Yes, that really does say Julia Douglas, when the photo is quite plainly a man! It’s the fiction writing pen name of Douglas McPherson, who is my Writer of the Week.
Which of course leads me to my first question: can you explain the reason for the feminine pen name?
When I started writing magazine fiction I chose a pen name to separate it from my journalism. I also write a lot of stories in first person and if the readers see a male byline they might start reading in the assumption that the character is a man, when mostly it’s a woman – and so I became Julia and made my first name my last name, to keep a bit of me in there. I don’t put on a pair of fluffy pink mules to write, though!”
Dear Geraldine…in our August 18 issue is the second story featuring Geraldine and Hector. The first was Dear Hector in our Feb 3 issue. When you sat down to write that first one, did you intend that their story would continue? How did it come about?
Dear Hector was intended to be a stand alone romance about an exchange of notes and cards. It ended with Geraldine setting off to meet Hector for the first time, and a reader wrote in to ask what happened next – could we do a sequel? It’s the first time I’ve returned to a set of characters, but I enjoyed it so much that there’s a third instalment on the way…
You come up with some very unusual story ideas. For example It’s My Life about the history of the circus (coming soon in Special 162). It’s the question writers dread: where do you get your ideas from?
The Geraldine stories came from the fact that a lot of people in the countryside where I live sell home-grown produce outside their houses – I sell apples. The lady I get eggs from left a note on her stand explaining that she’d been too ill to put the eggs out. That gave me the idea of Hector and Geraldine leaving notes for each other on her egg cart.
It’s My Life must have required lots of research. Do you enjoy that? Is it a necessary evil?
The circus story was more a case of pre-search than research. Several years ago I wrote a non-fiction book called Circus Mania, based on interviews with acrobats, clowns and lion tamers. So all the circus info in It‘s My Life was based on real events that were already in my head.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I always write on the computer in my office. I call it an office not a study because it’s where I go to work. I’ve got a big window but the sill is at head height when I’m sitting down so my view is just sky.
And a PS: What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Pick subject matter that intrigues you and that you really want to tell people about.