Meet Debut Novelist Julie Jarnagin

Julie Jarnagin grew up in a rural community where her family farmed and raised cattle, inspiring her to set much of her fiction in small towns. Through her writing, she hopes to share stories that reflect God’s love. Her debut novel, Canyon Walls, is due to be released by Heartsong Presents in April 2011.

Julie lives in the heart of Oklahoma. Her home is full of energy with her marathon-running husband, their “silly” two-year-old son, one grouchy cat, and two Labradors. Julie works in marketing for a homebuilder. This year the company was honored to be part of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which was an amazing experience for her and her co-workers.

When she’s not working, chasing a toddler, or crafting her contemporary romances, Julie loves to knit and crochet. She says, “I’m still a beginner, but I’ve made scarves, hats, and blankets. I love choosing the perfect pattern and yarn.” She’s giving away one of her beautiful creations, so be sure to check out the drawing info below.

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Julie drinks Chai tea when she writes and says a Chai Latte is even better. Throw in some dark chocolate, and she’s a happy girl. Since I like my guests to be happy, I’ve ordered a virtual variety of teas, lattes, and chocolate (dark, milk, and white), so take your pick of each, sit back, and enjoy learning more about Julie and her journey to publication.

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Julie’s Journey Begins

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•With your penchant for words, your educational background, and the fact that you’re a trained journalist, I’m guessing you’re one of those people who was born with a pen in her hand. Am I right?

Actually, I fell in love with the idea of creating characters before I started writing them down on paper. As a kid, I would dress up as different characters and model my creations for my parents. In school, I was involved in theater, and I also competed with the speech club, where I incorporated storytelling. I didn’t know until college that these things were preparing me for a future in writing fiction.

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•When did you decide to write a romance novel with a goal of publication, and what led to that decision?

After college, I finished a children’s book and a novel (it was somewhere between a romance novel and a love story). Then, I got really serious about getting published and wrote a young adult novel. With this one, I got some interest and requests but eventually, decided to put it on the shelf and move on to writing Christian romance. Writing in several different genres was good for me. I needed to find out what I was good at and what I enjoyed writing.

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Julie’s Education and Experience

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•Some writers, like you, have formal education in writing before they embark on their journeys as romance novelists. Please tell us about your degree, your days as a professional (paid :-)) writer, and some of the lessons you learned that have helped in your fiction pursuits.

I have a degree from the University of Oklahoma in Journalism/Professional Writing. I had several writing-related jobs after college including editing airplane manuals, writing for an immigration attorney, and reporting for a small town newspaper.

I’m extremely thankful for my education and experience, but I also learned that no amount of great instruction can take the place of learning through doing. There’s nothing more important than the process of completing a first draft, editing it and submitting it to an agent or publisher. Every day that I write I learn something new.

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•You’re awaiting the thrill of seeing your book on the shelves. I’m sure it would be fun to see it in Oprah’s hand while you sit on her couch and discuss it, but you’ve already had the joy of seeing your work before the public. Please tell us about your first published pieces.

I’ve worked as a reporter for a small town paper, and I’ve also had articles published in Brio Magazine and Neighbors Magazine. It’s always exciting to see my work in print, but for me, it also feels a little like pages of my diary are being published. I’m sure I’ll be an excited mess the day Canyon Walls is released.

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Julie’s Dream Put on Hold

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•You’d been working on your novels for seven years when you felt led to put that dream aside. How did that come about and what did you learn about yourself during that time?

I had a new baby, and I had been feeling God pulling me away from my dream of being a writer, a dream I had pursued since college. One Sunday, our pastor was talking about how sometimes God calls us to give up our dreams so that he can give us something even better. The pastor didn’t know it, but he was talking to me.

On our way to lunch after church, I broke down to my husband having a big, ugly cry and pouting about the fact that God would let me chase after something for so long and then, tell me to let it go.

I was especially worried that all my friends and family who had supported me on my journey would think I was a quitter. I didn’t want them to think that I couldn’t cut it and had given up. My need for everyone’s approval was one reason my writing dream had become toxic. It was more about proving to everyone that I could do it than following God’s will for my life.

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Julie’s Dream Comes True

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•Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. Yours certainly did. You’d given up writing, and yet the Lord had other plans. Tell us about the day you sat down at your computer and got the surprise of a lifetime.

When I had given up my writing, I still had one submission ready to send. I figured I’d send it, get another rejection letter, and know that I’d done the right thing.

Nine months after I had submitted the query for Canyon Walls and five months after I sent the full manuscript, my in-laws were visiting from out of state. My husband and his dad were in the garage tinkering with something. My little boy was in his crib.

It was the first chance I had that day to check my emails. My heart stopped when I saw a message from the editor at Heartsong Presents. I was afraid to open it. When I finally got the courage to click on it, the first word was “Congratulations!” I had to read the email three times before I believed it.

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•Wow! What an amazing story. You must have been flabbergasted. How did you react to the news?

I was in shock. The baby cried, and I went to change a dirty diaper. How’s that for glamorous! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

After the news sunk in, I knew God had reopened the door for me to start writing again, and this time, I had a whole new outlook. It was no longer about my need for affirmation from others. I’m so thankful for the journey.

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Julie’s Challenges and Solutions

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•With a toddler and a full-time job, I can’t help but wonder how you find time to write. Do you hide out in your car with your laptop on lunch breaks, leave dad in charge and head for the local coffee house on the weekends, or experiment with how little sleep a person can get by on?

It’s not easy, but I’m blessed to have a supportive family who helps me. I can’t count how many nights my husband has had to fall asleep to the sound of my fingers banging on the laptop in bed beside him. It has definitely forced me to be more disciplined about sitting down to write.

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Julie’s Debut Novel

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•Please tell us about Canyon Walls.

Sunset Camp changed Cassie Langley’s life as a teen. A decade later she is the new director attempting to prevent the struggling Christian camp from closing. She is determined to show her overbearing mom, perfect sister, and nosey small-town residents she can do it on her own.

Charming Will Overman volunteers as a camp counselor, attracting Cassie’s attention—and her suspicions. Is he there to help the kids or scout out the camp as a possible development site for his family’s real estate business? With the camp in serious financial trouble, Cassie must fight her feelings for Will to protect the camp.

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Julie’s Journey Continues

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•What are you working on now?

I’m wrapping up a synopsis for a possible sequel to Canyon Walls. I’m also working on edits and rewrites of a young adult novel, On the Spot.

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Five Ways Julie Fuels Her Creativity

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~ When I’m feeling stuck, I do a free writing exercise or write a scene that would never make it in my final manuscript. It frees the roadblocks in my mind.

~ I crochet and knit. There’s something about the rhythm of it that is perfect for developing new ideas.

~ I play with my two-year-old son. A little time playing with him in the park or chasing him through the house is a great way to plug back into that childlike imagination.

~ I exercise. This one is new for me, but I’ve learned that it clears my mind and helps me focus.

~ I take some “me time.” As a new mom, I’ve found that I have to be intentional about taking time for myself. My favorites are long walks, hot baths, and good books.

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Julie’s Question for You

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Do you enjoy any type of craft? What kind, i.e. knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, painting, etc.? Why?

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Julie’s Drawing

Julie has generously offered to give away a handmade crocheted scarf, a product of her own creativity, to one of her visitors.

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To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Julie by midnight July 16 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)

On July 17, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)

Congratulations to Kristin Poarch, winner of the scarf.

Note: Offer void where prohibited.

Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

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Learn More About Julie

Visit her personal blog ~ Julie Jarnagin

Friend her on Facebook ~ Julie Jarnagin

Follow her on Twitter ~ JulieJarnagin

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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40 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Julie Jarnagin

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Julie! What fun it is to get to know more about your and to hear about your amazing journey to publication.

    We have something in common. My bachelor’s is in Mass Communication with the Print Journalism option. Comes in handy when I’m writing questions for my blog guests. 🙂

    In the days before I began writing romances, I used to scrapbook and rubber stamp. I still have the supplies, but I struggle to find time. Writing seems to fill my days to overflowing, but I love it.

    The scarf is beautiful.

  2. territiffany says:

    I really enjoyed getting to know more about your Julie! especially reading about how your book got accepted! That was so cute and fun to read! Congrats on your publication!!!

  3. Julie, I remember reading your story before and found it so inspirational. It’s such an encouragement when writers surrender their writing dreams to God and see the wonderful fruit of his faithfulness. Your story sounds great, I can’t wait for the chance to read it.
    Congratulations on the publication!

    As far as the question. Oh…I love SO many crafts! I used to paint a lot before I started writing as often as I do. I’d do wood creations, bird houses, signs, even art on canvas. I sold them at a little store not too far from my house until I felt it was time to move onto the new chapter of my life: writing.

    Thanks for another great interview, Keli!

  4. Julie J. says:

    Keli – Thanks so much for having me. It has been a blast.

    Thanks, Terri! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Cindy – You are crafty! I’m so impressed that you’ve even sold some of your creations.

  5. Lacy Williams says:

    Julie-

    What a great interview! I’m so glad to learn some new things about you.

    I dabble in a lot of crafts – recently poster-making for our upcoming booksigning. 🙂 I enjoy scrapbooking too, but life with a 7-month old doesn’t leave time for much so mostly it’s writing.

    Can’t wait to buy a copy of your book!

  6. Ashley Clark says:

    Julie, I loved reading this. I’ll be on the lookout for your book. I have just recently gotten into knitting as well, although so far the scarf I’m knitting is a bit lopsided! Haha. The scarf is beautiful; I’d love to see it in person. My e-mail is ashleylikesflowers@gmail.com

    • juliejarnagin says:

      I’ve been working on crocheting baby blankets and haven’t had a chance to knit in several months. When I pick up a knitting project again, I’m sure mine will be lopsided too. 🙂 Are you on ravelry.com? You should look me up. My username is 0julie0.

  7. kristin poarch says:

    julie, i am so proud of you! what an inspiration you are to me in reminding me i can follow my dreams! thank you! i am excited to read your book! so happy to be able to say that i know you! congratulations:)

    • Julie J. says:

      Wow! This made my day! Thank you, Kristin.

      • kristin poarch says:

        just so you know, it really stresses me out to have to write a comment. i am so nervous about my grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, & overall writing ability,:!#?,,,””,,, sorry, just had to say it!

        • Julie J. says:

          Me too! I’m always worried I’ll write something stupid and everyone will think “And she’s a writer?” You did an excellent job on your comment 🙂

  8. Kathy Taylor says:

    Julie, Canyon Walls sounds very engaging, and I am hoping it sells like crazy. The scarf you have knitted is beautiful, and it’s so thoughtful of you to offer it. Blessings galore!

  9. Marti Taylor says:

    Julie, I loved reading your interview and finding out how you became a published author. I look forward to reading it and hope that you will be able to come to Southwest Oklahoma and possibly do a book signing, or talk about your book. I am so happy for you.

    My hobbies are quilting and embroidering baby blankets for all of my grandchildren.

    • Julie J. says:

      Hi, Marti! That would be so much fun. Growing up in southwest Oklahoma was the best. You and everyone in our church and town were so supportive. Thank you!

  10. Erica Vetsch says:

    What a fun interview! And how like God to take your obedience and turn it into something spectacular.

  11. wendy tillman bridges says:

    omg julie,
    I had no idea you write. I’m so excited for ur book to come out, I will go get it for sure. It seems just like yesterday we were on the ski trip. Miss ya much & congrats on this adventure. 🙂
    wendy tillman bridges

  12. Great interview! God is great, isn’t he? What a fabulous story.

  13. Wendy says:

    Julie, Fun to see you here. I took a writing hiatus after I had my girls too.

    Congratulations. I love that you had to read the email three times.

    Oh, and lately I’ve been on a kick refurbishing furniture.
    ~ Wendy

    • Julie says:

      Wendy – I love refurbishing furniture. My mother-in-law and I once pulled a chair out of the dumpster and had it recovered. I still have it!

  14. Susan Mason says:

    Hi Julie (& Keli),

    Great interview. It’s nice to get to know more about you.

    April must seem a long way off. Do you know when you’ll get to see a cover for your book?

    I’m impressed by how much you do with a toddler. I remember those days and I was lucky to get a shower and meals made! LOL.

    Best wishes on your journey!

    Sue

    • Julie says:

      Sue – I don’t know when I’ll get to see a cover for the book. The waiting is so hard! Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Great interview! I can totally relate to the writing for others’ approval. That was true of me for years until God also had me lay down my writing dreams. Now that I’m on the other side of that surrender, I’m SO thankful.

  16. Corie Orr says:

    Julie- I am so very proud of all you have accomplished. It will be so wonderful to read Canyon Walls and everything else to come! We love you and hope to see you soon! ~Corie, Jason, Ethan, and Justyn Orr

  17. lynn says:

    What a great story. I read Julie’s ‘love story’ with her husband, and now I know her writing story. Very inspiring, and a reminder to me to listen to what God is saying.

  18. Lauren says:

    Wow! Nine months from your query and five months from your manuscript! I guess this process CAN take a while! Congratulations, and I’m cheering for your release date in April 2011!

  19. Hi Julie,
    It’s so nice to meet you on Keli’s blog–this is such a great place to meet wonderful people. Sorry to be late to the party! You have a wonderful story–it’s so hard to understand why God does things the way He does sometimes. And obedience is not always easy. But what a triumph for you–and God! I love the premise of your book and I will watch for it to come out!

    I, too, am a knitter–a very basic one I must say. Scarves and blankets are my realm as well. I am also a quilter and work primarily on smaller projects. But I’m starting a bedspread next month–my second. Wish me luck:-) I love the creative “arts” because they keep me balanced. When I go for long periods without doing something other than writing, I find myself losing focus.

    Good luck with the book and all your upcoming work. God bless!

  20. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by to learn more about Julie and her journey to publication.

    I’ve held the drawing for the beautiful handcrafted purple scarf she made and generously donated as a drawing prize, and the winner is Kristin Poarch.

    Congratulations, Kristin! I’ll be in touch.

  21. Julie J. says:

    Thank you again Keli for having me, and a big thank you to all of you who stopped by to comment. I appreciate everyone’s support so much.

    And congrats Kristin on winning the contest. It’s the perfect 100 degree day to win a new scarf 🙂

  22. Kevin says:

    Am I to late to win the scarf? I know my wife would love to get one of those.

    • Julie says:

      Kevin (My husband) – Ha! I know you want it for yourself. Don’t worry. I’ll make you another purple one just like it.

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