Author Interview – Julian Martin

It’s Thursday, so come join me for another Author Interview. This week I’m talking with Julian Martin, author of Juni-Q and the Secrecy of Desire.

Julian writes Literary Fiction, and you can learn more about him and his book on his website and social media.


Social awkwardness, friendship in a cruel world, class conflict, survival of trauma and more are examined through the probing, sensitive, sardonic eyes of Juniper Quinten as a hedonistic Spring Break on a yacht takes a dark turn.

Juni-Q and the Secrecy of Desire

Questions About Writing

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

In early elementary, I found the idea of writing a story very daunting. Writing a whole page was scary in the second grade. By fifth grade, I was able to make a page work, and that lit the fire. Each story grew longer and more complex since. 

What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Get feedback, a lot of it. Pay for it if you have to. Listen for criticisms that keep coming up. Look for suggestions that would bring the work closer to what *you* want it to be. The criticisms that sting might be the ones you need to hear most, the points you secretly agree with deep down yet fear you aren’t good enough to tackle yet. Or maybe they’re fools and you need to triple down on what you’re doing! But get feedback. I spent years writing screenplays and doing nothing with them, playing entirely to an audience of one: me. I would be satisfied with one, and then move on to the next. Once I started buying coverage and trading reviews with other writers, I realized that, while essentially good, many of my screenplays needed work on a number of levels. The confidence I had felt about some of them turned out to be somewhat misguided.

Plotter or pantser or somewhere in between?

I’ve been a pretty heavy plotter for my screenplays. Without a plan, they can veer off the rails quickly, and efficiency is so crucial with 90-120 pages. My levels of planning varied, but the screenplay where I mapped out nearly every scene in advance, Death’s Brother, has been my most lauded. For my novels, I’m mostly a pantser, although writing a sequel to my first novel has led me to take more notes on where things are going. Still, I only have a vague idea of the location of the ending, a few major beats, and some imagery in mind. By the time I get there, I will still be discovering the intricacies of the story and building on things I haven’t written yet, and therefore remain unaware of.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Keeping track of all my characters, their needs, their conflicts, and tying it all together in a way that contributes to the central themes of the story can get to be a bit much at times. I tend to get a bit myopic about my leads, and keep throwing in new secondary characters. After all, we do tend to meet lots of people as we go about life who fulfill different purposes, whereas in a story we want more interconnectedness. Economy of characters serves many purposes, but one of them is that they make the characters richer and give them more dimensions. So I often fix this by cutting/combining characters afterwards. Or I ask, what is this character’s arc? How might they change over the course of the story? Finding ways to give more characters a beginning, middle and end can help a story immeasurably and prevent your secondary characters from being cardboard cutouts.

Does writing energize or exhaust you? 

Well, if I did a good job, I feel energized afterwards, but typically to do any writing I have an energy reservoir which must fill up over time, and that can take from days to years. Indeed, I went through most of college without writing anything beyond poetry and a few short scripts towards the end, and from 2005 to 2012 I worked on a single screenplay. What energizes me is having something to say, and either a new way to say it, or a very solid, classic way to get it across. I have to feel it will be good, and part of the reason that one screenplay took so long is that my ambitions for it were greater than my skill level when I began it. I knew I’d have to become a better artist to complete it, and if I didn’t feel good enough, I had no energy to write it. Of course, after I complete anything, I am extremely energized for days or weeks, telling anyone and everyone about it.

That said, I do believe that with discipline, skill, and modest page count expectations, much can be gained from sitting in front of the computer even if I don’t think I have the energy.  Maybe I’ll just edit a few sentences or delete a passage, but it’s progress, and can even lead to sudden inspiration.

Do your family and friends support your writing?

My wife supports me completely, and has let me read my novel to her. I haven’t always had that in a relationship, but now that I do, I consider it pretty much mandatory. It breaks my heart to hear about other authors with uninterested, unsupportive spouses. As for family, well, they’ve always had pretty different tastes from mine, so I keep the beans and potatoes separate on the plate when it comes to them. They generally want me to do well, but they would have absolutely zero interest in any of my particular works. I would also feel that showing that side of myself would interfere with my general persona around family. I’m just a quieter person around them, and keep many details of my life from them. Sharing one of my works with my mother would feel like talking about my sex life with my mother. I just don’t, and it’s fine that way. Better that way!

Questions About Your Books

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?

The story, honestly. I had no idea what Juni-Q and the Secrecy of Desire would become when I began. For a few pages, I wondered if she’d be a vampire hunter. Funnily enough, my first screenplay, Martin and Sira, also began as a possible vampire tale, and in both cases the human drama became so compelling to me that I tossed out the undead entirely. So as I kept writing, Juni-Q became a very realistic story, one of youth and exploration. It was on the way to becoming nearly plotless, but as I kept writing and looking for new directions to take it, a character wound up disappearing, and from there followed the rest of the novel. Who was alive, who was behind a door, who’s up to something… all these aspects were mysteries to me often until the moment the words appeared on the page. It was a thrilling process, and I find it to be one of the biggest rewards of writing novels. 

What is the significance of the title?

Juni-Q and the Secrecy of Desire is meant to have an ambiguous meaning, as “desire” is a word with multiple connotations. Some people might look at it and immediately assume it’s an erotica title, which isn’t entirely accurate. Some desires are lusty, but some are noble. One can desire more meaningful conversations in life. One can also desire illicit, immoral things. But one thing that can be shared by all is secrecy. We often hide our desires, even the virtuous ones. We don’t say what we want. Yet it nearly goes without saying that illicit desires are more likely to be kept secret. Secret desires boil under the surface for many characters in my novel. Some are good, and some are far from it.

What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

There is! Indeed, it’s called Juni-Q and the Allure of Hypocrisy, and I’m about 20,000 words into it, which may be a third or possibly a quarter of the story. I can’t go into too many details of the plot, because it’s a spoiler for the conclusion of part one, but that does reveal that it’s very much a continuation following that direction. Once you finish the first book, you may have an idea where part two is going. I began it without any sense of a third, because I had no idea where the story would end up, but when Amazon asked me if it was a series, I said sure, and titled it The Eyes of Juni-Q. As I started gaining a sense where part two was headed, I began to see where part three could go. At the moment, I feel it’s a trilogy that will be quite concluded by the end, but at the same time, since Juni-Q is so much a part of me, I may want to return to her down the road, perhaps in middle age. 

Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book?

I wrote a large portion of Juni-Q listening to Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. So far, part two has been written to the sounds of birds whistling, as I put on YouTube videos of critters for my dogs to watch while I’m working.  The younger one watches them, at least, and he’s the one I’m concerned about, and so it goes. 

Questions About Reading

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

Stephen King and Oscar Wilde. Now there’s a pair! I grew up on King, which means I grew up slightly warped by King. There’s a lurking darkness in nearly everything I write. Even my comedic screenplay Poppycock, a slapstick homage to the Marx Brothers, has the death of a wife and alcoholism as the impetuses of the story. Several of my screenplays are trying to win the world championship for darkness, but in the Juni-Q series, the balance is more in the middle. King’s influence is also in the writing itself, as I always loved his use of italics to express character thoughts. Amazingly, I wrote Juni-Q without italics at first, but it was such a confusing mess for anyone else to process that italics solved the problem. 

I discovered Oscar Wilde through the music of Morrissey and his interviews, album covers, etc. Wilde was a fixture of The Smiths years, fueling Morrissey’s sense of wit and wordplay, and I based a few papers in college on his life and works. One might notice a fair bit of wit and wordplay in my works as well, although it is a bit drier than Wilde’s to the point of being nearly imperceptible to some readers. 

Do you prefer paper or digital books?

Absolutely paper. I have read a few books on tablets and phones, and while I enjoy reading on a ebook screen more than any LED, having a paper book is the best for my eyes. The tactility, the ability to quickly flip backwards and reread passages, the artwork, and the heft of it all enhance the reading experience for me. I can see an argument where an ebook is a purer form of the novel, as you really only have the words and nothing more, but the uniqueness of each paper book is presentation, and presentation has always shaped how people perceive art. 

What genres do you prefer to read? 

I grew up on science fiction, fantasy and horror, but once I reached a certain age I embraced more literary works, although especially from authors who were fond of drink and drugs. Once I discover a writer I enjoy, I tend to read most of their work. While subject matter turns me off many classic novels, I still look for those that are considered among the best, or groundbreaking. When I found out that Malcolm Lowry had written one of the greatest works in the English language, and it was about a drunkard, I raced to order that and read it! Indeed, it is a monumental work, although absolutely a cautionary tale by a writer who sensed he himself was doomed.

Personal Questions

Favorite artist and favorite song?

There’s no way to pick only one, but allow me to suggest the band Sparks and the song, “When I Sit Down to Play the Organ at the Notre Dame Cathedral.” Sparks is a band I only recently discovered, but I also discovered that I should have been listening to them my entire life. They’ve been around since before I was born, and they’re still making new, fantastic music. This summer I’ll see them in concert for the second time. They’ve had so many phases in their music career, but each one was the kind of music I liked listening to growing up. They’ve proven to be a very inspirational band to me in many ways. They always push for something new and never rest on their laurels. They have a relentless work ethic, and while I don’t, I respect their process and try to emulate it in my own ways. They have such deeply ingrained artistic principles that if they could live forever, they’d keep making music forever. I’d like to believe that I will keep writing into my old age, perhaps until my last day on earth. I don’t know what kind of stories they’ll be, but I’ll keep applying my principles to my interests, and something will happen. 

That song is particularly amazing, being an epic seven minute experimental track made in 2006 perfecting a new orchestral, symphonic direction they took in 2002. And then they shifted gears again. Thirty-five years into their career, they were as full of energy and ideas as they were in the beginning. It may take you a few listens, but when you put it all together in your mind, it’s stunning.

Do you prefer tea or coffee or something else?

I drink the darkest coffee known to mankind, and if there’s something else darker, I will find it and drink that. I have sleep apnea, and while a CPAP machine makes my nights more restful than they used to be, coffee powers me through my job and as well as my writing. Otherwise, I’ll be ceaselessly yawning and/or unable to get myself off the couch. 

Would you rather watch a movie or read a book?

I suppose the fact that I’ve written ten screenplays vs one novel betrays the answer, although I’m not necessarily proud of it: I’m a movie man. That’s my go-to diet for artistic consumption. I keep a novel or two on the backburner, picking at them occasionally, but they’re just not my main course. I was a more active reader in my youth, when there were fewer choices, and I have a very respectable bookshelf of completed books. When I’m writing novels, though, I find it necessary to read more to put me in the right frame of mind. I would like to read even more, but I’m also always conscious of the movies I’m missing out on! So many classics to catch up on, as well as each year’s best keeps me very busy. 

Thank you to Julian for joining me for this week’s interview. And all of you, remember to go follow him on social media and grab a copy of his book.

I love to hear from my readers, so leave a comment and brighten my day <3

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