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 easily 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 sent it off to Simon Trewin (then at United Agents, now at WME) who I had heard talk at a New Writing South event. He took me on (he likes a challenge) 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, is out in January 2017.
I now spend my days writing at an untidy desk in a shed at the bottom of my garden in Brighton, with occasional coffee-shop changes of scene. I also teach, mentor, give talks, write the occasional feature and have run the literary side of a couple of festivals. This coming year I’ll be off to Puglia and Los Angeles to research the next two books. To say I’m excited and fired up is something of an understatement.
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.