09 October 2019

Julietta Henderson: ‘The one piece of advice that underpins every other – just keep on writing’

Julietta Henderson
by Katie Smart Author Interviews, From Our Students

Julietta Henderson studied on our three-month online novel-writing course in 2013. She met her agent, C&W’s Sue Armstrong on one of our alumni summer schools and now she has a fantastic six-figure two-book deal with Transworld for her debut novel The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman.

We caught up with Julietta to find our more about the author-agent relationship, her approach to novel-writing and her time studying with us. 

You were a student on our online novel-writing course back in 2013. How did your time studying with us impact your approach to writing?
A lot, actually. My writing has always been very character-led, so apart from giving me some valuable insight into structure and plotting, the course forced me to share my work – not just with the tutor, but also with a group, something I’d never done before. Even though writing is such a solitary job, getting that kind of constructive feedback is incredibly helpful. A couple of years later I also did a week-long ‘summer school’ with CBC, which was the catalyst for coming up with an entirely new idea for a novel to work on (by then I was struggling with the original one). That ‘new idea’ became “The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman”.

Many of our students find their writing community on our courses, are you still in touch with any of your course mates?
Absolutely. There’s a group of nine of us that have stayed in touch regularly ever since. They are such an amazingly talented, supportive and generous group, and it’s been wonderful to watch as so many of them have gone on to be published. There have also been quite a few real life meet-ups to celebrate milestones, publishing deals and life in general!

You’re represented by C&W’s Sue Armstrong, what was the process of getting an agent like for you?
I’m going to have to say it was a dream come true! I had met Sue briefly several years ago (at a pitch session at the CBC summer school) and I always knew that she was the agent I wanted. When I finished the book, I contacted Anna and she agreed Sue was the perfect choice and told me to submit the entire manuscript. I didn’t actually have a Plan B for any other agents and I decided to wait until I heard back from Sue either way, so I was over the moon when she got in touch with me after just a couple of days to say she was loving it. Within a week or so she had offered me representation – so it was all very quick! Sue and C&W are without a doubt the absolute perfect fit for me.

Your debut novel is to be published by Transworld, what was it like working with Sue to get your novel ready to send to publishers?
I absolutely trusted in Sue from the very beginning, because it was so clear to me that she really ‘got’ the book and my characters. We worked on a couple of rounds of edits and her suggestions were spot on. Most of the edits were minor, but there was one in particular that required quite a lot of work (I wrote out an entire ‘key’ character) so it was a couple of months before I sent her back the final draft. Because she’s so insightful though, I always felt confident that it was going to be a better book at the end of it – and it definitely was.

Your debut novel deals with loss, laughter and growing up. Can you tell us a bit more about The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman and what inspired you to write this story?
I’ve always been drawn to quirky characters in real life, so I guess it makes sense that I write them as well. I loved the idea of someone who had a passion for comedy but wasn’t really that funny, and the characters of Norman and his mum Sadie actually arrived to me before the story did. I guess the inspiration behind it is the idea that if someone has endured huge sadness in their life, how wonderful it can be if something good comes out of the devastation. The story deals with comedy, tragedy, friendship, grief, loneliness, hope, single parenthood and a road trip from Penzance to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!

What does a typical day of writing look like for you – do you have any rituals?
There’s definitely no typical day of writing for me – although that’s something to aspire to! Because I also write for my ‘day job’, it’s always a constant struggle to not only to find time for my own projects, but also to be in the right creative headspace. I find it works much better (for me) to set aside entire days devoted to novel writing rather than try to squeeze in small blocks of time every day. On those days, my only rituals are an early morning beach walk, endless procrastination and plenty of cups of tea.

If you could only share one piece of advice with aspiring authors what would it be?
The one piece of advice that underpins every other – just keep on writing. It’s the only way to get to where you want to go…

Finally, what’s next for you and your writing journey?
I’ve started work on book number two, although it’s still at a super early stage and mostly in my head and scribbles on scraps of paper at the moment! I’m looking forward to getting a nice big block of time to really get stuck into it soon – and I’m sure my friends and family are hoping it won’t take as long as the first one did!

If you’re currently writing a novel – and want to study with us like Julietta – applications are open now for our three-month online novel-writing course taught by Suzannah Dunn. Or, our three-month novel-writing course in London led by Charlotte Mendelson. 

We also have one HW Fisher Scholarship place available for a talented writer of limited financial means to join our upcoming 3-month course in London.

We also run six-week online courses designed to help writers at different stages of their novel-writing journey: Starting to Write Your NovelWrite to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel.

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