BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times January 24-30, 2007
by Philip K. Jason
Once San Jose native Julie Palella began reading, she never stopped! After moving to several states during her childhood, she began to write short stories. Her first full length novel, MacGregor’s Curse, completed later in life, collected dust for quite a while before publication. Her second published novel, Whispers by the Sea, was picked up – like the first – by a small publisher. Being in sales most of her life, Julie knew that her writings would not make much of a impact unless she attended to the necessary business of marketing – and more marketing.
Her marketing efforts paid off when a high profile agency became interested in another one of her manuscripts – a thriller set in Naples. Julie hopes that the agency will sell this thriller to a large trade house. The sequel is underway. Julie is fortunate to have three siblings, all obsessive readers, who offer lots of feedback on her work. Her husband, Michael, is extremely supportive of her writing career, and her daughter, Rosalynn, is also a writer.
PKJ: How did you get interested in making Ireland and Scotland the settings for your first two novels?JP: I received a diary from an ancestor of mine that was passed down through the centuries from my mother’s side of the family. Her name was Lottie Hunter and she lived in the Highlands during the turbulent 13th century. A lot of it is hard to read, but I got the dialect from her in her writings and the sense of fear that the clans felt. A lot of the sentences are in Gaelic, but some are in English, with the dialect. This started MacGregor’s Curse. The things she wrote were so natural and just a part of her every day life, and, to me, it would be almost impossible to carry on and endure the hardships. I wondered if a modern day woman could actually do it. The character pretty much walked me through that one, and I started to find strength in human nature and the will to survive as my character, Elizabeth, took me along her journey. Although she suffers in the book (some fan mail that suggests she suffers a bit too much), I tried to make it as realistic as possible.
My grandfather is 100% Irish and comes from Brittas Bay, Ireland. I studied his family and the land and thought it fascinating. Although Whispers by the Sea is contemporary, there is so much tradition that the Irish still follow that I couldn’t resist throwing an American woman into a small town to see how she’d fit in.
PKJ: What kind of research do you perform to give historical narratives authenticity?JP: The Internet is extremely helpful visually, and I print a lot of things out to get an idea of clothing, settings, etc. Research is actually my worse enemy. I spend so much time researching and find it so fascinating that I literally have to tell myself to stop and that enough is enough. I needed more of the dialect for MacGregor’s Curse, so I watched Braveheart a lot and Rob Roy and just kind of worked it in. Dialect is hard because you can’t use too much of it or the book is just too hard to read and you can’t really “hear” the characters because you are too distracted by the dialect. I only used that in MacGregor’s Curse, and although I have a few Irish words in Whispers by the Sea, it is just assumed that they have an Irish accent. The local library is my favorite hang-out. That is where I do most of my research before starting any novel.
PKJ: Who are some of your favorite writers?JP: Dean Koontz, Stephen King, John Saul, Peter Straub. Now, I know you are thinking: Why are you writing romance? There’s a reason for that. For women writers, it’s much easier to get into the romance genre than the thriller genre. Now that I have these two books out, I’m currently in the editing process of a thriller . . . and I have an agent for this one. My true love is mystery/thriller.
PKJ: Have you found networking and support groups valuable?
JP: Absolutely! In my opinion if you want to get anywhere in the writing world it is imperative to network. Support groups are helpful with editing, critiquing and just how it sounds….support. The Southwest Florida Romance Writers (our local RWA chapter) has been extremely valuable to me. I’ve made some great friends and they are all supportive. It’s too easy to give up without people urging you on, and when you need help, they are there, giving you advice and pushing you along. I couldn’t do it without them.
Julie Palella is the new president of the Southwest Florida Romance Writers group. Anyone interested in joining SWFRW can reach her at Julie@lynxpm.com or visit the website swfrw.org. That site contains information about the group’s upcoming “Author & Agent Day,” February 10, at the Grandezza Country Club in Estero. Guest speakers will be mystery series writer Hallie Ephron and literary agent Christina Hogrebe.
Julie’s books are available from online booksellers and via her website: juliepalella.com.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at email@example.com.