8 Questions with Author Julie Huss

By Sean Platt

Julie Huss

Sean:  Hi there and welcome to Eight Questions.  Today I have Julie Huss, and before I ask her eight questions I just want to frame this for a second, because I read Julie’s book 3-2-1 earlier this year and I just loved it. I thought it was really, really great.

(If you prefer audio, you can listen to this episode on the 8 Questions Podcast)

And I was reading a lot of romance and erotica stuff at the time to kind of prep for some work that Johnny and I were going to be doing with Lexi Maxwell. I was reading a lot and I was a little disillusioned. I wasn’t really enjoying the stuff I was reading that much, and I want to dig the stuff that I read.

So, I had finished this book and I thought this was really good. And so I went to Kindle and I bought it for Johnny and I forwarded it for Johnny and I said you’ve got to read this. Then he read it and we thought God, we’ve got to have her on the show. She’s really awesome.

So Julie comes on the Self Publishing Podcast and we realized during the podcast we’re slacking each other through the entire interview, thinking she’s fantastic, she’s really great.

So my first connection with Julie was as an author. Like I really liked her writing style. I loved her author’s note which she called End of Book Shit, which I think is just fantastic, and it was just very human, very real. I loved it.

Then we had her on the show and I loved her brain. I think she’s a very instinctual businesswoman and just really bright and fearless, willing to try anything, which I’m always very attracted to. I think that’s just fantastic.

So anyway, welcome, Julie, and thank you for answering Eight Questions

Julie:  Thank you, so great to be here.

Sean:  Okay. I’m going to start right out here. How do you find the line between “too sexy” or “too out there”, and does self-censoring get in your way or are you as fearless as you seem when you’re writing?

 Julie:  That’s interesting. There is a line and I think I cross it in just about every single book.

I try not to.

I think the perfect book recently that I wrote was Meet Me in the Dark, and that book crosses every single line there is. And the whole time I’m writing it, I’m like this is just wrong. Everything about this book is just wrong.

But it was the story that I had to tell, because it’s part of the bigger series between in the Rook and Ronin series and all the spin-offs. This character, this was just the story. Like there was no way I could change it. It had to be this way.

So I guess I was pretty fearless because my sister hated the book. And there are a few members of my street team who hated the book.

Sean:  Are the things that they hate about the book the same things that other people will love about the book?

Julie:  I guess so, because if you look at the reviews, they’re pretty good. I’m still shocked, actually, that people like that book.

So I guess it’s just about the characters. So, I try to remember that. If I write the characters true to the series and themselves as I have portrayed them through the series, then I think they’re okay with no matter what.

As long as they’re redeemable in the end and I did my best to redeem him. But he was a major asshole almost the entire book. He really doesn’t show his other side until you get to the next book, which is Wasted Lust and there’s a small like one page epilogue where you’re like okay, yes, he makes sense now.

But I think if you have that story and you just pay attention to why you’re writing it, you can do whatever you want, and I think that’s the only reason the book did well, is because it fit into the story.

Like it wasn’t just something out there that didn’t have meaning. I guess the important thing then, it had meaning to the story and so it was okay.

Sean:  So people know when you’re being an honest creator and you’re not doing something just for shock value.

Julie:  Right, yes.

Sean:  You’re doing it because you’re listening to the characters and the world.

Julie.  Yes. That’s the only reason I can think of why they like that book.

Sean:  So have you ever pulled back and thought okay, I’m not going to put that in, I’m going to go ahead and pull that out just because it’s too much?

Julie:  Not with violence or sex I have not. Only with certain twisted plot lines. Like sometimes I’ll sort of write myself into a corner and I know I can find a way out of it, but like I’m like maybe the reader doesn’t want to try that hard to read this story.

Sean: Yes, I know, I understand that. Dave and I wrote a book earlier this year called 12 which is kind of a psychological thriller. It’s twelve people who all get murdered, or some of them get murdered in a diner shooting. And then it rewinds twelve hours and plays the last twelve hours of these twelve people’s lives. And they all kind of coalesce together in a real Magnolia way.

One of the characters is a pedophile and we tried to write the character as honestly as we possibly could, and it’s very uncomfortable.

There were things that we pulled out, like we bitched at a little bit, just because even though it was true to the story and true to the character, I think it would have alienated too many readers to be that in his skin.

So we pulled back, definitely.

Julie:  Yes, I think a pedophile was not redeemable, right. So I think you made the right choice, because I don’t think you can redeem that character.

Sean:  Well, we kind of do in a weird way and I don’t want to give a spoiler there, but we kind of do but it was too icky. It was too much. I think with really dark sex or dark violence I think there is a vicarious thrill there that a reader can get, but it’s different in this case. There was no vicarious thrill. It’s just ugly.

Julie:  Yes.

Sean:  So we pulled back, and we pulled back in another story that Johnny and I wrote where we used the “n” word. And the character was a racist. We felt like this character would have used this word in this context, but we also felt like it didn’t really add anything to the scene and so if it doesn’t really add anything to the scene and yet it’s such a trigger word, we should just not do it.

Julie:  Right, I agree with that too. I wouldn’t use that word, and I always ask myself that. Like gay people find their way into your story and all these fringe people will find their way into your story. And I always think even though I’m not a very politically correct person, I always try to be fair to everybody in the book.

And I try not to have an opinion, and I try not to let that opinion come through in the story. Because I don’t think people want to hear my personal opinions about stuff like that.

I mean I wouldn’t put that word in there either, and I wouldn’t put like any gay bashing or anything in a story ever. I couldn’t even think of a story where I would write where that would be important, you know what I mean?

Sean:  Yes, I know that one of the things that I enjoyed so much about 3-2-1 was that the narrator was clearly not judgmental. The story world supported all of these people, their flaws and the things that made them who they were was okay. Just sit back and tell the story, and I thought that there was something real magical about that.

Julie:  I work really hard on that because I have opinions just like everybody, but I think that really comes through. If you’re trying to get your viewpoint into a story, I think readers pick up on that right away.

Sean:  Oh, yes, it’s like a crowbar. You feel it prying.

How has the success of your current line-up changed the way that you’re creating product in the future?

Julie:  Like my current books that I’m writing?

Sean:  Yes, like you’ve had books that have sold really well. So if you have a crazy hair of an idea, which I’ve known you long enough to know that you get those and you want to indulge them, right, so how much does okay, well, I know that this is profitable idea. How much does that come into play, or do you just want to tell the stories that you want to tell?

Julie:  It does come into play, but I have a lot of ideas that I know are profitable but I don’t have a story to actually go with them so I’m not writing those ones yet.

I’m doing some risky stuff this fall. I think that I made enough money this year where if I flop like it won’t affect me too much. So I’m going to try some pretty risky things.

But usually when I get an idea I know right away like will this be easy to sell or would this be more difficult to sell. And I like to have a nice mixture of both.

Like the last book, Wasted Lust, was like the last character, the last book of this whole thirteen book series and I knew it was going to be a hard sell because to really get all the meaning behind the story you have to read all the books. And not everybody is ready.

Sean:  Yes, so you kind of like thinned the crowd a little bit with each book right?

Julie:  Right.

Sean:  Now you’re at the very, very tip of the funnel.

Julie:  But now that it’s done it’s on the backlist and when anybody who starts that series with eventually read through to the end. So it’s just like a background book I guess, kind of.

And sometimes you just have to write those so you can make your fans happy. Because this book made fans happy, so and I really liked it.

Sean: Yes, there’s tremendous value in that but there’s also a value of getting it out of your head, right?

Julie:  Yes.

Sean:  You have closure in the world now I imagine.

Julie:  Yes. It’s over. Finally.

Sean:  I love that. We have too many open boxes. I can’t wait until next year when we start closing some of them.

You write really fast, really, really fast which I love. I loved in your end of book shit for 3-2-1 where you said yes, this book was concept to final draft in 41 days or something like that, which I thought was just great because as much as I was enjoying reading it, it did not feel rushed. It felt very complete and I think that’s great.

That’s kind of the ethic that we go by, fast is good.

Do you think that your speed helps or hinders your quality?

Julie:  It’s funny that you say that. I guess it depends on what kind of book I think I’m writing.

Like if I’m writing a science fiction book or like that Ford book called Taught, like I have a lot of scenes in my head and a lot of themes and stuff. So I think those benefit from a little bit longer time because I can think about it a little harder.

But most of the time I work really good under pressure and so the closer the deadline is, the harder I work.

That’s where I am today. This book that I’m writing needs to go to the editor tomorrow, before I get on a plane, and I’m not done. But it will be, I hope. I think it will be done. I’m very close.

I’m going to edit today and then write the end tomorrow and then that’s it.

Then I think about it while it’s at the editor and I know like what parts I want to change and when it comes back I make those small changes and then I’m done with it.

I don’t keep it around. I just put it out.

Sean:  That’s funny. There’s been times when Johnny’s been right up to the line in the same way and he’ll be really over budget on time and maybe he’s coming to Austin for something and he has to finish this thing before he leaves. And he ends up having a 10,000 word day.

Julie:  Yes, I think I had one yesterday or the day before.

Sean:  That’s just an insane amount of words to put down in a day, right? And you would think that, okay, well this is really rushed and of course it’s going to be a little bit sloppier.

But invariably on those days when that quantity of work was done and it’s on my desk and I’m going through the initial edit, which is my job between us, some of that stuff is so smooth.  Because it’s not like it’s stopping and starting. You’re writing enough words to actually find flow and the story’s just pouring out of you. It’s almost like a fugue state.

Julie:  Plus I think for me the end, like once I get set on how I’m going to do the crisis scene, once that happens the other shit just comes out. It just gets so much easier the farther I get into the book.

I think the beginning the easy, but I think the middle is really hard.

Sean:  Yes, I agree. I think the middle’s definitely the hardest part.

Have family and friends treated you any differently since your books started doing well?

Julie:  No. They’re wholly unimpressed with me.

Sean:  That’s awesome. Al right, well, moving on then.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?

Julie:  In writing I think the biggest mistake was writing that science fiction series, and we were just talking about this before the call, and it didn’t have a genre.

I don’t even know if it has one today but it has more of a chance today because of new adult and stuff. But I think that was my biggest mistake is not knowing what genre I was writing in.

And I still sort of make it a little bit because I tend to want to write thrillers with sex, and sometimes like I said they get a little complicated and I have to just pull some of that stuff out.

So I try to keep the reader in mind but like I do it more now than I did when I first started, for sure.

Sean:  So how easy is it for you to stick to a genre? Do you find yourself just kind of ah, man, I just want to tell this story, why do I have to put it in this box?

Julie:  Well, I know if I want my fans to buy the book it has to be contemporary romance. It could be erotic romance or it could be erotica, but I’m writing some paranormal stuff this fall and I’m pretty sure they’re not going to go buy those books. But that’s okay, I don’t care.

I’m writing other books for them too so it’s just a decision that I make, you know, who am I writing this for.

And then I adjust my expectations accordingly.

Sean:  Well that’s awesome, and it also sounds like you write with enough speed that it doesn’t have to be an “or” decision.

Julie:  Right, yes.

Sean:  Do I write this or this. It’s kind of like I’ll write this and this.

Julie:  Yes, that’s kind of what I’m doing this fall.

Sean:  That’s awesome, because or sucks. And is always better. What book or movie do you wish you could have written?

Julie:  Oh, my God, I’m listening to it on audiobook right now. Have you heard of that science fiction author, Richard K. Morgan?

Sean:  No, I don’t think so.

Julie:  Oh, my God, you have to read him. His first book is called…

Sean:  Okay, I’m writing it down.

Julie:  Richard K. Morgan, the first book in the science fiction series is called Altered Carbon, and the third book is my favorite. It’s called Woken Furies and I’m listening to the audiobook.

I must have read this book fifteen times, not even kidding you. Like I just love it. And I’m listening to the audiobook all the way through and I’m just so absorbed in the world. I just bow to Richard K. Morgan, I do.

Sean:  Are you more inspired by real life events, television, books or movies?

Julie:  Definitely movies, some television but mostly movies and television, yes.

That’s where I get almost all my ideas.

Sean:  What’s your favorite TV show right now?

Julie:  Right now I’m really hooked on that show, I think it’s on USA, Mr. Robot. Have you watched that one?

Sean:  No, that’s new right?

Julie:  Yes, but oh, my God, it’s so good.

Sean:  No, I haven’t. I was recently blown away by Sense8, have you seen that?

Julie:  No, I haven’t. I think on my Netflix…

Sean:  I think you would dig the shit out of that.

Julie:  I have it, like I have it saved in my favorites or whatever, on my Amazon Firestick or something.

Sean:  I have all the boxes, and it’s like too confusing. I have too many choices now. I’ve got the Apple TV, the Firestick and the Roku and they’re all just like – I don’t know what to do, there’s too many choices.

But yes, Sense8 seems like a story you’d be really into. It’s kind of complicated. There’s a lot of sex.

Julie:  Oh, good, yes, I’m there.

Sean:  It’s very sci-fi. It’s done by the Wachowskis who did The Matrix and it’s very cool.

Julie:  Oh, cool.

Sean:  You’ll dig it. All right, well, last and always my favorite question.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Julie:  I just want all my books to be movies, that would be great.

 Sean:  That’s an admirable legacy, or TV shows?

Julie:  Yes, like across the board, HBO series for everybody. That would be awesome.

Sean:  So, like this really big world that you built for Follow Me in the Dark and all the books in that world, could that be something that’s taken in and kind of shaped into a cable television series?

Julie:  Yes, I think it would be awesome, yes.

Sean: That’s good. You should make that happen.

Julie:  I don’t know how to make that happen or I would.

Sean:  Well, we should talk a little bit after the interview because I think you could make that happen.

Julie:  Okay.

Sean:  Well, thank you so much for answering the questions. Where can people find you?

Julie:  They could find me on Facebook.  It’s facebook.com/authorjahuss, or my web site jahuss.com, or on Twitter @jahuss.

Sean:  Thank you so much and thanks for listening.

Julie:  Thanks Sean.

Sean Platt is the founder of Sterling & Stone and loves that he not only gets paid to make up stories and come up with crazy ideas, but that he gets to do so with his best friends. Together, they've also co-authored the bestselling non-fiction titles Write. Publish. Repeat., Fiction Unboxed, and Iterate & Optimize to help Smarter Artists get smarter, faster.

Sean lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Cindy and their two children, Ethan and Haley.

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