Fall TBR Roundup

As some readers know, I moved to London last May after nearly nine years of living in New York City. While I was excited for new adventures, one thing I was decidedly not excited about was saying goodbye to most of my books. Romance readers—and really any hardcore readers—know that it's really only a matter of time before our books take over our lives. I was definitely at max capacity for books in my old apartment on the Upper East Side. (One of my best friends once told me, "I worry that I won't hear from you for a few days and I'll come over to find you've been crushed to death because one of your book piles has fallen on top of you.") I wound up giving a ton of books to a used bookstore run out of my local library's basement so at least they were going to a good cause.

Unfortunately all of that moving and writing—I handed in The Taste of Temptation to my editor seven days after arriving in the U.K.—I lost track of what I was reading. I've been tracking my reading in some form or another since I was in college, but for whatever reason I just wasn't writing books down as I whipped through them this summer.

I restarted this fall using a pretty notebook, and oh boy can I see a comfort reading trend, especially when I was on deadline and working extra hard to get manuscripts to my editor this summer. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Shell Seekers, by Rosamund Pilcher

This was my first Rosamund Pilcher novel, recommended to me by my mother. It's a sweeping story about several generations of a family. At the center of it is a painting that's a mother's legacy but which most of her children don't appreciate until they realize its value. Throughout the 600+ pages, readers realize that there's far more to the mother's life than she's ever told her children, starting with her childhood in Cornwall and winding through World War II.




The Cazalet Chronicles, by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Another British World War II saga, this book focuses around an upper middle class family as the threat of war and then the reality of it change relationships and fortunes. I actually read the first four books and thought I was done with the series, but then I found out there's a fifth called All Change, written some years after the first four books. That's right up there on my TBR.




Silent in the Grave, by Deanna Raybourn

I'm talked a lot about my love of mystery on this site. The Lady Julia Grey mysteries tick a lot of boxes for me: amateur woman detective, Victorian setting, hero who is just outside the bounds of propriety and has secrets in his past. I've actually read the first three, but Silent in the Grave is the place to start.




The Silent Companions, by Laura Purcell

This was my Halloween read this year. I always get the urge to read something slightly spooky (although not too scary because authors need beauty sleep too). A Gothic novel seemed like just the thing, and this one was about as Gothic as they come. I don't want to say too much for fear of giving away the twisting, turning, always-leaving-you-doubting plot, but it's worth giving this one a shot if you love historical reads. (US readers: this book is available for preorder now and comes out on March 6.)

Surviving Your Next Conference: How to Prepare, What to Do, and How to Unwind

In lieu of my usual #5forFriday, I'm taking a quick moment to talk about something near and dear to my heart: conference season. Every July I pack up my suitcase and head somewhere in the U.S. for the Romance Writers of America national conference to take meetings, see friends, and learn a bunch of stuff about the business of writing romance. It's a huge, fun, exhausting five days, and the first time I went it was totally overwhelming.

Because we all remember being paralyzed at some point during our first conference, the founders at HBIC Nation and I put together a handy Conference Survival Guide to help you navigate any professional conference you're headed to. This digital magazine breaks down goals planning, packing, tackling your schedule, in-conference self care, and decompression once you head home. Whether you're a veteran or a newbie, there's something helpful in there for everyone!

#5forFriday: London Living

It's been a couple weeks since I've done a #5forFriday because things have been a little hectic what with moving countries and all, but I'm settled in and back! 1) I'm living in London! After what felt like months of preparation and waiting, I finally arrived, jet lagged and slightly disoriented in my new city. More than a week later, I'm mostly settled in and enjoying exploring my new city.

2) I turned a book in! The second book in the Matchmaker of Edinburgh series hit my editor's inbox yesterday afternoon. I celebrated by pouring myself a big glass of wine and watching the British soap opera, Emmerdale.

3) I got interviewed! C. Steven Ellis from The Writer's Mind interviewed me just before I left for London, and now the interview is live. You can watch it on YouTube or download the episode on iTunes.

4) I'm reunited with my dogs! Nick and Nora, my family's bichons, have been the stars of my Instagram and Instagram stories for the past week. They even helped me edit — sort of.

Someone decided to read over my shoulder while I edit...

A post shared by Julia Kelly (@juliakellywrites) on

5) I went dancing! I've been a swing and blues dancer for more than ten years and that means that no matter where I am in the world I can always find a friendly community of people who love blues. Since I only know a few people in London, I took myself out dancing on Tuesday and met a great group. Not a bad way to kick off my first week in a new place!

Heroines, Choosing Happiness, and Why I'm Moving From NYC to London)

In a month, I'm going to be uprooting my life in New York City and moving to the United Kingdom.

I will do this to be living closer than a plane ride away from my parents for the first time in my adult life.

I will do this because my sister and her boyfriend will be only an hour away and I want my lady movie watching buddy back.

I will do this for adventure and a promise I made to myself a long time ago to do something that scares me to death every decade or so.

I will do this despite the fact that I'll leave behind friends and a life I've cultivated in weird, wonderful New York for nearly nine years.

I will do this without the security of a day job, giving me the chance for the first time in my author life to write full time for a little while.

I am excited and eager and trepidatious.

What I am not is uncertain about my choice.

My mother often tells me with a laugh that I'm just like my father. We mull over something as important as a life change or as simple as a new gadget for months, researching and weighing pros and cons. We learn everything we can about whatever it is that's caught our imagination. Recently this has led me to become a casual expert on:

  1. Running clothes and training guides (This obsession started a year ago and has not let up, leading me to be somewhat angry with my runner friends who didn't warn me that my laundry would soon be all running clothes and one morning a weekend would be devoted to long runs, often done in the cold and rain because you need those miles in the bank)
  2. Social media and content marketing programs like CoSchedule (Welcome to the sexy behind-the-scenes world of being a working author)
  3. External audio recorders (Podcasting)
  4. Shipping books internationally (My extensive research library is moving to London which is...a challenge)

My father and I will read, collect information, and take notes until one day we're ready. Like a flip being switched, we make our decision and rarely look back. It's as though steeping ourselves in all of that information has infused us with the ability to say, "Yes, that's exactly what I want."

It would make sense that this brand of seemingly contradictory dragged out decisiveness appeals to me. It's similar to the way that heroines in romance novels come to the realization that they are both in love and deserving of it.

The heroine spends the entire story getting to know the hero by talking to and interacting with him (or he does with him in M/M or she does with her in F/F). She might meet family or friends, see him on the job, or watch him at play. Often without realizing it, she's gathering information about the sort of partner he'll be letting that process in her subconscious until she's ready to choose.

All at once she knows. He's the one. It's Elizabeth realizing Darcy has saved her sister. Cher announcing "I love Josh" in front of the fountain in Beverly Hills. It's in the ah-ha moment we spend the entire movie or book waiting for.

Other people—even the hero—might try to move our heroine onto another path, but she's certain. She's chosen the love of the hero, just as she's chosen her own happiness.

This may I'll be choosing my own happiness as well as family and adventure. I plan to share bits and pieces of my move and subsequent settling in to the city I write about—even if the timeline is about 200 years off—and I hope you'll take the journey with me here as well on Instagram and Facebook.

Free Books for Historical Readers!

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I've got a treat for my historical readers! Fifteen historical romance authors and I are giving away copies of our books for a limited time. Want to wander the Highlands? How about a romp in the Regency? Or maybe retreating to the American Revolution is more your style? This giveaway's got you covered.

You can get these books for free until 2/27, but after that the deal's gone! Click on the covers below to be taken directly to the book download link.

Five for Friday (With Kitties)

Last week I told you I'd be sharing this five things I've loved over the past seven days. Here's this week's edition: 1. If you've been reading my blog for awhile you might have noticed things look a little different. I've rebranded to reflect my new pen name for contemporary romance: Julia Blake! I'll still be writing historicals as Julia Kelly, but this will help make it really clear which genre you're going to get when you pick up one of my books. (PS You can check out what'll be coming out from Julia Blake thanks to this preorder which just dropped in price from $4.99 to $1.99!)

2. Hidden Figures. Do yourself a favor. Buy yourself a ticket and treat yourself to a really enjoyable, positive movie. It was exactly the story I needed to see with everything swirling around in the world right now.

3. This excellent post from Cara McKenna on using the 28/40 method to create dynamic heroes (and yes you can absolutely use it for heroines).

4. I'm a RITA judge so I'm working my way through a stack of six books in several different categories. I can't actually name check the author or title, but I'm practically bursting because I read an AMAZING RITA-potential book and I can't talk about it at all! One of these days, long after the RITAs are awarded, I'll slip it into a recommendation list and spread the good word and no one will know. How sneaky!

5. And finally, this photo of my sister and her boyfriends' cats looking very judgmental.

Running in London

For me, the holidays mean packing up my suitcase and heading to my parents' house in London. After growing up in LA, it's home base now and I've been enjoying getting to know the city I've visited a lot but never lived in. Last spring I picked up a new, healthy habit: running. A year ago, I would have jokingly told you that I only run when I'm being chased, but now I've been lacing up my shoes four or five times a week to hit the park or the treadmill. I decided to bring running shoes with me because I wanted to keep the momentum going through my vacation—plus I thought it would be a fun way to see the neighborhoods around the house in London.

I like running in parks because I don't have to stop for red lights, and I'm lucky enough that the house is close to four major Central London parks: Hyde Park, Kensington Park, Green Park, and St. James's Park. They're all interesting in their own ways, and I wanted to run in all of them to see a bit more than I had while wandering with the dogs who are cute but not great running companions.

Meet Nick and Nora, the family's adorable but dirty bichons.

Hyde Park, the biggest of the parks, is probably familiar to most historical romance readers because it's the site of Rotten Row where gentlemen of the ton use to go to exercise their horses. It's still used as a bridal path, but I stuck to the outer loop of the park which meant I got an excellent view of the Italian gardens at the top of the Serpentine.

Italian Gardens in Hyde Park

Hyde Park is situated right next to Kensington Park, which is where Kensington Palace sits. During my visit I made sure to run by the statue of Queen Victoria that stands outside its gates because it was carved by the queen's daughter, Princess Louise, who is providing some of the inspiration for the heroine in the first book of my next historical series (it's too early to give all the details away about that one, but you guys can be the first to be in the know when by signing up for my newsletter).

Green Park is a small park that sits right across the street from Buckingham Palace, and below the Mall is St. James's Park.

My sister and I goofing off outside Buckingham Palace

I ran through Green Park, down Constitution Walk, and into St. James's Park on a bitterly cold morning last week. (It was so cold that when I ran into my sister, her boyfriend, and my Dad walking the dogs, my sister pointed out that my hat had frosted over.) There's a beautiful pond in the middle of the park that you can run around but sadly I don't have photos of because it was so cold my phone died. (See?) The ducks and geese looked at me like I was crazy, but it's so pretty out there that it was worth their judgemental looks.

I also made it down to the Embankment near Westminster Abbey and ran along the Thames River, which is also wonderful. I'd have photos for you, but again, cold.

For more photos from my London trip, be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

First Draught & The "I Love You"

Just a few quick things to tell you about today. Read

I'm over on the Contemporary Romance Writers' blog talking about why your characters don't always have to say, "I love you," at the end of your romance.


I will be speaking at the NECRWA "Let Your Imagination Take Flight" conference from April 24-25. Audra North and I are presenting a practical guide to self-publishing an anthology or box set with great tips about idea creation, organization, and royalties distribution. I'll have more details on that appearance in the coming weeks, but if you plan to be there please say hello and introduce yourself.


The women of First Draught are back at it again talking about problematic heroines. Why can it be so tough to get a heroine just right? Are we harder on our heroines than our heroes in romance? Plus we dish on the heroine tropes we just can't stand.


Also keep an eye out for updates about One Week in Hawaii, the next anthology in the One Week in Love series featuring novellas by Audra North, Alexis Anne, Alexandra Haughton, and myself. We're getting ready to release our very sexy cover and get this book up on preorder.

If you would like to be the first to see that cover and help us spread the word about One Week in Hawaii, check out this quick form.

And don't forget to sign up for newsletter for the very latest preorder and release date information as well as exclusive excerpts!

The Fandoms That Made You

The other day I was catching up on email when I came across Gail Carriger's monthly newsletter. I'm always interested in what she has to say (and what she's been wearing recently), so I clicked on a link called Gail Carriger's Origin Story. In this article, she outlines the five fandoms that made her the person she is now. Turns out that she was influenced by this article from The Nerdy Girlie. I immediately messaged my sister, and we started to hash out the five fandoms that made us who we were. This is what I came up with (in no particular order).

1. Victoriana. 

I'm in the middle of writing a trilogy of Victorian historical romances right now. The manuscript I used to get my agent was set in 1881 London. I don't think it's very surprising that Victoriana has been one of the biggest influences on my life both as an author and a consumer.

It started when I was in high school. I read pretty much every 19th century novel I could get my hands on. Besides Jane Austen and Fanny Burney (who really is late 18th century but I consider her a strong precursor to Austen), most of my reading centered around the Victorians. Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Trollope are still favorites when someone asks who my favorite authors are.

And then I went to college. Declaring a history major very early on gave me the freedom to run wild in the Victorian era. I wound up focusing my study on Victorian female sexuality (through a post-structuralist lens... super pretentious, I  know).* From clothing to calling and courtship practices to prostitution, all of it was fair game. I loved reading about social history and getting my hands on primary source material. I became best friends with my college's temperamental microfiche machines.

I'm not a scholar any longer, but I still read widely about the Victorians.** When you study history, so much of how you look at the world is influenced by the work you do. I can strongly say that my ideas about and appreciation of feminism was strongly influenced by my study. And also my writing which leads me to...

2. Romance novels. I've written before about the first romance novel I ever read. It was cracktastic, and I loved it. I fell into reading as many romance novels as I could, and then graduated from sweet Kensington Zebra Historicals to more explicit books (many of them had kilted highlanders on their covers).

I read romance novels all through high school and college without really finding anyone who felt the same way about these books. I loved falling into the narratives and swimming around in the characters' messy emotions. From Regency to contemporary, I read everything I could get my hands on. I'm still doing that now because my love of those books has only grown as I've started to write my own.

3. The X-Files. My first fandom. I was babysitting my sister when I was in seventh grade and flipping around the channels trying to find something to watch. It was the top of the hour, and I landed on Fox. Since there was a cute guy on the TV, I stayed on the show and proceeded to lose my mind over the course of the hour. I had stumbled upon the a re-airing of season one, episode one of the X-Files. After the episode was done, another came on. I binged watched before binge watching was a thing.

I watched episodes new and old loyally until the show got unredeemably bad. However, in those few years, I was hooked. Everything was X-Files. I clipped out episode recaps, got the now-defunct fanzine, read the novelizations. I read fanfic (my first!). While most girls were head over heels for Devon Sawa (and would soon discover the wonder that was Titanic-era Leo), I had it bad for Fox Mulder. I know there are geek girls out there who feel me on this one.

4. Doctor Who. In 2007 I was studying abroad in the north of England, and I had a lot of downtime on my hands. British universities require far less class time and fewer (if any) regular assignments from students. Compared to the work I did at my college back in the US, I had loads of unstructured time--and that was after doing the recommended reading for my various classes. So what does a 21-year-old with a bad habit of waking up early no matter how late she stayed out at the clubs the night before do? Consume as much British TV through streaming websites as possible.

I found Doctor Who out of necessity. I'd blown through Black Books, The Mighty Boosh, and Spaced not to mention seen all of the movies at the local movie theater I had a pass to. I'd heard of Doctor Who, but I always assumed it was a children's show that my mother watched when she was growing up. However, I decided to give it a try and proceeded to binge watch five episodes of the Christopher Eccleston reboot that night. I became obsessed.

In 2007, very few people were watching Doctor Who in the US because the availability was extremely limited.^ I tried describing the series to my sister who started watching along with so at least I had her to talk to, however it wasn't until 2008 that the show exploded in popularity thanks to BBC America's airings. Suddenly we were all fans of the Doctor, and that was just fine with me.

My love of Doctor Who has not kept up with the show's schedule. I have major problems with Stephen Moffat and his portrayals of women on this show. I suspect I'm also suffering from overexposure as I have no desire to watch through the last Matt Smith season and into the Peter Capaldi years despite a deep love for Malcolm Tucker. But despite all of that, Doctor Who will always exert a strong cultural influence on the things I love.

5. Film noir. I'd grown up reading mysteries with content well outside of my age range. My seventh grade English teacher actually pulled my parents aside to ask if they knew I was reading The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler and L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy (likely due to prostitution story lines in both novels and a certain incident with a garbage disposal in the latter). I remember my mother blinking and then saying yes. If I could understand the content of the book, I could read it.

Perhaps it's no surprise then that I gleefully dove into film noir later that year. I'd been watching classic movies for years, but this genre was eye opening to me. Double Indemnity, The Lady from Shanghai, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, The Big Easy, The Sweet Smell of Success, Sunset Boulevard -- I loved it all. And then I found Laura.


I'm going to get on my soapbox here and say not enough people in this world have seen this movie. Otto Preminger directs Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in this 1944 masterpiece. It ticks all my boxes: a grouchy New York City detective, a career woman more suited to movies in 2014 than 1944, Clifton Webb as his most acerbic, great clothes, a haunting score, a romance, a young Vincent Price, and Judith Anderson being her usual flinty, badass self. This movie wormed its way into my brain and planted itself there. Just... trust me on this one and watch it.

Time to tell me about the five fandoms that made you. Leave a comment or write a blog post of your own!

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*I could nerd out very, very hard right now but I'll save you all of that squee. Also, hopefully by now you've figured out that this is where my propensity for footnotes comes from.

**And fight the urge about every six months to go back and get a PhD or at least a masters in History.

^Read: mostly viewed through highly illegal means.

A Love Letter to Libraries

Liverpool is close to my heart. It's where my mother is from. It's where most of the British side of my family still lives. It's a place I spent quite a lot of time in my early 20s. This morning I ran across an article on The Edge talking about the Save Liverpool Libraries campaign. 11 of Liverpool's 18 libraries are under threat from budget cuts. That means fewer opportunities for people living in the Liverpool metro area to check out books, get jobs services, and take computer courses.

Losing more than half of a city's branch libraries would be devastating anywhere, and it's particularly hard to think about in a city that means so much to my family and me. My mother has fond memories of the Walton Library on Evered Avenue. Going several times a week as a child helped solidified her life-long love of reading. The mass closure of libraries like these 11 in jeopardy makes our cities culturally, intellectually, and economically poorer.

Here in New York City, I've watched the City Council threaten to slash the New York Public Library's budget multiple times. In 2013, the preliminary city budget looked to cut funding to the NYPL, Queens Public Library, and Brooklyn Public Library by $106.7 million. That would have meant the end of Saturday service at branches across the city, one of the only days that many people (myself included) can get to the library. Happily that did not happen, but it was too close for comfort for patrons.

I've watched politicians praise NYC's branch libraries for making books available to kids, resume and job training to the unemployed, and technological education to seniors. Then some of those same people have turned around and tried to pass budgets that would dramatically slash those same library services. This has prompted me to do two things: vote for City Councilmembers who campaign on supporting the NYPL and have the voting record to prove it and open my checkbook each year to make a contribution (albeit small) to the library.

So what can you and I do for Liverpool's libraries? There is a campaign asking us to write love letters to the libraries to keep branches open. Supporters of library accessibility can contact the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson by clicking here. Authors David Nicholls, Caitlin Moran, Malorie Blackman and Carol Ann Duffy have already written their letters.

With campaigns like this, there is always a question of whether outside advocacy will make a difference. I strongly believe that if you care about library accessibility worldwide you have to do something. Even if your contribution to the effort to keep Liverpool's libraries safe from budget cuts is small, it matters.

If you would like to read more about the love letters to the Liverpool libraries, The Guardian recently write about it. I hope you'll join me in spreading the word because even a little nudge from each individual who cares about libraries can help.

Ice Bucket Challenge

Well, it happened. My critique partner and all-around-wonderful-friend Alexis Anne tagged me in the Ice Bucket Challenge. I asked for a little help... and got two direct hits in the face with very cold water! Good thing I had a plan in store for my helper... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ju5AD5LDi-Y&feature=youtu.be

New Short Story Coming

FirstUndressing1-300x300Well isn't this just the week of updates? RWA really got the creative juices flowing and shamed me into tackling a couple housekeeping projects for this site that I've been putting off. I have a few projects in the works I'm not ready to talk about yet, but here's one that's coming up soon and won't cost you a dime. The women behind the First Kiss blog tour are at it again with a First Undressing tour starting next Tuesday. I'm cleaning up a "friends to lovers" story for that first day. In the meantime, you can check out my story from the original tour called "Accidentally (On Purpose)".

And on a final note, please consider signing up for my newsletter! You can expect news, updates on projects, and giveaways. And who doesn't love free books?

REMINDER: First Draught Is Tonight!

Just a reminder that at 8:30 PM EST the women of First Draught and a couple special guests will be running you through everything you need to know in the run up to RWA in San Antonio. We're talking packing lists, schedules, book transportation, parties, workshops, lunches, everything! RSVP here for the live talk show or check back to find the archive YouTube video after we're off the air. We can promise you plenty of laughs and hopefully some helpful advice!

Coming Up: April's First Draught Chat

photo2 On April 1st the ladies of First Draught will be talking about music and writing with a couple special guests! We'd love to hear from your comments and questions while we're broadcasting live! You can RSVP to the Google Hangout here. And be on the look out on Facebook and Twitter as we gear up for the big day.


It's time for another chat with the First Draught ladies! Alexis Anne, Mary Chris Escobar, and I will be debating the merits of planning or writing off the cuff.

When: Tuesday, March 4th, 8:15 PM

Where: Check out our Google On Air page ahead of the chat and leave us a comment about your writing style.

So what are you? A plotter or a pantser?

Inspiration Everywhere


I'm stepping back from revisions on my sports novella and letting this draft percolate this week. When I'm in the middle of first revisions I feel like my world sometimes closes down. Now is the perfect time to resurface and look around for inspiration.

For the last two weeks NYC has been taken over by Banksy fever. The semi-anonymous street artist has been painting nondescript walls in the 5 boroughs under the cover of darkness. There is something about this subversive, witty art that I find particularly inspirational. If you're a fan of Banksy he makes you think. If you don't get it, you aren't afraid to say it.

Justine Bottles took this picture of a Banksy installation in Woodside, Queens. A man tries to wash away the graffitied phrase, "What we do in life echoes in Eternity." I love the imagery and the contradiction.

What inspires you?