My guest today is a scientist turned novelist. I’ve heard of many lawyers, doctors, and nurses but few scientists who’ve turned to writing fiction. I hope you enjoy meeting Juliane Weber! Let’s take a look at her background and then find out more about her.
Juliane is actually a scientist. She holds degrees in physiology and zoology, including a PhD in physiology. During her studies she realized, however, that her passion lay not in conducting scientific research herself, but in writing about it. Thus began her career as a medical writer, where she took on all manner of writing and editing tasks, in the process honing her writing skills, until she finally plucked up the courage to write her first historical novel, Under the Emerald Sky. The book is the first in The Irish Fortune Series, which is set in 19th-century Ireland around the time of the Great Famine.
Juliane lives with her husband and two sons in Hamelin, Germany, the town made famous by the story of the Pied Piper.
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Juliane: Thank you, Betty, for inviting me onto your blog today!
I had thought about writing a book for many years before actually doing it. The only thing I knew for sure, though, was that I would write historical fiction, as this is my favorite genre to read. Besides that, I had no idea when or where my hypothetical novel would take place and really fell into the eventual setting quite by accident. While googling interesting times in history, I came across the Irish Potato Famine and was immediately drawn to this setting, as I loved the idea of the 19th century and of Ireland with its beautiful scenery, its myths and legends, as well as writing about a time in history that hasn’t been written about quite as much as some others. And so, the idea for Under the Emerald Sky was born.
Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?
Juliane: Both my main characters, Quin and Alannah, arrived mostly developed and slipped quite easily into their roles in each scene. I had a little more difficulty with Alannah’s brother, Kieran. Although I did know a lot about him from the start, it took a bit of time to really figure him out. The somewhat villainous character of Herbert Andrews was the most challenging, as he kept doing all sorts of things that didn’t even make sense to me. Once I understood his devious mind, though, it all started coming together!
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Juliane: When I first decided on 19th-century Ireland as the setting for my book, I did quite a bit of reading to get a broad idea of what I was dealing with. This nearly made me give up on the whole thing, actually, as it was no mean feat wading through the complex layers of social, political and agrarian factors that contributed to the disaster that was the Great Famine. I stuck with it, though, and once I had a good general idea about the historical background, I concentrated on doing specific research as scenes required it, looking up particular things in reference books, historical records, scientific papers and so on. I find this kind of targeted research more effective than trying to deal with everything at once, as that can be quite overwhelming!
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Juliane: I don’t really write drafts as such. I tend to write fairly slowly, fiddling with each scene until I feel that it’s the best that I can make it. Once I’ve written all the scenes I feel are needed in the book, that’s it (aside from the general editing, of course).
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Juliane: I like to read a bit of what I wrote the previous day to get back into the right mindset when I sit down to write.
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Juliane: I’m a big fan of Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series of books. She’s a scientist turned novelist, and her story inspired me to also try my hand at writing a novel, being a scientist myself. I would love to have a chat with her about her experiences – and of course to tell her how much I love her books!
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Juliane: I used to carry my laptop around the house and write wherever I could, but I have become a little more sophisticated in that I now have an office in which to write and revise! As far as reading is concerned, on a nice summer day I love to sit outside on the terrace in the sun, otherwise I’m more than happy with the couch.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Juliane: At this point in my writing career, success is as simple as having a reader really enjoy my book. Of course, not everyone will love (or even like) what I’ve written but receiving glowing reviews and having readers recommend my book to others makes me feel like I’ve done something worthwhile. I feel a sense of achievement when someone tells me that the story moved them and that the characters stayed with them long after they finished reading. It’s those reactions that make me love a book myself, and so I’m thrilled when I’m told that I’ve achieved the same with my writing.
It’s 1843 and the English nobleman Quinton Williams has come to Ireland to oversee the running of his father’s ailing estate and escape his painful past. Here he meets the alluring Alannah O’Neill, whose Irish family is one of few to have retained ownership of their land, the rest having been supplanted by the English over the course of the country’s bloody history. Finding herself drawn to the handsome Englishman, Alannah offers to help Quin communicate with the estate’s Gaelic-speaking tenants, as much to assist him as to counter her own ennui. Aware of her controlling brother’s hostility towards the English, she keeps her growing relationship with Quin a secret – a secret that cannot, however, be kept for long from those who dream of ridding Ireland of her English oppressors.
Among the stark contrasts that separate the rich few from the plentiful poor, Under the Emerald Sky is a tale of love and betrayal in a land teetering on the brink of disaster – the Great Famine that would forever change the course of Ireland’s history.
Thanks so much for sharing your writing process with us, Juliane! I’ve read this story and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Best-selling Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
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