Julia Boggio has just released her first book and is determined to resurrect the spirit of Jilly Cooper with this racy page turner, Shooters. She chats to Editor Karine Torr about her inspirations and aspirations.
Julia: When I was at university in 1996, I enrolled on a creative writing class and was working on a story about a wizarding school. I wanted to sign up for a second class with the same tutor, but needed his authorisation to do so. Before signing my permission form, he looked me dead in the eye and said: “Julia, I think you’ll write the Great American Novel one day, but please: no more of those wizarding stories.”
Harry Potter came out the following year.
This taught me one of my first lessons on writing: follow your own gut and write what you want to write.
If I back up even further in my timeline, I remember when my English teacher gave us an assignment to take two characters from two books we had read over the summer and write a scene where they met. I chose Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye and Wart from The Once and Future King because they were around the same age, but came from completely different backgrounds.
This taught me that characters with opposite personalities and contrasting goals make great dialogue.
Fast forward a few years to the period of my life when I discovered romance novels (I’m talking early teens here). I had a go at writing a sex scene. The words “throbbing phallus” may have been employed. Anyway, I tucked the pages into an atlas in my room and forgot about them. Then I went to Italy to visit relatives by myself. My step-mother had an urge to know exactly where in Italy I had gone. Out came my atlas. And out fell my sex scene. She read it to my father while he was shaving. We’re all lucky he survived.
This taught me never to use the word phallus in a sex scene.
In the beginning…
I knew from an early age that I wanted to write. I was always making up stories and acting them out with my dolls. After graduating from university, I became an advertising copywriter. I wanted to be like Don Draper from Mad Men, even though the series didn’t exist yet. Unfortunately, I lived in New Jersey where the pharmaceutical advertising industry was king, so I spent most of my days writing about drugs and reading scientific papers. I still remember my first ad campaign headline: “Turn pees into ZZZs”. It was for men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (basically, the drug stopped them from getting up a million times per night to go to the toilet). Even though the money was good, I wasn’t really enjoying it and couldn’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. But it wasn’t the right time to start writing books yet. I felt that I hadn’t had enough life experience.
A new passion
At this point, my path took a bit of diversion. I discovered photography on a 6-month journey through South America. Both my grandfathers had been keen photographers, so it was in my blood. I retrained. I spent the next 15 years running a photography business, starting out in weddings and then opening up my own portrait studio in Wimbledon (did I mention that I moved to the UK, got married, became a YouTube star because my wedding dance went viral, and danced with Patrick Swayze on Oprah?). As a photographer, I worked with a lot of celebrities, Chelsea families, and minor foreign royalty. I got to photograph both Queen (the band) and The Queen. The job definitely had its perks. I won awards. I loved it.
Until I didn’t. Running a photography studio is a hard business. My husband worked with me for 7 years, but then he turned to me one day and said, “If I have to sell one more newborn photo, I’m going to perish” and off he popped, back to his first love: IT.
I know, but somebody’s got to love it.
I was left with a large business and a baby at the same time. I closed the studio down, but didn’t close the business. I still serviced the same clients, but I either hired studios or set up my equipment in their houses. It was tiring work, having to schlep the equipment around from my storage unit to studios, up stairs, down stairs. I wasn’t getting any younger. The joy I used to feel as a photographer started to ebb and I was resenting the hustle.
A change of career (again)
At a photography conference, I was having coffee with a friend when I said that I was thinking of writing books about photographers. She said, “Oh, you want to be the Jilly Cooper of photography!” In that moment, the characters, plot and name for my book came flooding into my head and I knew what I had to do.
In autumn 2019, I closed my photography business down for good (great timing in hindsight). I started writing SHOOTERS just before the pandemic and finished it towards the end. I took a 6-month selective writing course with Curtis Brown Creative, where I met my writing tribe (i.e. support network).
I also started a book podcast called Two Lit Chicks, which is now in its third season. We interview writers about the books that changed their lives and we’ve talked to loads of big names, like Bonnie Garmus, Claire Fuller, Kit de Waal, and Damian Barr. On Fridays, we drop a literary quiz that’s become very popular among bookish folk.
Art Imitating Life
I waited to start writing until my 40s because I didn’t feel like I had enough life experience. They say the first book is often the most autobiographical. I don’t agree with this at all. I mean, my main character, Stella Price, may be an ex-medical copywriter who turned into a photographer, but she has red hair, so it’s definitely not me (I’m a brunette).
What Jilly Cooper’s Riders did for show jumping, SHOOTERS does for wedding photography. It’s a sizzling romcom: a hilarious, heart-pounding novel about owning our past mistakes and being true to ourselves.
And if my old university professor happens to read this, then I hope he’ll be glad to know I’m not writing those wizarding stories anymore.
SHOOTERS is available to buy from Amazon.
Julia Boggio is a multi-award-winning ex-photographer, who became an original YouTube star when her first dance sparked a worldwide trend in choreographed first dances. She’s appeared on Richard & Judy; Sky, ITV and BBC news — and The Oprah Winfrey Show where she famously danced with Patrick Swayze. (And yes, there is a news-worthy first dance in the book!) You can check out Julia’s website here.
Julia is also co-host of the book podcast, Two Lit Chicks.
Listen to her book podcast, TWO LIT CHICKS, here
Follow her on social Media:
Facebook: Julia Boggio
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