1. What do you wish men understood about women?
Oh, so many things (but we love them anyway!)! Firstly, that we like to tell them stuff without expecting a brilliant solution from them; if we want that, we’ll ask for it! Many men seem to imagine that women only talk when they want a resolution/decision/suggestion for action, when actually we just simply want to share. Men and women’s communication styles are very different: men’s are purposeful and task-directed while women’s are about building relationships based on sharing (you can tell I’ve done some research on this fascinating area, can’t you?!). Secondly, that we might say we can manage all the clearing up, washing up, preparing three-course meals and presenting them on the table while they watch football, but actually we are lying through gritted teeth. Lastly, that women NEVER untangle their feelings for their first love or the father of their children. All these come into my new Drumbeats trilogy.
2. Do you only work on one book at a time?
Yes, I can’t hold more than one in my mind at a time, and really want to focus completely on my current project without distraction - although I do often begin to plan and research a little for the next one as a bit of light relief as I love the research bit of writing novels. With the trilogy I’m working on at the moment, I have had to scope out all three books but I don’t ever start the proper writing until I’ve finished the previous book.
3. Who is your favorite fictional couple?
You know, it just has to be Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, because their story is so romantic, both strong wilful characters resisting what they see as weakness, but love wins through in the end. Whenever I read Pride and Prejudice again, or see dramatisations, I love it all over again.
4. Favorite TV show?
It has to be Scott and Bailey because the characters are strong women but with personal issues that are the chinks in their armour, and I love the writing; it’s very realistic. I used to love Cagney and Lacey for similar reasons. But I have to add Death in Paradise too because I’m a succor for beautiful locations and cosy mysteries.
5. Do you set daily writing goals? Word count? Number of chapters? Do you get a chance to write every day?
I write every day on something or other. Sometimes I get absorbed with the research and write loads of notes or semi-articles on the period or the context or the background culture (music, current events, and so on). For Drumbeats I was researching 1965-6 in both Ghana and England, and of course the culture of Ghana so that the story was authentic and established a real sense of time and place. I try to write three or four days a week as a novelist but I also work two days a week as an academic when I am also writing but in a different genre. I am now turning over a new leaf and making weekends work-free, although I don’t really see writing novels as “work” – perhaps I should say “away from my laptop”! I set targets like writing 1000 words a day and I think “wow I could write a whole novel in four months”, but it doesn’t really work out like that! Often it’s either much less or sometimes much more if I’m on a roll. If the latter, I just want to keep going while it’s flowing and my poor long-suffering husband has to cook dinner and bring me mugs of coffee.
6. Who was the last person you hugged?
Hmmm … thinks carefully …my husband - but it’s a close call with a friend who was upset and needing comfort, and my daughters and grandchildren who I adore. I’m a hugger.
7. What are you working on now?
I’m writing the second novel in my Drumbeats trilogy which is called “Walking in the Rain” and continues Jess’s saga into the 1970s and 80s. The final novel will be entitled “Before I Die” but is not about dying; it’s about Jess’s bucket list and how she goes about fulfilling her dreams.
Drumbeats: can you ever escape your past?
Drumbeats is the first novel in a trilogy and follows 18 year old English student Jess through her gap year in West Africa. It's a rite of passage novel set in the mid-1960s when Jess flees her stifling home background for freedom to become a volunteer teacher and nurse in the Ghanaian bush. Apprehensively, she leaves her first real romantic love behind in the UK, but will she be able to sustain the bond while she is away? With the idealism of youth, she hopes to find out who she really is and do some good in the world, but little does she realize what, in reality, she will find that year: joys, horrors, and tragedy. She must find her way on her own and learn what fate has in store for her, as she becomes embroiled in the poverty and turmoil of a small war-torn African nation under a controversial dictatorship. Jess must face the dangers of both civil war and unexpected romance. Can she escape her past? And why do the drumbeats haunt her dreams?
Can you ever escape your past?
Walking in the Rain
How do you cope when your worst nightmare comes true?
Before I Die
Can Jess’s bucket list bring resolution to her life?
August 1965, Ghana
It was hotter than Jess had ever imagined in her eighteen years. Flying in from the UK bound for Accra, she had left the late August skies of the dull wet dreariness of an English summer. But as she stepped off the Ghana Airways VC10, she felt the heavy all-encompassing heat which shocked her system. Although it was only six o’clock in the evening, it was already dark and close.
The flight from London Heathrow had been a long and tiresome six hours and she had felt drained as she pulled down her cabin bag from the overhead and shuffled along the aisle behind the other travellers, nodding and swaying to the strains of the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” on the VC10’s tannoy system. Her mother would have a fit: her Rulebook said no pop music; it’s the work of the devil, and no dancing: Jessamy, anyone would think you were a slut. So in the holidays, when she was home from boarding school, she’d listened to Pick of the Pops furtively in her bedroom, ear pressed to the radio.
Now, as she climbed down the steps in the heat-stifling darkness to take her first stride on African soil, she was recharged with excitement.
She was aware of the male flight attendant standing at the foot of the aircraft’s steps, watching her with undisguised admiration as she climbed down. She navigated the steps as gracefully as she could in her tan wedge-heeled sandals. In the heat, she was glad that she had thought to scoop up her auburn-gold hair loosely into a ponytail. She let go of the rail with her left hand for a moment to smooth her pale pink cotton mini dress over her slim figure. At least she wasn’t irritable and demanding like the other passengers who pushed behind her as if they were in a great hurry.
The flight attendant watched her all the way down the steps and then wiped his palm on his trousers, and held it out courteously to steady her from the last step. She took it in her own cool soft hand for a brief moment.
“Thank you so much, John. Bye now,” she smiled as she passed him and headed for the small wooden shack that served as an airport building.
“No problem, miss. Welcome to Ghana.”
“How did you know his name?” hissed Sandra, from behind her. Jess turned. She noticed that John did not take Sandra’s hand. His eyes and grin were still focussed on her.
“It’s on his name label,” whispered Jess. They walked together across to the arrivals building. “OK?”
“OK. Long flight. Tired,” answered Sandra curtly. She had been unusually quiet during the flight and, it seemed, almost close to tears on occasion. Jess put her free hand on Sandra’s arm.
“It’ll be fine. Honestly. I know you’re missing Colin.” In the short time Jess had with Sandra after they were teamed up to travel to the same school in Ghana for their gap years, she had learned all about the chap Sandra was leaving behind for a year. Sandra showed her a photograph. Oh dear, he looked a lot like Maurie. Not fanciable. AT. ALL! She herself had said little about her own personal life, and the guy she had left behind. She wanted to keep him to herself. Her first real grown-up relationship. Simon. His name still tasted so new on her lips and in her head. Had she done the right thing in dutifully fulfilling the contract to come out here, even though they had only just got together? Would he wait for her? They were an item, weren’t they? She frowned and bit her lip.
About the Author
Julia Ibbotson lives in a renovated Victorian rectory in the English countryside with her husband (four children, now grown up, having fled the nest), along with lots of apple trees, a kitchen garden and far too many moles. She is an author and academic, and loves choral singing, walking, swimming, gardening and cooking (not necessarily at the same time). She started writing as soon as she could hold a pencil in her tiny fist and has not stopped since, much to the bemusement of her long-suffering husband who brings her endless cups of coffee and sometimes even makes the dinner when she is distracted and frowning at her laptop.
She wrote her first novel when she was 10 years old, sadly never published and long since consigned to the manuscript graveyard. She loves writing novels with a strong sense of time and place and that is the basis of her latest, Drumbeats, the first of a trilogy which follows Jess through the trials and tribulations of her life. It starts with Jess on her gap year in Ghana in the 1960s.
She has also written the story of the restoration of her rectory in The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen, which also interweaves recipes from her farmhouse kitchen and which has won a number of international awards.
Recently she found an old manuscript gathering dust in her drawer, one she had originally scribbled when she was still at school, many years ago. It was a children’s story about a boy who slips through a tear in the fabric of the universe to find himself in a fantasy medieval world. She is currently blowing off the dust and redrafting it for her publishers to let it loose on the world in the autumn. It’s called S.C.A.R.S.
She loves to hear from readers (it’s a pleasant distraction from her steaming keyboard), so do get in touch via the links.
Author page on Amazon:
Goodreads author page:
Overall tour giveaway on tour is 1 x ecopy of Drumbeats (International), Postcards/Key Rings/Bookmarks (UK) and will be managed via Rafflecopter.