.
Is there anything specifically Australia about your book?
A Remarkable Woman is a very much an Australian story. The story is set in Melbourne during the booming fashion era of the 1950's, as well as a fictious cattle and sheep property located in the affluent Darling Downs region. The main character - Avril Montdidier - like the two million other immigrants who settled in Australia after the second world war - has come from France to start a new life.
Historically, the 1950's was a turning point for our country and the beginning of many social changes as such as European fashion, cuisine and cultural practices. Avril arrives in Melbourne with a unique set of skills having worked as a seamstress in Paris for newly established couture salon of Christian Dior. But she also brings her language and first-hand experience of living through the invasion and destruction of her homeland.
Is there a message in your book? What's the main message you'd like readers to take away after reading your book?
Very much so. Avril's story is one of hope. Of dreams and believing in possibilities. Like all of us, Avril carries a backstory and it's the difficulties she's experienced that enables her to understand and have empathy for her fellow man. She knows each person has a bigger story. It's her ability to see beyond what people present on the surface that sets her apart and adds to her remarkable qualities.
Avril is essentially saying to the reader, I see you, you'll get through this, you'll find your happiness. The book also highlights that everyone has their troubles - rich and poor. Avril knows that as human beings we're flawed creatures. She's non-judgemental in a time when ignorance and narrowmindedness was commonplace.
As a writer, are you a plotter or a panster or somewhere in between?
Because a story is pretty much formed in my mind before I begin writing, I brainstorm the arch of the entire plot on paper and plan what's going to take place in each chapter or scene. So yes, I very much have a road map of were my writings going right from the start. However, I leave plenty of creative space for the unexpected. That's not to say characters don't emerge spontaneously, which they do, and in A Remarkable Woman, James Carmody, a man Avril has a love relationship with, literally walked onto the page while I was writing. And it's always surprising and delightful when that happens.
How much research is involved in your writing?
I undertake an enormous amount of research when writing historical fiction and totally immerse myself in the era I'm talking about. In terms of my most recent book, A Remarkable Woman, the story takes place from the second world war up until the early 1960's. It's important that historical dates are referred to accurately and that historical events marry up with the story plot and sequence of events.
I always end up discovering much more information than is possible to use in a story and for that reason alone the research side of writing historical fiction is so interesting. I never realised that woman in France only got the right to vote in 1944 until I was reading about the political system in France during the last century.
What's your writing routine - if you have one?
I'm usually at my desk by eight thirty each morning, and work through until early to mid-afternoon. Once I start writing I don't like to break my rhythm, so I tend to write in large blocks - six to seven hours at a time. I rarely write at night unless I'm trying to meet a deadline or simply playing around with ideas. I'm very disciplined when it comes to my work. Writing for me is pure pleasure but also a job, so it's not difficult to keep to office hours when I'm working on a manuscript.
I'm also someone who needs peace and quiet when I work. I could never write in a cafe. I'd fine the noise too distracting. I often use earbuds to listen to classical music as I write, and as my office overlooks a pool, and I often stare at the water when I'm coming up with ideas.
What inspired your book cover?
The inspiration for the book cover comes from the historical fact that hundreds of thousands of women immigrated to Australia after the second world war. They were young woman in a foreign land, in search of a new life, a new home. We were hoping to capture that narrative on the cover.
On the cover we see the image is that of a young woman in a pale blue cotton dress, walking through long grass in a rural setting. She holds a boater hat, which hints at her French linage, and the swing of her arms shows she is striding as opposed to simply walking. She is a woman on the go, in motion, headed somewhere. And like the main character, Avril Montdidier, there is an air of Europeanness about her.
You might notice that the cover is void of some of the iconic rural landmarks associated with country life. There is no homestead, livestock or fences. We wanted to make Avriland the journey she is taking the sole focus. And when you read the book, I hope you'll be able to identify when and where the scene on the cover takes place, as it's at a pivotal point in the story.
What words of advice would you give an aspiring author?
How much time have you got? No seriously, when you're starting out on your writing journey, I'd suggest you learn as much as you can about the craft of writing, how to put together a pitch or a manuscript submission and what genres are accepted by the various publishing houses. Do courses, attend seminars and conferences, join your state or territory’s writing centre. Get involved in the writing community.
Mos importantly, you need to work out whether you want to write for pleasure, or your aim is to be published and build a professional writing career. Either path is just as valuable, and the publishing road is not for everyone. Publishing is a business and unless you're prepared to meet deadlines, accept rejection and meet professional expectations than expecting to attract a publishing deal is not for you.
And my last piece of advice is when you are starting out, focus on your writing, not trying to get published. If you do start submitting manuscripts to publishing houses don't let rejections hold you back. Work out why your story wasn't accepted and learn from it. All published authors have a stack of rejections emails. If your work is good enough it will get picked up by a publisher. Most importantly keep going, don’t give up at the first hurdle, believe in yourself and good luck!