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May 24, 2021

Author Interview Series: March 2021 Contest Winner Julie Weaver

The CritiqueMatch contest coordinator, Mary, “sat down” for a virtual chat with Julie Weaver, the winner of the March 2021 FictionFive Writing Contest.

CritiqueMatch: Congratulations on becoming the winner of the 3rd CritiqueMatch FictionFive Contest! What were your expectations when you entered the contest? 
Julie: Thank you so much! This is my first contest win, and it’s such a thrill. 

I didn’t know what to expect from the contest, but the primary reason I entered was for the feedback. I enjoyed creating my characters and liked how the first chapter turned out, but would others agree? There was only one way to find out. 

Being new to CritiqueMatch, I also thought this was an excellent opportunity to discover what type of feedback I could expect from its members. And I have to say, I was impressed. The judges’ comments were encouraging and useful. Exactly what I’d hoped for.

CM: We’re always thrilled to hear the judges’ feedback was helpful! Congrats again. Give us a high-level view of your writing journey. At what stage are you now?
Julie: Three years ago, I took a few creative writing courses and started working on my first full-length romantic suspense novel, The Hit. A complete novice, I threw myself in the deep end and learned by making a lot of mistakes. I continued to study and improve my writing, and after perhaps twenty revisions (I’m not even exaggerating) The Hit is now a finalist in this year’s Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award for unpublished writers. I may have squealed and performed an embarrassing happy dance in the middle of a bowling alley when I received that news.

Some months ago, I entered the querying trenches with a pragmatic mindset, and although I was happy to receive partial and full requests, there were no offers of representation. It’s a tough battlefield out there!

With the learnings from writing my first novel, I started a second, The Payback. Chapter one from that story was entered into the recent FictionFive contest, and here we are! 

I’m still unpublished, but I hope to change my status from writer to author in early 2022.

CM: Tell us more about The Payback, the winning entry in the contest! What is it about? How far along are you with that manuscript?
Julie: It’s about time I attempted a blurb for this story, so here goes!

In the senior year of her criminology degree, Sage Allen aspires to revolutionize Philadelphia’s corrupt justice system. She’s no stranger to its unfairness. Three years ago, her boyfriend was murdered, and despite evidence pointing to the Italian Mafia, the sham police investigation never produced a suspect. Sage hasn’t given up hope of tracking down the person responsible for murdering her first love.
Former member of Team Zulu, a top-secret black operations unit, Brandon Lewis has a unique skill of finding missing people, and sometimes those who don’t want to be found. As an elite hacker and intelligence specialist, he’s able to hunt in ways others can’t.
When Brandon rescues Sage from a dangerous collision at the front of her apartment building, sparks fly between them. But Sage denies her intense attraction to the sinfully gorgeous, tall, dark stranger because she refuses to risk her heart ever again. Except with Brandon moving in to the apartment across the hall, she will have to work hard to keep him at a distance. 
When Sage finds herself at the mercy of those she’s sworn to bring down, she accepts Brandon’s offer to help, even though the danger of developing unwanted feelings for her disarming neighbor is real. Together, they must wage an unconventional war on Philadelphia’s most powerful criminals. They’ll either get the payback they deserve, or die trying.
The Payback is a full-length romantic suspense novel and the first draft is 90% complete. It is the second book in the Team Zulu series. Each novel features a different ex-elite military hero who now uses those skills in morally dubious situations. The heroines are strong, brave women who challenge the Team Zulu men while working together to reach their happily ever after. 

CM: What advice do you have for other writers who are looking to finish and polish their work? 
Julie: I would recommend having a detailed plot summary, and understanding your character’s goals and motivations from the beginning. This will save you so much rework! From there, belt out the first draft without editing along the way (easier said than done, and I don’t always practice what I preach). 

Editing is your opportunity to take a great idea and transform it into a captivating story. To do this, you need to understand your craft. That means taking courses, sharing your work with peers who also write, entering competitions that provide feedback, and read, read, read, especially in your genre. I also recommend using a tool like ProWritingAid, but only during the final editing stages.

CM: Thanks for sharing those tips! Are there any books on craft you recommend?
Julie: I highly recommend the various Thesaurus books by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Particularly The Emotional Wound Thesaurus to help understand how your characters’ trauma might make them behave.

As a romance writer, I love Gwen Hayes, Romancing the Beat. So easy to follow, and Gwen’s beat sheets are great for plotting.

CM: Who are your favorite romance authors?
Julie: I love Jennifer L. Armentrout. Everything she writes is amazing, but her recent From Blood and Ash series is a real treat. Sarah J. Maas, Kristen Ashley, Laura Kaye, Amy Harmon, Colleen Hoover, and Laura Thalassa are also favorites, plus so many more.

CM: If you could go back and give your younger self writing advice, what would be the first thing you would say?
Julie: I spent several years wondering if I could write a book. I would tell my younger writing self to act on that idea sooner. Take that course, go to that seminar, and write every day you can. 

Writing can feel like a solitary journey, but it doesn’t need to be, nor should it. I would tell my younger writing self to join a writer’s group and find my tribe, to connect with critique partners sooner, and to join an organization like the Romance Writers of Australia because they’re a wonderful bunch of helpful people and an invaluable source of information.

CM: What are the next steps for your writing/publication journey?
Julie: I plan on completing The Payback to the best of my abilities. If I don’t have success acquiring a suitable agent, I’m happy to go down the self-publishing path. I’ve already begun learning how to do that, as well as investigating marketing techniques, cover designers, and professional editors. While those things are happening, I’ll write the third book in the series, so when I launch, I’ll have two books ready and another soon after. 

Exciting times ahead. I can’t wait!


About the Author:

Julie Weaver grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and spent thirteen years as a mechanical engineer before deciding to challenge her creative brain by writing romantic suspense stories. Her first novel, The Hit, was recently announced as a finalist in the 2021 Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award.

Like her stories, Julie prefers a life with action and enjoys kickboxing, scuba diving, wakeboarding, motorsports, and volunteering for the Story Dogs reading program with her German Shorthaired Pointer, Lotti. 

Married with two sons, she is all too familiar with treading on Legos, bad jokes, and inappropriate body noises. Although she would never pick a favorite from her bunch, everyone knows it’s the dog.

You can find Julie at:
Twitter: @jweaverwriter
Instagram: @julie.weaver.writer