Author of My Mother’s Secret and It Was Always Her
* Click here to read my book review on It Was Always Her!
One of my all-time favorite things to do is to go out on a nice day with my husband and tour little free libraries. The Little Free Library website has a map where you can type in a zip code and see all of the registered libraries in that area. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve hit all of the ones within a fifty-mile radius of my house! I like them so much that when I’m on vacation, I’ve been known to refer to the website and seek out the little libraries in the area I’m staying!
I discovered J.L. Witterick’s book, It Was Always Her, at one such library. It was a sunny winter day, uncharacteristically nice outside, and my husband and I used the opportunity to go on a drive. I was immediately taken by the cover and title, and started reading the book the minute I got in the car, shushing my husband while I started turning the pages.
I decided to reach out to J.L. Witterick after I’d finished the book, and see if she’d be willing to answer some questions for me. She graciously agreed, and we started the interview with a casual phone call, which I followed up later with an email questionnaire. I’m so glad we spoke, because I learned a lot about this sensitive, vibrant author, who is quick to offer advice to an aspiring writer and always willing to answer an additional question.
Witterick, a three-time published author, has had books translated in ten languages around the world. She writes about time travel, the Holocaust, and even has a book out on the power of developing a positive mindset. After speaking with her, it was clear to me that she possesses a calming, positive energy is infectious: I walked through my day lighter after hanging up the phone!
I hope you’ll enjoy this interview with one of my favorite authors, J.L. Witterick.
L.A. Can you introduce yourself to my subscribers, and tell us what type of career you had before becoming an author?
J.L. I was in the investment industry for 30 years. During that time, I was the President of the CFA Society of Toronto and the CEO of an international money management firm that I founded. I never thought that I would walk away from it all to become an author…but I did. When my first novel, My Mother’s Secret, became an international best seller, it made me wonder if I should consider writing as a career. I think the tipping point was when I received messages from people around the world telling me how much they loved the story. I realized then that it was what I wanted to do at this point in my life. I haven’t looked back and am enjoying every minute of being a writer.
L.A. Can you talk a little about your writing process?
J.L. I don’t think there is any “right” way to write. It has to be just what works for you. I have a rough outline before I begin writing—and when I say rough I mean rough. It’s almost like a line chart of the plot. As I write, the characters reveal themselves and tell me what they want to say and how they want to behave. It may sound strange, but it is effortless for me to write. The flow just comes and I can write anytime, anywhere. The only thing is that I write better with music. Also, I can’t be tired. Nothing good comes out of my head when I’m tired.
Music is magic for me. When I listen to songs that are moving, my passages come out that way. It is as if the music flows through me and into the words. With my latest novels, some very unusual things have been happening. I’ll read a word in my manuscript and hear that same word in a song at the exact same time. At first, I thought it was a coincidence, but it kept happening—so much so that I have been keeping track of these words. It is in the hundreds now. The songs are random from my playlists or from Stingray music on my television and I don’t count common words like: the, you, me ,and, etc. so I don’t think I’m gaming it consciously or subconsciously.
(On publishing her first book later in life) “I needed to have my heart broken, I needed to fail and rise up again, I needed to taste joy, sadness, victory and defeat on my own lips to know how to describe it authentically.”~J.L. Witterick
For example, the word “freight train” is in my second novel and while reviewing my manuscript I read that word just as Bruce Springsteen was singing, “like a freight train going through my mind,” on Stingray music. How do you explain that? Who would ever think that you would hear the word “freight train” in a song except that it happened with Bruce Springsteen! I could go on and on as it has happened countless times with other unusual words. Even more remarkable is that sometimes it’s not a word but an entire phrase that I hear in sync while reviewing my manuscript.
At times, I think I am just a vessel for a story that wants to be told. I don’t know. In any case, every time this happens now, I look up and say, “Thank you. Thank you so much for helping me and telling me that I’m on the right track.”
I don’t think I could have written as well earlier in my life. I needed to have my heart broken, I needed to fail and rise up again, I needed to taste joy, sadness, victory and defeat on my own lips to know how to describe it authentically. In my characters, there are pieces of me as well as people I have met, people I know, people I have admired, and people who have disappointed me. Through it all, they are very real to me. If I wrote at a younger age, I would have only written from my imagination. With age, I can add experience to the mix.
I love to travel and think that it helps my writing. As such, my stories are usually set in places that I have been. I think being accurate about location and historical events helps my stories come alive.
L.A. Can you tell us about your experience with publishing, as well as what it’s been like connecting with your readers?
J.L. I like to have people from different age groups and different backgrounds read my manuscripts and provide me with feedback. Those who are not as close to it as I am can see what I might be missing.
I think that most people don’t realize that the first draft is never that good for anyone. You have to keep polishing until your work glistens. Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” If you understand this, then you won’t toss your first draft and give up—thinking that you weren’t as good as you thought.
It makes me incredibly happy when I receive messages from people who tell me that my stories have touched them somehow. I also love going to schools and signing books for the kids. It is so glorious to create something that didn’t exist before and then connect intimately with others through words and ideas.
“I love all my stories as if they were my children.”~J.L. Witterick
When you deal with the general public, I think you have to accept that you won’t be able to please everyone. I love watermelon, but a friend of mine got sick on it as a kid and won’t have anything to do with it now. So, I guess it comes down to this for me: love your work, make sure it is the very best that you can do, and let the cards fall where they may.
The inspiration for my stories can come from anywhere. My first novel, My Mother’s Secret, was written after I saw a documentary about an amazingly courageous woman during the Second World War. My second novel, It Was Always Her, was from a dream that felt so real that I was compelled to write it down. My latest novel, You Can’t Take the Truth (not yet published) was the result of a conversation I had with a friend about what is real in our lives. I love all my stories as if they were my children. Many more are waiting to be born and I can’t wait to write them!
Thank you, J.L. Witterick, for the wonderful phone call and enlightening interview! I can’t wait to read you new book when it’s released!