Yesterday, we celebrated the launch of Julie Leung’s third book MICE OF THE ROUND TABLE: MERLIN”S LAST QUEST. Today, we are lucky enough to bring you our Q&A with Julie.
Middle Grade Mafia: Your take on this type of story is so fun. What was your inspiration for the series?
Julie Leung: Growing up, I was obsessed with the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. I checked out every book from the library and dove headfirst into a rich world of medieval rodents embarking on epic adventures and enjoying incredibly detailed feasts. And like any budding fantasy fiction nerd, I also possessed a healthy obsession with Arthurian legends. These kinds of books made me who I am today. And so, when Glasstown Entertainment approached me with the concept for Mice of the Round Table, I knew it was the perfect project for me.
MGM: Writers usually fall in the camp of plotter or pantser. Some also have a daily or weekly goal as for number of pages or time spent writing. What is your process?
JL: I work full-time in book publishing, so I have to manage my time fairly carefully. By virtue of necessity (and my Myers-Briggs personality type, let’s be honest), I am a proud and assiduous plotter. And even though, I find myself always changing my outlines, it helps to set the destination and the pace.
The day job requires a lot of mental energy sometimes. On an ideal day, I will high-tail it to a coffee shop after work to squeeze in some word count. More often, I’m so creatively drained that I need to take some time to go work out, make dinner, or veg out on the Internet. I usually get my second wind around 9-10pm. And because I’m a hardcore night owl, you’ll find me up late writing quite a lot. (In fact, I’m writing this sentence at 2 a.m. right now.)
MGM: What’s the best piece of advice have you received regarding writing?
JL: Compartmentalize your goals, and just keep your fingers moving on the keyboard! The hardest part in the writing process for me has always been drafting. A blank page can feel utterly daunting, especially when you let yourself think about how many pages you’ll need to fill eventually.
So I like to package my writing goals in small sprints, scene-to-scene, chapter-to-chapter. And like a 5K race you didn’t want to run in the first place, you suddenly look up and see a finish line.
My other trick is to stop as little as possible when you’re drafting. Nothing kills momentum like agonizing over a word choice or sentence order. Just get words on the page, even if they’re total crap, even if it’s unraveling into practically stage directions. There will be time to go back and edit.
MGM: How long did this book take from first day writing to publication? Has this changed since your first novel?
JL: I started on Merlin’s Last Questin the Summer of 2016, before Book 1, A Tail of Camelot had even come out yet! The bulk of the writing actually occurred over that winter and Spring 2017. I would say it took a full year to turnaround a book in this series. I’m lucky to have been able to work on a book a year since 2014.
MGM: How did you go about working on this series? Did you have a total vision from book 1 or have you discovered each part of the story arc while writing the previous book.
JL: The great thing about writing a retelling is that there are certain immovable pieces in the narrative that act as lodestars. For example, I always knew the ending to my trilogy because it is the ending of Camelot. I also had an idea of which famous legends I would echo. However, as I imagined how a mouse might play a part in this human world, each Mice of the Round Table book developed as their own individual journeys.
MGM: Please share a fun picture and the story that goes with it.
JL: This is a photo of my first book signing ever at Book Expo America in 2016. The night before, I had got bitten by bed bugs in my hotel room. (And yes, it was exactly as horrifying and traumatic as you can imagine.) The hotel took away all my things to get dry-cleaned, and gave me $200 to find new clothes. I’m wearing what I now call my “desperate Gap shirt” in this photo, and itching like crazy. And to top it all off, I’m posing with the cap still on the pen!
Thank you to Julie Leung for taking the time to be on our blog and to Glasstown Entertainment for your continued contribution.
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