Today’s guest is the lovely Julie James.
Julie’s book, Just the Sexiest Man Alive was January’s Book-of-the-Month and I invited her to be a guest here on the blog.
Her latest release, Practice Makes Perfect, is available now!
Here’s my interview with Julie…
Q. Welcome. Can you please tell us a little about your book?
JJ: Thanks so much for having me here! I’m really excited about my new release, Practice Makes Perfect. It’s a contemporary romance about two career-driven lawyers who work for the same firm. They can’t stand each other and have fought behind the scenes for eight years. But when they’re forced to work together to land a big client, they’re surprised to find a powerful attraction behind all their animosity. Any opportunity to explore these feelings is put to end, however, when they learn that only one of them will be named partner–and they both vow to fight it out to the end. It’s a battle-of-the-sexes story with plenty of verbal sparring between two people who *think* they’re total opposites.
Q. What inspired the story?
JJ: I’m a former trial lawyer myself, and I came up with the idea for Practice Makes Perfect while still working at my firm. In my group there was another associate, a man, who was the same year as me. We both worked hard and were “on the right track,” and I often thought about what would happen when we came up for partner– my group had never before made two people partner in the same year. With all that musing, my over-active imagination began to run wild, and I came up with the idea of two lawyers who battle it out “War of the Roses”-style before figuring out that there’s a much deeper attraction between them.
Q. If they were to make a film version of the book who would you like to see cast as your hero and heroine?
JJ: Ooh… this is a good question, but a dangerous one! I generally like to let the reader come up with his or her own picture of the hero and heroine– I know that’s what I do when I’m reading a book. (That’s also why I prefer book covers that don’t show all of the characters’ faces.) Given the back-and-forth banter in Practice Makes Perfect, they would have to cast an actress and actor who can pull off sarcastic repartee without coming off as snarky or unlikable. The book is reminiscent of the older black and white romantic comedies in that way. Hmm…that’s a good question for anyone who wants to comment: who out of today’s actors and actresses would be good at that kind of dialogue-driven film?
Q. What surprised you most while writing this book?
JJ: With this book, at times some of the things the characters would do or say to each other in their battle to be named partner came close to crossing the line. I would sit at the computer thinking, “I don’t know about this…”. But real people make mistakes, and sometimes they handle difficult situations not in the best way– so if that’s what my characters wanted to do, that’s what I needed to write. What’s good, though, is that both the heroine and hero learn from their mistakes.
Q. What is your favorite thing about being a writer? Least favorite?
JJ: I love so many things about being a writer, but I guess at the end of the day, my favorite part is being able to tell stories that (hopefully) make people sigh and laugh, with characters you can’t help but cheer for. As for my least favorite… there’s really nothing I don’t like about being a writer. I guess the one thing I tend to stress about is that I’m not the fastest writer. I’ll read about authors who have, like, ten books coming out in one year, and I’ll start freaking out that I write too slow. Then I have to take a step back and realize that whatever my process is, that’s what works for me and there’s nothing I can really do to speed it up.
Q. Your bio on your website mentions a background in law as well as in screenwriting. How have these influenced your writing?
JJ: Both have had a great influence on me. When writing PMP, as a former associate at a large firm I drew on my own experiences and ambitions. And Payton, the heroine, practices the exact type of law I practiced– employment discrimination defense. I’d like to think that my own experience makes the two main characters and the law firm setting seem more real. My background in screenwriting also has influenced the way I write novels. It sounds weird, but I “see” the story as a movie in my head, and that’s what I write down– just as if I was writing a screenplay, only with a novel I get to include the characters’ internal thoughts. And I’m very, very focused on dialogue– one thing that takes me out of a story most is when I’m reading a book or a screenplay, or watching a movie, and a character says something that I think no actual person would ever say.
Q. How does writing screenplays compare to writing romance novels? Are there any similarities? Differences?
JJ: The primary difference, like I mentioned, is that novels can include the characters’ internal thoughts. With screenwriting, the general rule is that nothing should be in the script that can’t be shown through either dialogue or action. (Unless you have voice-over.) And screenplays are much shorter, so with novels an author can develop the characters more, including secondary characters. There’s more freedom to include scenes just because they’re good scenes that demonstrate the relationship between the heroine and hero, even if they aren’t super action-packed in terms of advancing the plot.
Q. What do you like to read?
JJ: Mostly fiction. And generally novels– while I do read some short stories, they’re not my favorite. But I like to read a wide variety of literary fiction, classics, romantic fiction, women’s fiction, even mysteries and thrillers. Just not horror– I get scared way too easily.
Q. What is next for you?
JJ: I’ve just finished writing the first draft of my third book for Berkley/Penguin and I’m really excited about it! It’s about a female Assistant U.S. Attorney who by chance witnesses a high-profile murder involving a U.S. Senator. The FBI agent assigned to the investigation is a man from her past that she doesn’t get along with. The proverbial sparks fly as the two of them work together on the case, and even more so when it turns out that the killer might be after her. It’s another romantic comedy set in Chicago, although I do sneak in a thrill or two with this one.
Q. Do you have anything you’d like to ask my blog readers?
JJ: Wow– another great question! Well, the question I asked earlier, about current actors and actresses who would be good in a dialogue-driven romantic comedy, and then, hmm… I guess I’d be curious to know what you look for with contemporary romances and why you either do or don’t read them. And if there’s anything else you’d like to know that I haven’t answered. (See how I threw that right back there?) I’ll be popping in and out all day, so feel free to ask any questions you might have!
Readers you can learn more about Julie and her books at her website: http://www.juliejamesbooks.com
Feel free to answer Julie’s questions or to leave comments/questions of your own.