Written by JJ Barnes
I am delighted to share my interview with Julia B. Grantham, author of A Mole Like No Other. Julia was kind enough to send a copy of her book as a gift for my children, and they absolutely love it. The drawings are truly delightful and it is a very beloved story in our house.
Julia shares details about her career, how A Mole Like No Other came to be, and her advice to inspire others.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Julia, I live in the South of England with my husband and son, and try to do too many things at once, but how can I help it if they are things I love? I’ve moved to England from Russia 25 years ago and looking back, I feel I’ve lived more than one life, but as they have all impacted on what I am now – here goes:
I am a wife, a mother of a grown son, but also a mother of cats (two), ducks (multiple) and a visiting pheasant; also – a medical doctor, PhD, a psychotherapist, a businesswoman, a training consultant and a video producer, to mention just a few of the things I do as a job.
Books are my passion and I am a huge Harry Potter fan, a Jane Austen enthusiast, write a Facebook blog, ‘Elizabeth Darcy’ with 15K followers, an Ambassador of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation (we are all volunteers there), a writer and illustrator of Jane Austen-inspired travel fiction – my first book in this series is called ‘Mr Darcy’s Guide to Pemberley’. My first children’s novel ‘A Mole Like No Other’ was published in January 2021.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
A long time ago! As a teenager I was writing poetry, in Russian, of course. I even have a book of my poetic ‘juvenilia’ published. Then I’ve started two novels, also In Russian, but the move to England changed things for me quite a bit. You see, when you love books and have a huge admiration for languages, you are extremely critical about your own mastery of a foreign language. That slowed my writing ambitions right down. ‘Moley’ took me long 7 years to write, mainly because of continuous self-doubt.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Seven years. Interestingly, in the middle of these seven years, I’ve written, illustrated and published ‘Mr Darcy’s Guide to Pemberley’, which was very well received, and also started writing my ‘Elizabeth Darcy’ blog. I think positive feedback from the readers of my Jane Austen inspired stories gave me confidence to progress with my children’s book.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write this book?
I’ve loved children’s books my whole life. And, without trying to be controversial, I think the best novels for children have been written in English. Of course, there are wonderful children’s authors in other countries, but the sheer volume of outstanding literature for children written in English is amazing. Winnie-the-Pooh, Peter Pan, Peter Rabbit, The Famous Five, Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, The Gruffalo – do I need to continue? It is simply extraordinary. So, it was not an easy decision for me to even attempt joining this club. But… one day a little toy Mole joined our family, won our hearts and just had to be put in a book as the main character. He is just that kind of mole!
What were your biggest challenges with writing A Mole Like No Other?
Finding the confidence to write in my second language was the greatest challenge. I write with pen and paper, and the first handwritten draft was completed within, perhaps, a year. Then six years went on editing and polishing it and plucking up the courage to release my characters into a big wide world.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
Moley is a real toy who’s lived in our home for about 15 years now. He is a hand puppet, and because of that is very good at expressing his emotions and interacting with you. We bought him at a school fair in very much the same fashion as the book’s Moley is picked up at the stall, and quickly fell in love with him. He started travelling with us on holidays, and the idea of the book gradually began taking shape in my mind.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
There are no antagonists as such in my book. The vast majority of battles Moley fights with himself, his worries, anxiety, mistakes. He is very keen to prove himself, to find his place in this world, but because of his enthusiasm, he often makes mistakes. He learns an awful lot of life lessons during his adventures.
What is the inciting incident of A Mole Like No Other?
In the beginning of the book Moley is stuck in a box of unwanted toys. Interestingly, when I was writing this seven years ago, we’ve never dreamt of any pandemics, or lockdowns, but when I started my last edit in 2020, I was struck by the similarities of his situation and us being stuck in our homes, not knowing what to expect. Anyway… Moley’s life changes when he is taken to a school fair and put on the stall for sale. His original owner did not like him one bit, calling him ‘un ugly old mole’, so Moley had a very tense time not knowing whether anyone will choose him to take to a new home.
What is the main conflict of A Mole Like No Other?
Entering a new home as an outsider can be a scary thing, any child (or adult!) who joins a new class or any other tightknit group can agree with that. Then Moley makes friends not only at his new home, but also in the garden – a family of ducks, and has to rush to their rescue not once, but several times. He is very kind and helpful, but he gradually learns the benefits of team work, learns to count on others for help, and to relax a little, to be honest. Because he worries a lot through the book, but realises at the end that he should try to let go sometimes.
Did you plot A Mole Like No Other in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
A little bit of both. 😊 I knew some key plot points, especially related to the beginning of the book. Lots of them were based on real life, so writing them down was quite an easy task. However, from the mid-point onwards my writing took a more unexpected turn, and I was surprised by some developments, not quite knowing where they came from. I guess, it is true that characters start living their own lives.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did A Mole Like No Other need?
Finding a good editor was a key turning point for me. I think any book can benefit from a good editor. And I am not talking of proof reading – that is essential as well. But having someone who is not as immersed in the story as you are, who can offer a bird’s-eye view of your book (a bit like Gordon, the limping pigeon offers Moley), and can come up with suggestions how to improve the story – is incredibly important. I was lucky to have met Susannah Waters, an author herself, and an amazing, insightful editor.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Don’t wait until it ‘feels right’. Just write. Believe me, as a psychotherapist on this occasion, millions of people suffer from so called ‘imposter syndrome’, don’t give in to it – if you have a book in you – let it out.
I also would like to quote a piece of advice from my beloved Jane Austen: “[When] I am not at all in a humour for writing; I must write on till I am.”
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I am hoping to continue with Moley’s stories. I have at least four plot-lines in my head for four more books. To do this I need to follow my own advice above. Because, believe me, we all fight our inner demons, when it comes to writing.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Absolutely. Both proud and believe that it was worth every moment of it. Can it be improved? Of course. I am a perfectionist and can improve things until the eleventh hour, but – sometimes one just should let it be and let it out. I love the fact that Moley is out there, now living his independent life, and I can rest easy that at least my first book about him is done. Hope there are more to come. 😊
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08TFSQWLB
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08TFSQWLB
Facebook Julia B Grantham: https://www.facebook.com/J.B.Grantham.Author/
Moley & Friends Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AMoleLikeNoOther/
Author’s Blog: https://juliabgrantham.wordpress.com/