Writers' Club

Julian M. Armstrong

This week we caught up with another of our 'Repeat-Rowanvalers', Julian M. Armstrong, to find out what he does when he's not writing his epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Tala. From interests in Russian literature, classical music and advanced physics, to taking excellent care of his cat, Julian has lots more in store for his readers.

Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Julian M. Armstrong, living in Brighton & Hove on the south coast of the UK. Married, with three children and last year I finished working as a freelance IT Consultant, so that means I have time to write! Hobbies include walking in the country, writing classical music, socialising (before lockdown) amongst other things.

What first inspired you to start writing?

I was always making up stories, even when I was little (and not just ones about dogs eating my homework). I never really considered writing books, until a couple of friends of mine told me that I should really write down some of my ideas. So I did. It’s just always seemed a natural thing for me to do, a way of getting all those characters and events out of my imagination and into the real world.

What made you want to work with Rowanvale and be published?

I realised that I needed to have my books edited professionally. I looked at a few companies, but I liked Rowanvale as they all seemed very helpful, encouraging and fundamentally pleasant people. I had my book edited and it made such a difference in terms of a welter of small changes and tweaks, that I decided to get my books published through them.

When you’re not writing, what are you reading?

During lockdown, I’ve been trying to improve my understanding of a lot of things, so the last two books have been The World According to Physics, by Jim Al-Khalili and Hello World, by Hannah Fry. To be fair, I could read the chapter on Quantum Mechanics in the first book fifty times and I still wouldn’t get it, but at least I’ve tried.

Which work are you most proud of?

All of them! If I had to choose, I would go for Book 5 of the Chronicles of Tala, The Ruins of War. There’s a lot of change in the party after Book 4, The Jacinta and the way the story develops has a real depth and the characters really come into their own.

What’s your best advice for handling writer's block?

Three steps. First, ask yourself why you are stuck. It may be that deep down, you don’t have confidence in what you’re writing and if that’s the case, move onto Step 2, which is do something else for a while: walk in the country, go to a football match, swim in the sea, anything to take your mind off it. I tend to find that, most of the time, my brain has worked out a solution in the background without me really knowing. Finally, write a different chapter; you don’t have to write chapters in sequence. For example, I was stuck for a while writing Book 3, Under a Distant Star, so I wrote what is essentially a standalone chapter of Book 4, The Jacinta. I knew exactly what would happen in that, so it broke the logjam and when I went back to Book 3, it all started going again.

What’s one thing you always have with you when you’re writing?

Music. Some people are horrified about having music playing, but I find it mush less distracting than people walking upstairs, noise from the street, the cat pretending it’s starving to death and so on. It will be classical music and preferably instrumental; Sibelius was very helpful when I was writing about the frozen wastes of the north, in Book 6, The Elentar!

What is the one book you would take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?

Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. A truly wonderful book; surreal, touching, absurd, political, it contains so many worlds between the covers. It was obviously banned in the Soviet Union when he wrote it in 1940, but I would recommend anyone to read it.

What is the best part about being an independently published author?

Freedom. If I want to do lots of promotion, I can; if I just want to write books and let other people deal with that, I can. Plus, I spent all my working career in the corporate world and I really have zero interest in going back there.

What’s next for you?

I’ve actually started writing Book 9, which is the final book in this series of The Chronicles of Tala. I also have a comedy novel, Plato’s Frog, I’ve written that I’m not quite sure what to do with at the moment and I’m writing another one, The Dream Team. In the shorter term, Book 6 The Elentar is scheduled for publication in September 2020 and Book 7, Coast of Storms, is being edited as we speak, so it’s an exciting time.