Today we begin a monthly practice on IdahoWritersUpdate.com: an in-depth profile of an Idaho author. Be sure to subscribe to the newsletter so that you’re alerted when a new one hits our website.
Julie Weston’s books include the three Nellie Burns and Moonshine Mysteries:
- Basque Moon
She’s also written a memoir, The Good Times Are All Gone Now: Life, Death and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town.
Her most recent project is a coffee table book, the stunningly beautiful The Magical Universe of the Ancients: A Desert Journal, a co-creation with photographer Gerry Morrison.
Do you have a writing routine? Where and when do you write?
I like to brew a hot cup of tea and then sit down to write. I often write in a lined spiral notebook with a pencil. Then I transfer that writing to my computer, usually editing as I go along. Once I get to the computer, however, I first read whatever I worked on during the previous day to set the scene for my new writing. When I write in pencil in a notebook, I am often perched on a window seat in our home. My computer/laptop is in my office in a sort of mezzanine above our kitchen. I have no set time to write, but usually in the afternoon for several hours.
What do you do when you hit a wall in your writing?
If I hit a wall, and I do, I leave my computer. Sometimes, I take a walk on a road near our house, surrounded by sagebrush and grasses. Sometimes, I grab a pencil and notebook and retreat to my window seat. Or I stop trying for the day and pick up a book I am reading and simply read for an hour or two.
The eternal question: Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter”?
I am a pantser.
What’s the last book that made you go “wow!”?
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
What book or author do you often find yourself recommending, and why?
For mysteries, I recommend books by Louise Penny, Jaqueline Winspear, Marvin Walker, and James Benn. I also enjoy any of Craig Childs’s books; my favorite is House of Rain. And any Terry Tempest Williams books.
What’s on your To Be Read pile?
It’s a long list — nearly all on my bedside stand:
- Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald
- The Way to the Salt March, a John Hay Reader
- The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
- Walking the High Desert by Ellen Waterston
- Daemon Voices by Phillip Pullman
- Working the Wilderness by John McCarthy
- Why I Read by Wendy Lesser
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
- A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do by Pete Fromm
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
- Rage by Bob Woodward
What advice do you have for readers?
Read anything and everything. Make reading a priority in your life. You will learn about amazing things and characters, and most of all, you will learn empathy.
What author, past or present, would you wish to have a long conversation with?
Terry Tempest Williams or Louise Penny
What’s the first book you remember reading on your own?
The Burgess books, which featured animals as characters
What books and/or authors have most influenced you as an author?
The Nancy Drew mysteries, Chaim Potok for the exquisite detail, Barbara Kingsolver, Rebecca Brown (she taught several writing classes I attended), Carolyn See, Craig Lesley, Robert Michael Pyle, and Craig Childs.
Books that influenced me include:
- Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird
- Carol Bly’s The Passionate, Accurate Story
- Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction
- Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams
What do you most enjoy about being a writer?
I enjoy writing nonfiction because I love the research involved, delving into the past, spending time outdoors observing, and finding just the right word and detail. I enjoy fiction because it takes me into different worlds and characters and lets my imagination run free.
What do you least enjoy about being a writer?
What would you tell a new writer?
Read, read, read about anything and everything. Building up your fund of knowledge gives you a wider range in your writing and improves your writing. Persevere. Attend writing workshops to meet other writers. Join a writing group.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I practiced law in Seattle for over 30 years. I ski-raced as a teenager and continue to ski now in my 70s.
Thanks to author Julie Weston for participating in our Idaho Author Interview series. If you’re interested, contact the IWU website editor.