Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

Sunday Bonus Episode: Julia Kelly

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The Fab Five welcome internationally bestselling author of historical women's fiction, Julia Kelly, whose books have been translated into 11 languages and who also writes historical and contemporary romance under the name Julia Blake. In addition to writing, she’s been an Emmy-nominated producer, journalist, marketing professional, and (for one summer) a tea waitress. Julia called Los Angeles, Iowa, and New York City home before settling in London. Julia joins us to talk about her latest book THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND, a poignant and heartwrenching tale of five women in three eras, whose lives are tied together by one very special place. https://www.juliakellywrites.com/

Welcome to Friends and fiction, five best selling authors and the stories novelist Mary Kay Andrews, Christine Harmel, Christie Woodson, Harvey, Patty Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Munro are five longtime friends with more than 80 published books to their credit. In 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviews and fascinating insider talk about publishing and writing and to highlight independent bookstores. These friends discuss the books they've written, the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Hi, everyone. And thanks for joining Us on a Sunday for a special behind the books episode of Friends and Fiction. I'm Christine Harmel. I'm Patty Callahan, Henry. I'm Mary Alice Monroe and I'm Mary Kay Andrews, and this is friends and fiction. And not only is it friends and fiction, it is a shorter, more intimate bonus episode, but we get to really take a look at the inside world of what's going on behind the book. Um, so tonight we're going to talk to Julia Kelly, our friend who is the author of The Last Garden in England and I should also mention we are missing our Christie Woodson Harvey tonight, which were quite sad about, but she'll be back on Wednesday. So Julia Kelly actually lives in conveniently enough England. What a great place to be living in while writing the last garden in England. Right? So tonight we're going to hear all about what brought her there, how her surroundings inspire her books and what it's like to write fiction about the place you live in, but not necessarily the time period you live in, especially as an outsider.

So before we start, I'd like to anchor something very special. Something product we all love so much. Mama. Jeez, I usually have. Actually, I was looking for the box. I always have a box of Mama G's. Right here is the cheese straws, which is my favorite. I have it with my favorite wine. As always. When you order, you can order the use the code Fab Five to get 20% off at Mama Geraldine's dot com. We love them. I know you will, too. So snack on y'all. And of course, while we're snacking on our cheese straws, we want to remind you that we are also partnering with Page one books. Now Page one has a book subscription package, and they hand select books for you each month based on your preferences and their book knowledge. And because the reeds are being chosen by actual real live booksellers, you know that your choices are more than just an algorithm. The subscription subscription pack its a hard word. It is, um, I haven't had any wine yet. No, it can run for six or 12 months. It's a perfect gift for a book lover, even if that book lover happens to be you. Now Page one books curated Just for you and first time subscribers get 10% off with the code All caps Fab five at page one books dot com. So go there. I think that all of you who join us on a regular basis no, that's supporting independent booksellers is at the heart of what we do. It's so important to keep those independent businesses run by hardworking book lovers up and running. So this week we're supporting Wellesley Books in Wellesley, Massachusetts, which is just three miles away from the hospital where I was born. Like what an odd coincidence right. That is crazy, That is Yeah. And you can find their information and a...

...discount code right in this video post or under announcements on our Facebook page. And you can preorder our 2021 novels there too, including mine surviving Savannah, which is out in 99 days. I can't wait to share it with you all. And I believe that the weekend before last we saw it actually featured in Parade magazine, which was very cool. We've been partnering with them, but yes, that was amazing. So, yeah, we always gets very real when you see it on your desk. Well, it's on my desk to just so you know, So it is. It is real. And I'm so excited about it, so we can't wait. And speaking of not being able to wait, I can't wait to tell you all about Julia Kelly. So Julia is the international best selling author of several historical fiction novels about the extraordinary stories of the past. If you've read any of my books set in Paris and have enjoyed them and you want to hop across the pond to sweeping novels set in England, Julia is your woman let me just tell you. But she is not just an author. She is also an Emmy nominated journalist and producer, which completely shines through on her Facebook live show, which she started during the Pandemic called Ask an Author with Julia Kelly. So she has also worked as a marketing professional professional and for one summer as a T waitress, which is quite fascinating. So she's lived in Los Angeles, Iowa and New York. But now she calls London home Welcome, Julia, thank you so good to see Julia. So I know that you and I have done a few zooms together this year, so I feel like you're nearby. But in fact, like we said, you were all the way across the Atlantic at a time when separation feels a lot more permanent...

...than you probably expected when you first moved there. Has that been strange for you to be stuck so far away with no real way to come back to the States right now? It's very odd and even more so, because just before everything shut down here, I was actually meant to be on a plane to New York, to visit friends and also to visit my publisher. Um, I lived in New York for about nine years, and so it was going to be a little bit of a homecoming visit. But, you know, it's through things like this. And through being able to video call, I've been able to stay in touch with people. And fortunately, my family all lives in the UK. Now, we've all relocated to various parts of the UK, So when things were a little bit more open, my immediate family was able to see each other, which has really been just the best. The best possible way to get through. Everything going on. Oh, absolutely. And how are things there now? You know, things are looking up. We had some announcements that things are going to start loosening up. We've been in lockdown again, so the program is rolling out pretty successfully. So we're very excited about that. My mother just got her first vaccination. Hopefully, my father will get him soon, so things are starting to look up for us, Which is which is exciting. We're due some good news. Julia, have you gotten your vaccine? No, I'm not even getting mine. But I'm very happy that the rest of my family is, so I'll be in the coming months. Good, good. So the last time I saw you was in London, we were there together and our book was nominated for an award under the same category. Wasn't I mean that that's how we met? And it was right before the world shut down. If this is actually the last trip I took so well, you know how much I loved the last Garden in England, which I called on the back and chanting as it is immersive. This is a really powerful book. I loved it so much, and I felt like even though I...

...haven't been able to travel, I was able to travel with your book. So I want you to tell us and tell everyone out there. How would you describe this book when someone asks you, What's it about? Well, I'm so glad to hear that it was a bit of an escape for you, so there's always always nice to hear. Um, this book is a book that centers around a historic garden, and it tells the story of the garden and the story of the women connected with it. through three timelines. So we have the gardens creation in 19 oh seven with a woman named Venetia Smith and then in 1944 when the house Highbury house, which is what the garden is connected to, is requisitioned. For Convalescent Hospital, we meet a land girl named Beth. We need the cook at the house named Stella and Diana, who's actually the owner of the house and recently widowed Um, And then in present day, we meet Emma, who has been brought in as a garden designer to restore the gardens to their former glory. They've been neglected their, you know, really overrun, and she just feels like there's something special about this place. And sure enough, as she restores the garden, she begins to learn the secrets of the women who were a part of that garden in the past. And various things unfold, and stories are to be told, that opening scene where the gardener drives up to that house, I was like, Can that please be my house when that happens to be mine? She's describing in the dogs from running out of my garden. A lot of us, right about our own backyards or at least fictionalized versions of them. But there is a total difference in what you're doing because you weren't born in England, your relative newcomer there a few years I wrote about England, but I wrote about it as an American visiting England, so I wasn't writing about it as a Londoner.

Do you think living there as an American changes your perspective? Do you think London nurse think differently about London than you do or see it differently? Talk to us about that in your settings? Well, I'm this funny hybrid because although I'm American born and raised and you can tell from my accent, I was I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I'm quite a flat accent, but I'm definitely not from the UK Um, I bet you can fake it, though. Oh, I don't know about that because my mother is British, which means I've been a citizen my whole life and have always had the option of moving to the UK, which is what I did about four years ago. So I have this kind of strange relationship where I have a history with the U. K. But I don't have all the cultural references. I don't have having been raised there. So I think there is a sense of being a bit of an outsider and maybe looking at things in a slightly different way. So when I first started writing historical fiction about London and World War Two, it was because I was living in London and seeing the memorials and seeing the sights of bombings. And, you know, things just kind of that triggered my curiosity to learn a little bit more. And that started, of course, go me going down the research rabbit hole, which is always a good place to get ideas for books. So when it came to the last Garden in England, rather than being set in London, this is set in Warwickshire, which is where my parents houses. And so I go up and back to work for all the time, and it feels a little bit like this kind of hidden enclave. The most well known part of it is probably Stratford want even, Um, but there's so much work. Sure, that's beautiful, that nobody goes through unless they have a connection to it. And I just absolutely love it up there, and it has this rich history for World War Two, and it seemed like a really obvious place to set a book about a beautiful garden because there are all these houses with beautiful gardens, so I feel like we need a friends and fiction road trips. It's not very many people visit their like possibly we...

...should visit their well being in the right for being an outsider. You really know how to imbue the setting with that's rich atmospheric English feeling. So thank you. Well, I'm wondering, Gioia is when you were living in these disparate places Ella, Iowa and New York. What what was the trigger that had you moving to England? Had you always wanted to? And I know not all of your earlier books were set in England. So was there a defining moment where you said I have to go? Or was it just like a tug? A long time subtle tug at your heart that that took you there? And the other thing I really want to know is what what one thing do you miss? Who? That's a good question. I'm going to be very cheeky and just say Mexican food because that's the one thing. There are other things, of course as well. I have family and friends in the US who who I miss dearly and would love to get to see soon. But I'm telling you, some good Mexican food would be great. Um, when it comes to why I moved, it's sort of a I wanted to live there for a very long time and had spent some time as a student. But being a students a bit like being in a fantasy land, it's not the same thing, is actually living in a place. So, you know, my parents actually ended up moving to the UK and then at the same time, the same week that my parents moved, my sister met her now husband, who's Scottish, and they started dating long term. It's a very, very romantic story that one day I want to hear every word. It's very sweet. Anyway, I think that's actually getting married and settling down in England rather than Scotland. Um, but, you know, it was one of those things where I could see my family. I could see my family settling in the UK, and I just thought, I want to be closer to...

...them. And then, being very candid, I realized that there was a restructuring that was happening at my workplace. So it seemed like good timing to start kind of thinking in that in that vein, and then I was made redundant, which was probably the best thing that could have happened because they gave me a check to go and move internationally. It was the best thing. So I've never heard you talk about destiny. It was it was destiny. It was one of the serendipitous things where everything just happened to fall into place at the right time. So I've always felt like I made the decision. It was the right decision, but the universe was backing up a little bit along the way. Have you already heard it had already started setting books in England at that point, or where you've been thinking about it. So I had written a series of three kind of longer novellas. We're all set in Victorian London, and so my parents, I sort of got the settings for those books and then moved over to the U. K. And then just had the opportunity to do so much more with with setting and and all the research on the ground. Wow. You know, I do believe that when everything seems to dovetail in life like that, you know you're following your path. Yeah, you're right where you're supposed to be. Well, speaking about setting I setting is always so important to all my novels. I don't write about England. I write about marine life along the beach, but the book is almost like a the setting is like a character in the book. And I also felt that was very true for your book, that the garden itself was so critical to the story as a whole. And more importantly for me, I noticed the themes, the record. The Garden presented the themes of continuation in the book, which the consistency that from one generation to another, which I loved and I think carried us with it. And I was wondering when you did your research on all this to make it a garden. A character in the novel.

How did you coming in from America? How did you feels? So one with the garden? Because I know you had to feel it in order to describe it the way you did. And do you think you could have done it? Had you not been in the garden and actually smell the roses, so to speak? You know, that's a really good question. I don't know if I would have had access to the same kind of sense of the book is all written with the passing of the seasons being the consistency of this structure. And so I wanted to really convey that, you know, Gardens. There's a natural cycle of birth, you know, flourishing and then a quieting. And then, you know, things start over again, and so I think that really helped. But I will say, I don't think I could have written this book without my father, who is dedicated to, uh And the reason is that you know, when I was growing up, I was, uh, somewhat conscripted, somewhat, very willingly brought into the garden work that he was doing because he's a really passionate amateur gardener. And so not only did I get to see him develop a garden an English garden in Los Angeles, which is a bit of a unique challenge in and of itself, very, very different temperatures, very different climate, but he really, really loved plants and planting, and I didn't absorb as much of the practical side as I thought I had. When I first started writing this book, I realized there was a lot I didn't know, so I was going to have to do some additional research. But it was a lot of fun being able to as an adult and as an author who was working on this book, go into his garden with him and do some of the things that I describe in the book. So whether it's, you know, cutting back a Bud Leah or planting bulbs or mulching or you know some of the less glamorous tasks that you have to do and maintaining a garden, I was able to kind of have some of that first hand experience because of being...

...able to be there with him. So I do think it helped being able to actually have the experience on the ground. I agree because it added an authenticity to it that I felt, and I'm curious. Do you have a favorite era, a favorite time that you loved the garden the most? Oh, I don't know. It's it's tough for me to choose because I find I find it also fascinating. And I feel like I'm still very much learning as I go, because now, for the first time in my life, I actually have my own garden. So this book came out and then eight days later, I bought a house, So wow, don't do things, uh, and make them easier on myself. So now I actually have a garden. Um, So I feel like I'm actually able to apply some of the things that I learned while researching all of these different arrows and all the different seasons, of course, for the garden at Highbury house as well. So it's going to be a much smaller version, but I'm hoping us into their Oh, that's good. Listen, pleased to hear that. All right, So So, Julia. Then I'm putting you on the spot so you are able to transport readers with your words, transport us to your new house. Tell us about your new place. Paint us a picture because we can't come there yet. We want to hear about it. Tell us. Well, well, where we'll be staying when we come on, our British retreat will be a tight squeeze because it is a one bedroom flat. Welcome to London Living. Don't worry. There's an open bed. Don't worry. No, I am not a big surprise. I write historical novels. I wanted to live in a historical property, so historic property. So it's a It's a Victorian home that's been chopped into two flats. I have a lovely upstairs neighbor who I never see, uh, best of neighbors. You know, it's it's one of those places where if I turned a little...

...bit this way, um, in fact, I don't know if you can see a little bit of the edge of the fireplace, but I have an original fireplace next to me, which I just love. I have, you know, the back garden. And it has a lovely pond, and every all of the doors on the back of the property opened up on to the garden. Just it was warm today, So it was light filled and I had the doors and and I just thought, This is a really If I If I have to do more of a lockdown, this is the place I want to keep my I'm happy for you. I'm excited. I'm excited about it. Go to your coffee. Oh, tea. But coffee as well Now. So, Julia, I have two things to say about your home. One. Those accommodations will be acceptable. Um, and and to did you all out there? Here? How? Well, she just described that. Think if she can do that on the spot in 60 seconds, how well she'll transport you in her book, The Last Garden in England. She does it just as well. Um, so, you know, I wanted to ask you this also, we've all found different ways to stay connected during this pandemic. And, of course, for us one of the big ways has been friends in fiction because we're able to be with people all over the country and all over the world without leaving the safety of our own communities. Um, you have started Ask an author with Julia Kelly, and I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that, and also also especially what it might mean to you being physically far away, you know? I mean, I'm thinking maybe it's a way to to kind of connect with the people back home when you can't get here, you know, it absolutely is. And it's, um, it serves so many purposes, kind of in that vein, one of which is just, I don't get to connect with readers in the US and Canada very often because I live here. And so it does serve that really nice purpose. But mostly it's It's a way to connect with authors who work whose work I really admire. So you, Kristen, you've been on asking author and Patty, you're coming...

...on as well. Next, Like two weeks. Yeah, yeah, and I'm loving the book, by the way. It's absolutely fantastic. Um, but, you know, I I used to be a journalist once upon a time, and I think once the journalist you never quite shake that training that you had. I just love talking to people. I love talking about books, and I love talking about the craft of writing and research and all those things. And it's been such a joy to get to do that, um, and to speak to authors who, again, whose work I really admire to sort of dig in and talk shop a little bit. I don't know if you have this as well. But I feel like in my life I have wonderful, supportive friends and family people who really curious about writing. But there's something about talking to another writer understands they understand all the stories in your head. They understand kind of the process you're going through when you write a book, and it's just different. So I really, really enjoyed it. That's awesome, you know? And I think it's so nice for readers to get that behind the scenes look to at writers, talking to each other about their books. Because you're right. It is just kind of a different, a different kind of conversation. So I'm glad you're doing it. All right. Now we're going to do a quick round of the last garden in England. Rapid fire questions. Are you ready? Ready, Julia, Snap, Snap, Everybody Alright, Alright. So quick answers Only a few words of explanation go. Your book is set in three time periods. Which was your favorite too, right? Uh, 1944. All right. I was really curious about that one. And I was I was going to get all right. Which one was the hardest to right? 1940 four. Okay, partly writers. You talked about all the research you did in the garden. So what was the most surprising thing you learned about English Gardens? How little I know and how much I still have to learn. I think it was the most surprising thing. Okay, I'm the last up. And now, remember, you just have a few...

...seconds to answer this. Julia, what is the big thing that you hope readers take away from the last garden in England? I hope they enjoy escaping a little bit and learning something about women in the past that they didn't know before. Well, that's lovely. Yeah, you definitely executed that, Julia. It's such a good book. So thank you so much, Julia. Stick around, if you would for another few minutes because we have one more question for you at the end. But before we go, we wanted to remind all of you out there about just a few things. Well, first of all, we want to remind you that part of our founding mission was supporting independent booksellers because there's such an amazing, integral integral. I'm having fun. You were problem times. My tonight were important. Very important. Wellesley Books and Wellesley Mess needs our support. And, hey, in exchange, you get 10% off Julia's book, The Last Garden in England or any of our upcoming novels. Not a bad trade, if you ask me and no one did. But I'm telling you well And also don't forget that includes Patties Surviving Savannah, which comes out in just nine days. We already mentioned it already. Once again, we're so grateful to our partners, Mama Geraldine's Whose Cheese Straws and Cookies, the Adore and, of course, page one books in Evanston, whose books subscriptions are like a stitch fix for Butch Lover book book book lovers were all completely those links. Something gremlins in the microphones tonight. Find those links to discount codes in this post or on Friends in fiction. Facebook Page. Okay. All right, Julia, you are up one more time, my friends. So before you go and this is always part of my favorite part, we would love a writing tip. But wait, not just writing tip because we're talking about setting in place. Can you...

...tell us what you would suggest? Aside from moving to England, which I've threatened to do since last March, if you're Aside from that, how do we infuse our writing with a sense of place? What is your best advice for? How you do that? That we can do the same? Well, I do love, of course, actually going to a place and experiencing it as much as I can. If that's not possible, I think any opportunity to incorporate as many of your senses as you can to talk about kind of the smell of the place. And, you know, if you're walking on leaves what scent that brings along with it, how the air feels, Um, the way the light looks, that's that's really what I love. Those are the details that I think really make a place come alive and are very effective very quickly on the page as well. So if it's possible to get some sense of that across on the page, that's what I That's what I try to do. That's great advice. That is a great advice. And actually, you know what I was thinking As all of us tripped over our words tonight, I'm going to throw in one more question for you at the end, if you don't mind, I'm just curious how has living in England changed or has living in England changed your relationship to how you use the language? And I mean, I know that when you sit down, you know that you know a rubbish bin in a trashcan or two different things. I don't necessarily mean that. I mean, has it changed the cadence of your writing or the rhythm of your writing? Or has it affected your writing in any way to live in a place where we're using the same language but using it a little bit differently? That's a great question. It is. I think I'm a bit of a copy Editors nightmare, because now I can't remember which one is the American version. Which one's the British version? In fact. Earlier I said I was made redundant, which normally, if I was in the U. S. I just say I was laid off my job. It's just a different way of saying things. Um, you know, I think for me, I don't know that my accents...

...ever going to change. But I do notice more and more that the vocabulary is slipping in. Um and I don't seem to be able to stop it. So I'm just I'm not I'm not fighting that fight. I'm just going to let it happen. Please do give us a couple. I want to hear a couple examples like I know when my book was edited from the American version to the British person. You know, sidewalk is pavement. Yes, that's a big one. Things like that. So give us a couple. So redundant is laid off. Yep. So sidewalks and pavement was one that's come up suspenders embraces. Uh, that's when I would never have thought of, um, there's a lot of Yeah, there's a lot of times that I write about. I want to write about somebody opening a closet door and it would be a wardrobe door or a cabinet or something like that. A cupboard door. Rather. So just little small things that are kind of part of the day to day that might come up in a book. Um, you know, that that tends to be what trips me up sometimes, you know, this is that scene in love. Actually, when the fellows in the bar with the girls and they go Buttle and the girl. Oh, I know exactly. Thank you. so much for joining us, Julia. And to everyone out there. Don't forget to pick up the brand new The last garden in England, which Julia told us about tonight so beautifully. And be on the lookout for her next book, The Last Dance of the Debutante coming in December. Because apparently I know apparently one thing about living in England did you become suddenly totally productive. Two books of the year. I'm That's impressive. I'm bracing myself for a year. So wish me luck, because I'm sorry, Julia. Bracing yourself for suspending yourself. All right. Are you quick tonight, Christie? Alright. Yeah. Alright. Julia, thank...

...you so much for joining us. It was so good to see you. I wish we could give you a big hug in person, but it's nice to see you here from across. It's a pleasure to meet you, Julia. Julia. Thanks, everyone. Mm. And to all of you out there. Thank you so much for joining us tonight for this special behind the books Bonus episode of Friends in Fiction with Kristen does comedy. Um, we'll see. We'll see you Wednesday at 7 p.m. Eastern time with New York Times. Bestselling novelist Lisa Unger. We'll see you then. Good night. I All right. Mhm. Thank you for tuning in. Join us every week on Facebook or YouTube, where our live show airs every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Eastern time. And please subscribe to our podcast and follow us on Instagram. We're so glad you're here. Yeah, yeah.

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