Friday 16 May 2014

Book Promo & Author Interview: My Renaissance by Julia Chambers

Author name:  Julia Chambers

Book Name: My Renaissance


In the sharp bright Spring of 1981 a young girl with flaxen hair and an open heart arrives at Malpensa, a shabby airport on the industrial outskirts of Milan. Brimful of excitement and trepidation and wholly unprepared, she has come to teach English to the sophisticates of this Northern Italian city, and of course receives a sentimental and sexual education of her own ...This elegant erotica is Julia's homage to the genre and a love letter to Italy.

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Author Interview:

1.      When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 
I remember in my junior school writing about a crocodile who raised a ‘languorous eyelid’ and the teacher getting very excited. I was one of those little girls desperate to please and because I was hopeless at maths, being praised for my English made me feel less of a lost cause. I can’t say I ever wanted to be a writer but I have always written. I have never however, really kept a diary. I tried to but I always felt very self-conscious about what I was writing and I don’t believe one ever writes for oneself – we all write to be read.

2.      How long does it take you to write a book? 
My Renaissance, my latest novel, has taken over 20 years, as I explain in my Author’s Note.

3.      What do you think makes a great story?
A good story has a compelling narrative, characters of sufficient complexity or charm that you’d want to meet them outside of the book, imparts a strong sense of time and place to the extent that you enter into the story with the characters and stays with you for at least a while after you’ve got to the end. A great story is all that and where the telling of it is in such luminous prose it glows on the page and when you reach that last page you want to go straight back to the beginning and read it all again.

4.      What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I teach undergraduates so I’m afraid my writing for now has to take second place to my work commitments. I have always written, whenever I could and whenever I can, scribbling down lines here and there. I often find myself tapping away at my keyboard when the world outside is dark and asleep.

5.      How do you balance family and writing?
See above! My son however, is now of an age when he is quite self-sufficient. I am also very lucky in that he has always been rather proud of my writing. In fact for Christmas, he asked me for a PDF of my book cover and had it made into a poster. It’s on my study wall, and almost overwhelming…

6.      Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Living, loving and READING.

7.      What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
The power of words to affect; in my case to effect pleasure and surprise and, sadly to offend. I use ‘cunt’ for the vulva, labia and vagina – i.e., cunt is an all-embracing word that avoids having to use cold and often the wrong biological word (it would be a very long tongue that licked your vagina…), and a euphemism. My cunt is not a pussy (miaow), a fanny (arse in US), a flower, and certainly not a front bottom.

I am aware I am fighting a losing battle but it is in a good cause – its usage is always considered in the same breath as ‘nigger’ which is unfair as the n word has never been anything other than a vicious term of abuse, coined to express disdain. Cunt is as old as the English language, spoken and written – it’s there in Chaucer. Personally, I find mommy porn and kiddie porn, as terms and ideas, abhorrent, as are clitorectomy and rape.

8.      Are your characters based on anyone you know?
I worked as an itinerant English teacher in Milan in the early 1980s, as does my narrator, Julia, so yes, I have drawn on my life there and the people I met. I have taken characteristics from various people and exaggerated them or amalgamated them to form new characters – that’s the joy of fiction, you can make them up! As for the Julia in the book, I think anyone who knows me would recognise me in her… 

9.      How hard is it to get published?
Initially I was lucky to be published by the very urbane and open-minded editors of several literary magazines. I did however, find myself in a few uncomfortable situations where the assumption appeared to be that if I wrote about sex I must want to do it all the time, or at the very least be open to all possible outcomes. To cut a very long story short, I did it myself. A financial commitment that not everyone can make but at least there are no middle men – just me.

10. What do your family and friends think about your books?
Because I first engaged with the subject matter – pornography – as an academic exercise I could always be open about my reading, most of which was done in the then British Museum Library. Of course, I had to take into account my young son when publishing the book and putting it out there and it is important to me and what I want to achieve with the book that there is nothing the narrator does that I would be ashamed of doing in reality. When my son asked me if it was ‘like 50 Shades, you know, nasty?’ and I assured him it wasn’t, he asked if it was ‘naughty’. I conceded that yes, it probably was. His reply? ‘That’s all right then.’

11.  What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love spending time with friends and family – I enjoy feeding people! I’m also a real culture vulture and have a voracious appetite for the beauty I can feast on freely in London’s art galleries and museums.

12.  Do you have any suggestions to help aspiring writers better themselves and their craft? If so, what are they?

Read. Read. Read. The greats are so for a good reason, they are masters and mistresses of their art and you can have no better teacher than the very best! Perhaps start with a short story – read anything by William Trevor and Alice Munro.

About the Author:

Julia Chambers lives and works in London, a city she loves with a passion undiluted by the years and the transport system. Her stories have been published in several literary journals. My Renaissance is her first collection of elegant erotica stories, with One Day soon to follow.

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