I haven’t always been a novelist. In fact, until 2007 my most recent prose effort had been a short story I wrote at school. I had always been a great reader, but the fact that I could actually write a three hundred page plus story of my own didn’t occur to me until somewhat later in life.
I started out as a theatre director and playwright. Someone else in Equity had my name – which back then was Julia Collins – so I became Julia Limer. I was nine months pregnant with my second child and stressed beyond measure directing my actor husband in a play at the Bush Theatre in London, when I realised that a life like that just wouldn’t work out in the long term.
So I went back to college and retrained as a graphic designer, which meant I could still be creative, but I could work from home and be around for my family. It went quite well, and I created a successful, flexible business, branching out into website design and illustration while also producing child number three.
The design work led me to an MA in Sequential Illustration at Brighton University, where I specialised in writing and illustrating books for children. I had some success with this, but no publication – my work got in through the art departments, but editors and beyond turned it down as being too dark. But I was undeterred: my love of narrative had been stirred up, and I realised that the words came to me far more readily than the pictures. So I went on to do an Open University Course in Creative Writing, developing my dark side writing fiction for adults.
Through this, I discovered NaNoWriMo and novel writing, and after that, there was no looking back. I had found my form. Cuckoo was my second NaNovel, and, after working on it for a year I got an agent, and soon I had a three book deal with Headline, and deals in Italy (Garzanti), Germany (Ullstein), France (Presses de la Cité), Holland (Cargo), China and Brazil.
Cuckoo came out in hardback in the UK in March 2011. The paperback was published in November 2011. My second novel, Every Vow You Break, was published in March 2012, and my third, Tarnished, also nurtured during NaNoWriMo, in March 2013. My fourth novel, The Long Fall, came out in June 2014. My fifth novel, Her Husband’s Lover, came out in January 2017. My sixth is nearing completion and I have a couple of exciting film and TV projects on the go.
I love teaching, too. I am Visiting Fellow on the University of East Anglia Crime Writing MA, and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Brighton University. I also teach for Faber Academy and the National Centre for Writing in Norwich, as well as mentoring individual novelists, and I have appeared on or chaired panels at many crime writing and literature festivals.
I am a founding member of Brighton’s Beach Hut Writers, patron of Crawley Wordfest, member of Killer Women, and, with William Shaw, host The Brighton Crime Wave, a bi-monthly crime writing event where we host best-selling and up and coming authors in partnership with Brighton Waterstones.
My working life has been a classic example of the adapt-and-survive approach that many people – particularly women with children – take on. I always take great inspiration from my great friend and first ever employer Diana Porter, who, aged 50, decided she was going to follow her dream and become a jeweller. She went on to become British Jewellery Designer of the Year and employs a whole host of people in her thriving Bristol workshop. It is really never too late to learn, to discover new aptitudes in yourself, and to find and follow your dreams.