Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: British Author Julia Hughes

Julia Hughes, Author

British author Julia Hughes joins us to discuss her just-released fantasy THE GRIFFIN CRYER -- a story about a griffin and his rider accidentally called to our world by a teenage girl. Julia has also written a series of stories about the Celtic Cousins -- two Welsh cousins living in London who frequently encounter Detective Crombie of the Metropolitan Police in their adventures.

Originally from London, Julia has a muse called Tinker, a healthy respect for all animals--even the creepy crawly ones, likes Peter Pan (the boy who refuses to grow up!), and selects her favorite novel of today - Diana Norman's "The Morning Gift.” 

Q: Why do you write fantasy?

Julia Hughes: This is my first foray into writing fantasy; although in my opinion all fiction involves some form of fantasy! I've always been captivated by the idea of parallel universes, and the idea that maybe in one of those parallel universes, the twin of our world exists. In THE GRIFFIN CRYER on "Ella-Earth" evolution has taken a different path, and mythological creatures exist.

Q: How do you make your fantasy world believable? Characters? Back-story? How important is suspense?

Julia Hughes: Nearly all of the action in THE GRIFFIN CRYER takes place in our world: the griffin and his rider are accidentally summoned into this universe by an ordinary teenage girl. Frankie's reaction to the sudden appearance of a griffin is probably the same as mine would be: she screams and runs away. The Rider is from another dimension – so he is an alien – but he is very human. Having worked hard to become a griffin rider, he has a little too much pride in himself. He is scared – he needs to find his griffin and get back home – but he's not going to show his fear – especially not to a schoolgirl.

For me, that's the key to making any work of fiction believable – to populate any world, fantasy or modern day New York, with flesh and blood characters. There's a little back story dropped in here and there; for example, the Rider isn't of noble birth, and therefore shouldn't be riding griffins – we learn that Frankie's brother has been in a coma for almost three years, and also that visitors between our two worlds were once common. But I try to keep any back story to a minimum, and place the story in the here and now.

Suspense in any story is everything; without the reader wanting to find out what happens next, even if it's to find out if Cinderella does get her prince, pages probably wouldn't get turned!

Q: What makes compelling characters? What do you do to make us care about your characters?

Julia Hughes: As a reader, I need to empathize with a character, before caring. The people you'll meet in my stories are down to earth, ordinary everyday folk, dealing with extra-ordinary life changing events. For example: Detective Crombie's on a diet, and thinks his biggest problem is deciding what to have for lunch. Moments later, he's on the trail of a missing elephant, and then comes face to face with an alligator. Who stole the elephant? How did an alligator end up in the bathroom of a London apartment? And why are the mandarins of Whitehall protecting one of London's biggest villains?

Q: Do your characters push you around and make you write what they want? Or are you in control?

Julia Hughes: I get to know my characters before I begin writing; I also know the challenges they're going to face, and I know how they're going to react to those challenges. Hopefully characters will grow during the story – they'll man up, and do what has to be done – but I never allow them to step completely out of character. Now and then one of them will surprise me; I never imagined Wren would fall so hopelessly in love with Carrie in "A Ripple in Time."

Q: What makes a hero/heroine? On the flip side, what makes a villain?

Julia Hughes: In my opinion, the biggest hero in literature is lawyer Atticus Finch. In "To Kill A Mockingbird" he endured the wrath of friends and neighbours to do the right thing. Maybe that's the answer – a hero or heroine is someone prepared to do the right thing, against all odds. Conversely, villains are prepared to sell their own grandmothers if it means getting their own way. I always find charming well-mannered villains the scariest – I'm thinking in particular of Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs."

Q: Who are your target readers? What are they looking for? One of your reviewers said “It is not often I would say that a book appeals to everybody but I would make an exception in his case.” Do you agree?

Julia Hughes: I hope to target readers who aren't afraid to use their imagination, who are looking for pure escapism, yet with the story grounded in reality. I'd like for my readers to think "Yes, that's pretty wild, but it could happen!"

When a reader enjoys my stories so much, that they actually take time to write a review to tell others, I'm thrilled to pieces. Yes, I do agree, with those very kind words! I'd like to think of my stories being enjoyed by the whole world. But in truth, not everyone's going to agree – and that's fine too. Luckily Amazon allow sampling before buying, and I'd urge everyone to make their own minds up, not just about my books, but other books; there's a lot of undiscovered talent out there – surprise yourself and try something different and new!

Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Julia Hughes: If I couldn't write, I guess I'd be crazy. I'd be walking around muttering to myself and anyone else who cared to listen.

Q: Tell us something about yourself, e.g., do you like to read? Eat? Go to plays? What’s your favorite holiday, book, author, character, play, movie, celebrity? What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a muse? Do you like dogs or cats? What's your favorite charity?

Julia Hughes: My favorite charity is the RNLI – now those men and women are real heroes in my eyes – putting out to sea to risk their lives rescuing strangers. Funded entirely by charitable donations, the lifeboat crews and lifeguards of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution have saved at least 140,000 lives at sea since 1824.

The muse is called Tinker, and she always gives good advice.

I have a healthy respect for all animals, even the creepy crawly ones – and I'm very grateful that some wonderful horses, dogs and cats have deigned to share my journey.

I'm absolutely head over heels in love with Rafael Nadal, the tennis player from Majorca, which incidentally is one of my favorite holiday destinations.

My favorite play is "Peter Pan" – it's got everything – including of course, the boy who refuses to grow up.

Choosing a favorite book, or author is incredibly difficult. I'm going to plump for Diana Norman's "The Morning Gift.” The main character Matilda is a well born Frenchwoman, and contemptuous of anyone below her own perceived status – especially the English. Matilda is aghast when her husband, an Englishman, gives her an island for her "morning gift.” She regards this English custom of a husband rewarding his wife for a pleasurable wedding night as crude. Then the nastiest civil war in English history breaks out, and Matilda is forced to revise her whole outlook on life. However, ask me again tomorrow about my favorite book, and I might give a completely different answer!

More About Julia Hughes by Julia Hughes

I'm originally from London, a little place called Notting Hill, born when the world was the street where you lived. To give you an idea, only three people down our road actually owned a telephone and bath night was a weekly event. Until you've had a strip down wash at the kitchen sink, you don't know you're living!

Like Scout, I can't recall not being able to read, and the world of Narnia quickly became a favorite. In the closing pages of 'The Last Battle' C S Lewis tells his young audience "you cannot begin to imagine the adventures they had." (Or words to that effect). I took this as a personal challenge. While I could never hope to emulate Lewis's work, I've had fun trying.

That's really how I think of myself, a reader who enjoys writing the sort of books I'd want to read. Now with Amazon's help, I'm sharing those stories - something I never imagined in my wildest dreams and it's the best feeling in the world.

Synopsis (Talon Publishing)

Frankie Shaunessy's friends are out of this world!

It's an easy mistake to make - instead of whistling and calling for her dog, fifteen year old Frankie accidentally summons a griffin and his rider from another world. The Rider is tall, blond and extremely rude. On the other hand, Balkind is the sweetest, most lovable griffin Frankie's ever met, and Frankie is determined to help The Rider and his griffin find a way back to their own world. 

Dealing with parallel universes, disgruntled warriors, and hungry griffins is the simple part of Frankie's life. At school, Frankie learns friends can become enemies, teachers aren't always right, and the boy of your dreams can be all too human. 

Purchase Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK


Last night, while calling her dog, Frankie accidentally summonsed a griffin and its rider from another dimension. Dog and griffin flee from each other. This is Frankie's second encounter with the Rider, he has retrieved her missing dog, and wants something in return ….
A man sat outlined against the brow of Six Acre Meadow, a large black dog by his side. Frankie stumbled towards them, clutching at the stitch in her side. By the time she reached the top of the hill and stood over him, all the furious insults she'd rehearsed on the nightmare jog here were useless. Instead she glared down at him, struggling to catch her breath. Bally's tail thumped, but he made no attempt to cease worrying at the mammoth bone he held down with one paw.
Finally Frankie managed: 'That's my dog.'
Calmly unscrewing the lid from a bottle of water, the stranger took a couple of swigs, then offered it to Frankie. After a moment's hesitation, she swiped the bottle from him, tipped her head back, and chugged down.
'Where's my griffin?' the man asked.
Frankie clutched the now empty bottle, longing to chuck it at his head and snatch up Bally and run. But somehow she doubted his temper had improved any since last night.
'Please – I don't know your name – but please – let me have my dog back. Please – it'll break my mum's heart.'
'Get me back my griffin and you can have your dog.'
'I'll call the police.'
He shrugged, looking completely unconcerned. 'Call for my griffin, and you can have your dog back.'
Frankie gave a sigh of surrender, and tossed the empty bottle neatly into his opened rucksack.
'If I call your …griffin – and it doesn't come, will that satisfy you?'
He nodded. 'If you call with all your heart, and Balkind doesn't answer, you may have your dog back.'
Call with all your heart. Frankie knew without asking what this meant. Inflating her lungs, and placing her hands either side of her mouth, she summoned up a cry from the heart.
The sound flooded the meadow. Frankie sucked in air and called again. 'Baalll-kind.' She could feel two pairs of eyes on her, watching intently, Bally's ears were pricked. Before calling for the third time, Frankie took a couple of steps away from her audience, and focussed on projecting her cry across the village, across the lakes, across the country if needs be.
Frankie glanced behind her. The blond head nodded approval.
'That'll do.'
Of course it would: Any griffin within a hundred miles would have heard that.


Website: Julia Hughes 
Twitter: @Tinksaid 

Other Works by Julia Hughes

The Celtic Cousins Series

Rhyllann and Wren are two Welsh cousins, living in London. Rhyllann's a typical teenager with a passion for girls and flying aeroplanes. His life would be perfect if it wasn't for Wren, aka, The Prince of Geeks. 

In A RAUCOUS TIME Wren insists he knows where the lost treasure of King John, buried for almost 1,000 years, can be found. Can the cousins find the treasure before the quasi-religious gang known as the "Brotherhood", or worse still, Detective Crombie of the Metropolitan Police, finds them?

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In A RIPPLE IN TIME Wren's dreams collide with those of a young woman sailing to America exactly one hundred years ago, and so averts RMS Titanic from sinking, and history is rewritten. To save his own life, and prevent the world from descending into chaos, Wren must travel back in time to ensure the Titanic meets her fate.

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In AN EXPLOSIVE TIME, Detective Crombie is hunting a missing elephant. He isn't too surprised when the trail leads to the door of the Celtic Cousins, whom he's convinced are intent on making a career out of being the bane of his life. Then an alligator turns up, hotly pursued by one of London's biggest villains, and Crombie finds himself in need of a miracle to save his daughter's life. Will the Celtic Cousins finally repay Crombie's faith in them?

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Other works


"What does any thirty something single woman wish for most?" THE BRIDLE PATH is a short sweet fairy tale romance for us grown ups, set in the county of Cornwall. Two years after being orphaned in a horrific car crash, twelve year old Sebby remains silent and zombie-like. His aunt and guardian Matilda hopes that a new home in the tranquillity of the Cornish countryside will help restore his health.

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  1. Hello Joyce, and thank you so much for making me so welcome! I really enjoyed answering your interview questions, and hope your readers enjoy the excerpt from "The Griffin Cryer".


  2. Oh wow. You have me smiling in delight at these, and your answers are great, and your excerpt.

  3. Thank you Sheila, you're too kind - Joyce has made me very welcome, and it's a pleasure to be here and meet some of her lovely visitors.


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