Ellie Di Julio is a nomadic writer currently living in Hamilton, Ontario with her Robert Downey, Jr. lookalike husband and their two cats. Between nerd activities like playing Final Fantasy IX or watching Top Gear, she enthusiastically destroys the kitchen and tries to figure out what it’s all about, when you really get down to it. She also writes urban fantasy novels and short stories riddled with pop culture references, peculiar memories, and sexy secret agents.
Q: You’ve lived a lot of places. List a few. Do you feel place has influenced or informed your identity as a person and/or as a writer?
A: Holy cow. Yeah, I’ve lived in a lot of places! Touchstones include: born in Kansas City, six months in Germany, and a year on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. When I did my immigration paperwork to get legal in Canada, they made me list every address I’ve had since high school. I think I’m up to 45. I do believe that all that moving around fundamentally shaped who I am as a person, and therefore who I am as a writer. Being a fourteen-year-old jerk when you’re living in Europe as a latchkey kid effects you in a completely different way than it would if you were backpacking there on your own dime at thirty, you know? I like to think having experienced a lot of cultures and settings brings depth to both my character and my work, although that’s more a judgement for other folks to make.
Q: You’re working on a series. Without giving too much away, give us the rundown. Where did you get this idea? Is any of your fiction based off your personal experiences?
A: Essentially, Forgotten Relics explores the idea that human belief is what powers the supernatural—and what’s happened to all the gods and monsters in our modern, highly secular world. Cora and Jack are the primary heroes, and they’re working to stop a power-hungry goddess from basically enslaving humanity. It’s part FBI crime drama, part urban fantasy, part paranormal romance. The idea actually sprouted from my first book (and NaNo 2012 project), Inkchanger. That was supposed to be a standalone novella, but I loved Agent 97 and the idea of magic being real in our world that I spun it up into this epic concept. So Inkchanger wound up being sort of a number zero to the series that starts with Cora Riley. Then, the more I dug into the underworld story in that book, the more excited I got about expanding the world and exploring what it means to be human and the power of belief. I had plans for a five-book series before I realized what I’d done. And yeah, my own experiences definitely inform my writing; I think that’s probably true of every fiction author. You take what you know and let it run down what-if avenues and see what happens. For example, the car crash in Cora Riley actually happened to me. That was hard to write, but man does it pack a punch. I’m also using places I’ve visited as locations in all the books so I can help the reader tie more intimately with the setting. All the years I spent in White Wolf LARP doesn’t hurt, either.
Q: And I can’t mention your series without asking about your newest book. Where can readers nab a copy?
A: Ha! Thanks for asking. The newest book, The Sword of Souls, is the second in the series, and it deals with Cora’s heritage and Jack’s romantic past in the realm of Faerie. It also brings back a beloved character from Inkchanger, so you’re definitely rewarded for having read that one, although it’s not required. All my books are up on Amazon in Kindle and print format, as well as on the Barnes & Noble site. But if you want extra brownie points, you can buy the digital books directly from me on PayHip (payhip.com/elliedijulio). Doing that nets me 90% of the sale price rather than the 70% offered by the Major Online Retailers. /end shameless promotion
Q: Who are your top 5-10 authors right now? Who do you read for fun? Who influence you as a writer?
A: What’s really funny about this question is that the answers all run together. I’m convinced that both the authors we read before we started writing and the authors we read for fun after influence us hugely. It’s how we learn the way a story works, what we do and don’t like, the elements of style and voice, and soak up new ideas to experiment with in our own writing. Philosophy aside, I’ll always count Terry Pratchett and Francesca Lia Block as my primary influences, as well as my favourites to read for fun. Since I started stalking other authors on Twitter, I’ve been getting great enjoyment out of reading their books; Chuck Wendig, Stephen Blackmoore, and Delilah S. Dawson spring readily to mind. Basically, it’s a lot of speculative fiction, leaning hard to urban fantasy, soaked in a sass bath.
Q: If you had to compare your style and/or genre to some of the Big Names, who would you say your work is like?
A: This question is so rough! I always feel like an egocentric d-bag, but I’ll give it a shot. I’ve been favorably compared to William Gibson, which I feel is wholly undeserved, but I’ve also gotten Jim Butcher (of Dresden Files fame), with which I’m very comfortable and admit I’m pretty proud of. Personally, I’m shooting for the love child of Terry Pratchett and Elizabeth Gilbert. If you want me to love you forever, write that in your reviews. I’ll make you cookies. On the internet. In my mind.
Q: You’ve had a lot of fun hair colors. List some of the wildest. What made you decide to take a break?
A: Oh, man, I feel like I’ve done it all. Jet black to purple to green to orange to pure white. I started dying my hair when I was 16 (out-of-the-box-red) and ran with it until about 24, when I grew it out for my wedding, for which I had royal blue locks. I dyed here and there for a while after that, eventually giving up the ghost a couple of years ago. Honestly, it got to be too much work. I had to shave my head down to peachfuzz twice because my hair was so horribly damaged from bleach and other assorted chemicals. I get the urge to play with color every once in a while still, but then I remember how much time and money goes into it and just get a normal haircut instead. But I do still lust after those multi-colored locks.
Q: Take us through a normal day. What’s your writing habit look like?
A: It’s kind of boring, actually. Basically, I wake up at 6.30am, make breakfast and have coffee with my husband before he goes to work, check my social media and email, do brainstorming or outlining if necessary, then write from like 10am to 2pm (sometimes as late as 4pm if the words aren’t coming). After that, it’s up in the air. I should be blogging or marketing, but if I’m drafting, more often than not post-writing time is spent decompressing with a book or gaming. I turn in somewhere around 10pm. When I’m not in a hard writing cycle (like right now, trying to do a 75K novel draft in 30 days), a big chunk of my day gets spent on business-y things like marketing, website junk, bookkeeping, and social media tweaking. Being a one-man show is not all it’s cracked up to be, y’all.
Q: When you’re feeling worn out, what refreshes your joie de vivre? Art? Music? Video games? Other?
A: Travel is my number one. It’s surprisingly easy for me to leave behind all the electronic devices and internet connections to just be somewhere. I don’t even take pictures anymore when I go places because I crave that present-ness required by not constantly documenting everything I do. Being in the world and not in my computer does wonders for my psyche. Barring that, though, I do far more TV watching than anything else these days. Shameful that I’m not reading, I know. But I feel like I’m learning a lot about cinematography elements, serialization of story, and in-depth character building from shows like Supernatural and Walking Dead. No, seriously—stop laughing!
Q: Best advice for those of us slogging away at Nanowrimo this year?
A: Don’t hate on yourself if you flop. While I absolutely extol the virtues of having concrete goals with hard deadlines, this challenge isn’t for everyone. Especially if this is your first year, you may not have the skillset to “win” NaNo. That’s okay. But you absolutely should use the time to create new, better writing habits. Having wordcount goals and learning to meet the work demands of a story—without relying on something as flighty and untrustworthy as a “muse”—will make you a better writer. Then even if you “lose” this year, you have a better chance of “winning” next year because you’ve grown. There’s no such thing as wasted effort.
Q: Best advice for young or new writers?
A: Write. I know that’s super simple and probably super cliché, but it’s got to be said. I know so many people who have these grand story ideas and big plans—they can tell you about it all day—but when it comes time to put their butts in the seats and do the friggin’ work, they have no end of excuses. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer—you won’t create anything. Even if it’s five minutes crammed in between brushing your teeth at night and getting into bed, you have to do the work. Writers write, period.