Julie Gilbert is a prolific writer on Kindle Vella and a very supportive member of the Kindle Vella community. Like myself, she has a variety of genres available for you to read, so I’m sure you can find a series you like.
Tell us about your work
I have six Vella projects and one more about to release. I’ll only talk about six of those total though, since one is under a pen name for good reasons.
Christmas Shorts will someday be a collection of mystery and thrillers set around Christmas or that have Christmas themes. There’s only one story (from the Heartfelt Cases Series) there currently, and that is thirteen episodes long. I’d like to keep them in the 13-20 episode range. I do have an idea for the next one. Oddly, it came from a vivid dream I had recently, but I think I can make it work.
Why Heartfelt Cases? Well, I owed poor Joy Davidson a wedding. She’s been engaged for about six years in the real world and in the fictional world, the wedding plans kept getting delayed.
The Minder Project Season 1 is a science fiction story featuring genetic engineering. It updates on Wednesdays. The government gave Naidine genetic Gifts. Now, it wants what it paid for from the program.
This story focuses very tightly on Naidine, who started out as Nadia Ayers from the Devya’s Children series. She’s a Minder. Basically, she was given a brain that grows and adapts very quickly, giving her enhanced abilities like telepathy.
5 Steps to Better Dialogue – This is the latest in my nonfiction 5 Steps series. Half that series is about writing and the other half is about chemistry or school since I’m also a high school teacher. (I feel like nonfiction titles should come with spoiler tags.) This is a book for writers seeking to learn more about the creation of realistic characters and dialogue.
Assassin School Season 1 This is a young adult thriller series. It’s a prequel companion piece to the Megan Luchek series. One of the characters you’d meet in the Megan Luchek series is an assassin named Cassandra. I wanted to know more about how she was trained, thus was born Assassin school where teen spies try to survive the rigorous training and other drama as powerful people battle to control the Ghost children.
Season 1 is complete, but I keep vacillating on whether or not to keep them together or not. Today, I’m leaning toward keeping the series together. It’s on my agenda to write, I just haven’t gotten to it yet. Got sucked down the rabbit hole of launching two more Vella projects.
Dustin’s Decision Devya’s Children Book 5 – This is a YA scifi series that shares characters with Minder Project. It’s actually part of the regular series, as opposed to Minder Project, which is a spinoff. Genetically altered teens struggle to navigate the murky world and control their Gifts.
Why did you choose to use a series format?
Since hearing about the Vella platform, I’ve been curious. I’m a scientist at heart; I love experiments.
Dustin’s Decision and the Dialogue book are what I’d consider normal books I released on Vella to test things like how the bonus system works with release schedules. I don’t think anybody knows how that works. The almighty Amazon likes to keep its secrets close to the chest. That’s fine. I half suspect they keep tweaking the bonus model to throw off cheaters.
Christmas Shorts is a complete experiment. I have no idea if it’s going to work. It’s going to be shorter tales, so they’ll go live quicker than if I try to write a full novel then release, but it will follow more of a burst and episode drought model, which probably doesn’t play nicely with the algorithms.
It’s not a very good experiment in the sense that I have too many variables. In addition to it being an odd, short story format, they will have tie-ins to various other series I have. The first tie-in was Heartfelt Cases. The second will be Fatal Interest, which is currently a standalone novella that’s as close to a cozy mystery as I come.
Assassin School was meant to be true serial, but sort of ended up being normal, at least for Season 1. Season 2 will follow more standard release schedules like serials should.
Minder Project is the closest I have to a true serial in the sense that it’s unfolding over time with weekly updates. But I was really bad at this in the beginning. Like, abysmally bad at updates. So, we’ll see what happens.
Short answer: I wanted to see what Vella’s all about.
My upcoming litRPG/gamelit series will be true serial in the sense that it could legitimately continue however my little mind can churn out ideas.
The secret project under a pen name is also a true serial, but that one is nonfiction.
Tell us more about how you write
What is your greatest challenge in writing?
Are we talking about the writing life? Because then I say marketing by default.
If we’re talking about writing process, it probably seems like focusing on one type of project. But with Covid running around, my major challenge has been focus in general. That’s why I did a bunch of nonfiction projects.
For some reason, my brain will allow nonfiction even if it’s struggling with fiction.
I didn’t write much of anything in 2020 except some nonfiction. In 2021, I did a lot of audiobook projects, which is a different kind of work. Around Christmas, I caught Covid. Didn’t land in the hospital, thank goodness, but it did knock me flat for two weeks and kept me under a cloud of fatigue for another 5-ish weeks beyond that. Early February, I settled back into a groove.
What surprised you in the writing process?
I’m eager to tackle the next Christmas Short. It should have a darker feel than Fatal Interest, but I’m curious how it’ll turn out. I don’t often turn dreams into full stories.
That said, I am one of those people who outlines vaguely then watches as the thing runs where it may. I don’t consider myself a true pantser though because I do actually have plans going into projects. They just mostly run amok on me during the writing process.
This is very much my writing style, too!
That leads to many surprises.
lol, yes, it does!
In Assassin School, I hadn’t expected to want to include much about Cassandra’s mother.
Is there something that you found particularly helpful while writing?
I’m a MS Word girl. I tried Scrivner for like a half hour, saw the bajillion hours of tutorials out there on Youtube, mentally said heck with this, apologized to my Word program for ever doubting it, and never looked back.
I completely understand!
Recently, I bought one of those AI programs that will read stories to you, but oddly, I do most of my work in Word itself with David, Zira, and Mark (the built-in Read Aloud readers that come with the program). I love them because they highlight the words as they read them to me. It’s usually very easy to tell when I’ve written the wrong word or skipped a word.
I know we tend to write what we know, but did you need to do research for this book?
For fiction writing, my research mainly consists of baby name sites, Google maps, and occasional words or phrases. I also look up towns in random states, particularly where I think there might be small populations. Several stories, Minder Project and Assassin School in particular have Black Sites, which are places truly off grid where the government hides its shady, illegal, but still cool programs.
I look up a lot of names, as well.
Most other things come from my delightfully twisted mind.
Having read a good chunk of Assasin’s School and some of your other work, I would have to say that your “delightfully twisted mind” does great on its own!
I don’t do much research for fantasy stuff, but I do consume a lot of audiobooks in multiple genres. I guess that has to count for something.
What was the coolest or most surprising thing you learned?
I was looking up scopolamine recently. That’s a fun drug.
What else can you describe in your writing process?
My writing process varies a bit per project. For fiction, I write down the concept in ugly paragraph form then start throwing down ideas for things that I want to happen in chapters. Then, I write paragraph descriptions of what should happen in each chapter. This could be as simple as so and so gets kidnapped. Next, I write each chapter. Most chapters will shape the next one, so things unfold and morph along the way.
These days, my next step after having a section done is to proof it with Read Aloud.
I need to start using the audio function in my editing process. I think my ears would catch what my eyes miss.
Time to share
How do you know your piece is ready to be shared/complete?
The Megan Luchek series started as a Kindle Worlds project, but then became its own thing. There are 10 novellas in three separate series. I think that mentality transferred over to my Vella works. That’s essentially how Assassin School will unfold. Season 1 was 21 episodes and a total of about 30K words.
For projects like the litRPG one, which is more like fictional nonfiction, I’m just waiting to get a good store of episodes. I am up to 11 but now want around 15-20 before scheduling them.
(It should be noted that the count was accurate when Julie first began this interview with me. By the time it actually posts, she has completed quite a lot more.)
Who is your expected audience?
Dustin’s Decision, Minder Project, and Assassin School – Those who love clean/YA, scifi and thriller stories.
5 Steps to Better Dialogue – authors
Christmas Shorts – Those who love clean or Christian mystery/thriller/suspense stories.
Aeris Legends: Wrath and War – Those who love clean litRPG/gamelit.
Who has been your strongest supporter?
I’m not sure I have a strongest supporter, unless we’re counting God. I have a friend who helped me proofread one of my nonfiction chemistry workbooks, but not sure I can truly count that because I did pay her for her time.
Was she completely honest with you, or was there a professional distance? Paid or not, I bet she supports you well.
Other author influences
If you could have any author (alive, dead, or fictional) read your book, who would you like to read it?
I’d be interested to hear what Brandon Sanderson thought of any of my series. The man just ran one of the largest kickstarters ever, but that’s only because he spent the last several decades becoming one of the most well-known names in the scifi/fantasy writing world. He’d probably just call them too short. I think the longest single work I have is one of the Anotech Chronicles stories (epic scifi) and that clocks in at ~120K.
I love Brandon Sanderson’s work. I first found him through Mistborn and the Wheel of Time series. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences in his style between the two series based on whether it was solely his or a partnership.
What author, or book, or series most influenced you?
I love/loved Nancy Drew/ Hardy Boys, Star Wars, Firefly, Mistborn, Castle, Criminal Minds, the X-Files, Doll House, Rizzoli and Isles, Narnia, Lord of the Rings (movies), and most of the Marvel movies.
A cool moment as an author was reading a review that compared a story to Tess Gerritsen’s work.
But we need more!
Randomness about me:
- I like spaghetti, even though I can barely spell it.
- I collect Star Wars stuff, though I’m trying to get rid of most of that collection.
- I’ve read over 500 Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. I kept a list of them as a kid.
- My personal tagline is Writer. Teacher. Believer. That about sums me up.
- My fun reading is almost 100% audiobooks these days.
- I still enjoy a good 1000 piece puzzle.
- Fun fact, when I had Covid, my sense of sour taste got enhanced. Gave sour patch kids quite the kick.
What else is important to share about your book?
Random: Most of my books have a kidnapping in them.
Most of my books have some tie-ins, even if they’re in completely different genres.
- Heartfelt Cases and Devya’s Children have some crossover characters. Both series also mention Anotech Chronicles.
- Sam Kerman from Scratched Off has a cameo in one of the recent Megan Luchek stories.
- All Path to the Chosen Redeemer Stories take place on Aeris. Redeemer Chronicles was the original tale. Aeris Legends was the prequel trilogy.
- Aeris Legends: Wrath and War is the lore connected to Aeris. It’s framed as a video game. The game itself is a major part of an upcoming litRPG series of novels. (I’m in about 15/40 chs into book one of that series.)
- Assassin School is the backstory for Cassandra Mirren from the Megan Luchek series.
- Star Wars is mentioned in most series, including Guardian Angel Files.
- Never Again and Fatal Interest also started out as Kindle Worlds stories before the program kicked the bucket.
- Nadia from Devya’s children becomes Naidine from Minder Project. She’s also the Ghost Girl from Ghost Girl Files (Fatal Interest is the first and only story in that series thus far.)
I LOVE when authors connect their works even if they aren’t a series together.
When can we expect more from you?
I’m almost ready to launch Aeris Legends: Wrath and War, so soon. If you can dig up my nonfiction project, it’s releasing daily at least for the next week.
Where can we find your book?
Where can we find you?