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“Best Debut Novelist Over 60″: WU’s Take 11 with Julia Daily

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It’s our pleasure to introduce you to author Julia Daily today! Julia recently won a “Take 10” interview with WU during an auction to benefit the women’s fiction association, WFWA. We’re so glad that she did. Hers is a story of perseverance, as she is indeed a debut novelist over the age of 60, who worked for years on her work-in-progress, No Names to Be Given. Once you come to understand the root of her story, you might even say she had been working on it all of her life. And our interview was chock full of so much great info, and Julia was so generous for sharing it, that we made this a “Take 11.”

More about Julia from her bio:

Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She holds a B.S. in English and a M.S. degree in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has been a Communications Adjunct Professor at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, and Public Relations Director of the Mississippi Department of Education and Millsaps College, a liberal arts college in Jackson, MS. She was the founding director of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers’ only market in a historic neighborhood in Jackson, and even shadowed Martha Stewart. As the Executive Director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (300 artisans from 19 states) which operates the Mississippi Craft Center, she wrote their stories to introduce them to the public.

Daily is an adopted child from a maternity home hospital in New Orleans. She searched and found her birth mother and through a DNA test, her birth father’s family, as well.  A lifelong southerner, she now resides on a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband, Emmerson, and their Labrador retrievers, Memphis Belle and Texas Star.

That second graph holds the key to Julia’s novel and her personal connection to it. She is adopted, and her novel revolves around the topic of adoption. That’s why we decided to publish this interview in November, which happens to be National Adoption Awareness Month.

We hope you enjoy this interview with Julia and that you grab her book, too. If you’re a fan of audiobooks, check out her deal with Chirp, where you can pick up her audiobook for $2.99 now through 11/16.

Learn more about Julia on her website, and by following her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

WU: Tell us about your debut novel in a few sentences. What is your “elevator pitch”?

JD: When three young unwed women meet at a maternity home hospital in New Orleans in 1966, they are expected to relinquish their babies and return home as if nothing transpired. Twenty-five years later, they are brought back together by blackmail and their secrets threatened with exposure—all the way to the White House.

WU: High concept! When did you first conceive of this story? How did it come to you–character or plot first?

JD: There is a touch of my own memoir running through the story, so the premise came to me over the years. I knew I wanted to begin at the beginning, which was birth mothers in a maternity home—where my own story began. I guess the answer to that question would be the plot arrived first, then the characters.

WU: What made this THE story you had to write?

JD: I am an adopted child from a maternity home hospital and searched and found my birth mother and–by DNA results–my birth father’s family. This debut novel has the same thread in it, so it is personal to me.

WU: Once you knew you had to write this story, how did you proceed? Did you start writing straight away? Buy books on the craft? Take classes?

JD: I was a public relations director at a college in Mississippi more than twenty years ago. We were allowed to take classes and I chose writing workshops. I actually wrote a couple of the book’s chapters in a class. I placed them in a file and when we moved to Texas, I found them. Since I had retired, I thought I needed to get the story out of my head and onto paper. I became a member of the Writers’ League of Texas and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and began to take online and in-person classes, attend conferences and writers’ retreats. I am an English major and have a master’s degree in education, but I honed my craft and finally finished the manuscript.

WU: You shared with us previously that you began querying agents, then realized you weren’t ready and stopped for more editing. What brought you to the realization that you had to stop, go back, put in more work? Did you receive “positive rejections,” specific notes, etc?

JD: I was so excited to have a first draft, I jumped at the opportunity to share it with lots of agents. I was surprised to find they loved the premise, but felt it needed more work. Then, I became hooked on editors and revising.

WU: During this intense phase of editing, how did you proceed? How did you manage the work of revision — one chapter at a time, one issue at a time? Who did you trust to help you through it? How did you know when enough was enough? Did the critical comments slow? Did your own confidence rise? Both?

JD: I think I had six editors. Every one of them liked and disliked totally different things. The novel alternates among the three birth mothers as my main protagonists and then to two of the adoptees. All of the editors liked one woman more than the others, so she became my lead and I shifted the chapters. The novel became tighter and when I was sick to death of it, I declared it finished. I wonder if there is a single writer who thinks their manuscript is truly ever ready? I still want to do as Eudora Welty once said and reach into the mailbox to grab the manuscript you’ve just dropped in.

WU: When it was time to call it FINISHED and potentially send your manuscript once more to agents, you decided not to do that at all. Why? What did you do instead?

JD: While I was writing and attending conferences and meeting agents in person, I was told how long it takes to secure an agent and then a publisher and even after that time, it can take another two years to see the book in print. At my age, I did not think it was the wise route. I had taken classes about self-publishing, so I was prepared to attempt it, but then I met my publisher at a writer’s retreat. She is a published author and is a woman-owned small imprint, so I found a partner for the process. Even those writers with The Big Four publishers have to market their own books, and with my background in public relations, I knew I could do that part of the process.

WU: Can you tell us more about your approach to publicity and about your publisher?

JD: I am comfortable in the arena of public relations and marketing because most of my career was in those areas. However, in the world of publishing, I needed additional assistance. Keri Barnum, New Shelves Books, is a font of knowledge about the business of publishing. I engaged her for bi-weekly consultations and library and bookstore mail-outs. She holds a weekly Free Advice Friday at 10:00 CST. It is very worthwhile.

I dove into the deep end with virtual book tours. I had tours on Itsy Bitsy Book Bits, Hidden Gems, IRead Book Tour, Historical Fiction Virtual Tours, R&R Book Tours, TLC Book Tours, Kate Rock Lit Chick Tours, and Lone Star Literary. I used Xpresso for Net Galley. All the tours have different audiences and we used some to highlight my audiobook, some for reviews and some for interviews and Facebook Live takeovers. The operators of the tours were great to work with. Some have larger followings than others and some have niche markets. It is important to know if they represent your genre to determine the success of the tours. I held give-aways for signed books and gift cards during the promotions. All in all, I was pleased with the results and would use most of them again.

My publisher is Admission Press, Inc., a small woman-owned imprint in Oklahoma.

WU: Looking back at your journey, what were some of the biggest lessons learned along the way? How did it change you as a writer?

JD: I’d like to say I gained confidence in my ability, but maybe I just developed a thicker skin for rejections. Winning a few awards for No Names to Be Given and hearing from an agent that he’d like to shop the novel around to movie studios did make rejections easier to swallow. I learned during the editing process to wait until all the words are down on paper and when the manuscript is finished, I will begin revising. I think that will make for a shortened timeline. And, I still love writing retreats where I have no responsibilities for walking the dogs or cooking supper. I can just write and write uninterrupted. Those times are pure golden.

WU: What advice do you have for writers who are in their 50s, 60s, and beyond? What advice do you wish you’d heard when you just started out? What would you have told yourself?

JD: Many awards are given to those under 50 and in particular age categories. I have yet to see one titled “Best Debut Novelist Over 60.” This is not to say we shouldn’t be celebrating the brightest and best, the young and the witty. To have a commitment to one’s craft and publish a novel is an accomplishment at any age, especially when one is young. But, having lived almost a full lifetime and just now written a debut novel is even more sweet. I do wish I had started writing fiction years earlier, and did not listen to the naysayers who say you can’t earn a living from writing. But all in all, I have discovered a new career and a way to make retirement more enjoyable. Don’t tell my husband, but it keeps me from ranch work, too.

So, all of you who have a novel inside you that needs to find an audience, it’s never too late. Mature authors have the gift of a lifetime of experiences from which to draw and that makes our work richer, more rewarding, and with the wisdom of hindsight.

WU: What’s next for you?

JD: I have begun a second novel set in Texas where I now live. I want to return to it in November during NaNoWriMo and write 50,000 words during that challenge. All the while, I will continue marketing No Names to Be Given.




Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~50 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. In 2014, the first Writer Unboxed UnConference (part UNtraditional conference, part intensive craft event, part networking affair) was held in Salem, MA. Learn more about our 2019 event, ESCAPE TO WuNDERLAND, on Eventbrite. In 2016, the Writer Unboxed team published a book with Writer's Digest. AUTHOR IN PROGRESS: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published has been well-received by readers who seek help in overcoming the hurdles faced at every step of the novel-writing process--from setting goals, researching, and drafting to giving and receiving critiques, polishing prose, and seeking publication. James Scott Bell has said of the guide, "Nourishment for the writer's soul and motivation for the writer's heart." You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, and join our thriving Facebook community.


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