Saturday, 12 July 2014

Sophia's Secret by Julie Ryan - Interview and Giveaway!

Today I am very happy to welcome author Julie Ryan to talk about her latest novel, Sophia's Secret

Before we start the interview I must mention the giveaway! You will find the codes to enter the competition at the end of the post, after the interview, the author bio and excerpt. I hope you will enjoy reading all about Julie and her novel, Sophia's Secret, the second book in her Greek Island Mystery series.  Although each book is intended to be read as a standalone, some of the characters from the first book, Jennas’s Journey, do make an appearance.

Here is a little bit about the story. 
Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart.  It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty year old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

And now, my interview with the author. Hello Julie and welcome. Can you tell us a little about you?

I am a bookaholic – there I’ve admitted it. I live in rural Gloucestershire with my husband, young son and a dippy cat with half a tail and a collection of books that is threatening to take over the house. I am physically unable to pass a second hand book shop or charity shop without buying something for my collection and also have a one-click addiction. I read a lot but even so, I probably won’t manage to read a quarter of them in my lifetime. It doesn’t stop me from buying even more though! I love travelling and in the past, I’ve worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. I have a strong attachment to Greece as my experiences there formed the inspiration for my Greek Island mystery series.
When not writing I’m a member of our local amateur dramatic group and enjoy taking part in the annual pantomime among other events.

What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you always know you wanted to write? 

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always loved writing. Even as a small child I’d be the one asking to stay in at break time to finish my story. I didn’t really imagine that I would be a writer when I grew up though. I went through a phase of wishing I could be a classical musician until I realised I would never be good enough. Then I really wanted to be an actress but with a mortgage to pay, it just wasn’t viable. Now I work part time as a teacher and write whenever I can.

What is your writing process, and how did you get the idea for ‘Sophia’s Secret’?

I start with a vague outline of a story and a couple of main characters. To be honest, I have no idea how the story is going to turn out as I end up writing draft after draft as the characters take me off in a totally different direction to the one I originally planned. I love it when that happens but it’s also a bit frustrating at times. As a result the title may also have to change. ‘Sophia’s Secret’ began life as ‘Sophia’s Story’. Originally when I came up with the title, the main character was young and as I went on, the grandmother became more and more important until it became her story. I couldn’t have envisaged that when I started writing it.

I find it difficult to keep to a set routine as I work full-time and have three children, but what about you? Do you have a writing routine?

I write when I’m in the mood and more importantly when I have the time. As a result I don’t have a fixed routine. I can often be found at the dining table in the mornings as I type onto my trusty Mac. Equally, on long car journeys if I’m suddenly struck with inspiration, I can be found scribbling longhand into a notebook. I swear that it’s writing as I travel that makes my writing difficult to read and nothing to do with my handwriting. I may have inadvertently invented a new form of shorthand!

Ideally to get the creative juices flowing then I need a good supply of coffee and chocolate. The icing on the cake would be to put the desk together that I bought about a year ago and have my own study. As we’ve been renovating for the last ten years though I don’t think that is likely to happen any time soon. In the meantime I’ve kind of become good friends with the dining table.

How did you choose the title of your novel? Do you find it easy to come up with titles?

I need to have a title in order to write but as I can’t plot for the life of me then, as you can imagine, the title often changes. My first novel, Jenna’s Journey started life as The Greek urn and was supposed to be more of a mystery suspense story. However, as the novel progressed, the Greek urn in the story became just one thread and the main element was about the heroine Jenna. I also toyed with the idea of The Greek Villa but rejected that for the same reason. I find it easy to come up with titles, but it’s hard to find the right one.

Titles are so important, indeed, and can be tricky to choose. By the way I really love the cover of Sophia's Secret. Although I have never been to the Greek islands myself, I can just picture myself there. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m just planning out a few ideas for the third book in the Greek Island Mystery series but it’s very early days yet. I have a provisional title in mind but knowing me that will change at least twice before publication. I’m also writing something completely different, a Christmas novella, which has nothing to do with Greece. It will be interesting to see how that pans out as it’s a totally new departure for me and more chick-lit than suspense.

One last question...How do you choose your characters' names?

For some reason my characters don’t like the names I give them. Jenna was originally Jenny but I think Jenna suits her better. For the Greek characters I either use the names of people I knew or taught or sometimes I’ll do some online research to find a suitable name. Sometimes though it’s pure chance, for example, I was waiting for a Chinese takeaway when I heard a parent call their child Keisha. It was such an unusual name that I knew I just had to use it.

Thank you so much for being on the blog today, Julie, and good luck with Sophia's Secret

A little bit about Julie Ryan
Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and a dippy cat with half a tail. She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance!
She is the author of two novels set in Greece, Jenna’s Journey and Sophia’s Secret both part of the Greek Island Mystery series. She is currently working on a third book, Pandora’s Prophecy.

Here is where you can find her:
Facebook -
Twitter  @julieryan18

Book links
Sophia's Secret 

Jenna's Journey -

Excerpt from Sophia's Secret

The boy knew he shouldn’t be out so late on his own but a dare was a dare! His best friend, Vasilli, had dared him to meet up at midnight in their den in the woods. He’d been so excited he could barely sleep. His mother had come to tuck him in—not that a boy of nearly eight needed tucking in he’d reminded her as they went through the usual nightly ritual.

“Night night.”

“Sleep tight, mind the bugs don’t bite.”

Then when she’d gone, he forced himself to stay awake until he heard his parents come back up the stairs to their room.  He waited for the light to go out and gave it a few more minutes to be on the safe side. The luminous watch that he’d asked for on last birthday was showing nearly 11.30. There would be plenty of time to get there. He peered out of his bedroom window. It was dark out. There were no streetlights in his village. It was lucky that he’d remembered to pack a torch. He crept silently down the stairs, careful not to wake either his parents or the sleeping twins, put a jacket on over his pyjamas, slipped his trainers on and spying the fruit bowl on the table, put a couple of apples in his pocket in case he got hungry.

The gang had built the den during the long summer holidays when they were allowed to play out until late provided that they told an adult where they were. This was different. The summer had given way to autumn and there was a chill in the night air. He wrapped his arms round himself for extra warmth or maybe just to give himself courage. He thought fleetingly of turning back but he knew he wouldn’t be able to stand Vasilli’s taunts of ‘chicken’ the next day. All he had to do, he reminded himself, was cut through the woods at the back of his house and meet his friend in the den. Just then, as if giving him a signal, the moon came out from behind the clouds illuminating the woodland path. He set off at a run, not wanting to be late. Once he reached the safety of the den, they’d have a good laugh about what a great game it had been.

An owl hooted in the branches above him almost scaring him silly. It felt so different at night. Every sound was magnified a thousand times, making him alert to every eerie sound. Little creatures scurrying around made the leaves underfoot rustle. Twice now he’d thought he heard someone following him but when he stopped there was no one. Only a few more metres to go and he’d be safe.

Not wanting to cut through the churchyard, he kept to the wall until he reached the woods. The moonlight showed him the den, just as he’d left it. He rushed inside, breathing heavily, surprised to see that Vasilli hadn’t arrived yet. He glanced at his watch. It was only 11.54. He decided to wait no more than ten minutes and then he was going home. His father would give him a right talking to if he got caught. He’d probably be grounded for weeks. It never crossed his mind that his friend wasn’t coming. He settled himself into the snugness of the den to wait. At least it was warmer in here, out of the wind.

He woke up suddenly, surprised that he’d fallen asleep. There were footsteps just outside the den: Vasilli must have been held up. He was about to shout to him but thought he’d surprise him instead by shouting ‘boo’ as he crawled through the entrance. The footsteps stopped and he heard a scraping noise. He peered into the darkness but couldn’t make out what his friend was doing. Then the moonlight clearly showed him that whoever it was, he was far too tall for his friend. It was a man with a spade. He could hear the soft earth plop onto the ground as he dug a hole. Suddenly the den smelt of fresh earth and vegetation. He hoped the man wasn’t going to be long. He was in enough trouble already. The moon disappeared and it was dark again, totally silent now except for the sound of the spade on the damp earth. He’d wanted an adventure but suddenly an adventure on your own wasn’t nearly so much fun.  He wondered what the man was doing. 

Maybe he was burying treasure. They could come back tomorrow and dig it up. That would be fun. He knew though that he shouldn’t be here and was afraid. What if the man caught him and told his parents? His heart was thumping so loudly he was sure the man could hear him but the spade just continued to thwack as the soil was lifted. It seemed like hours but his watch showed it was 1.10am. When the moon came out again he saw the man lift something big and heavy into the hole and start to cover it up. Now he knew he had to remain totally silent or else he’d end up in the hole too no doubt! He had a horrible thought that perhaps instead of treasure, the man was burying a body. At any rate it certainly didn’t look like treasure. Why was he out here in the woods at this time? He couldn’t be up to any good? Just then the man trampled down the earth so that it wouldn’t leave a trace just as the moon slid out from the shadows. 

The boy realized with a jolt that he knew the man. Fear trickled through his body, just as he lost control and wet himself. Hot urine trickled down his leg, turning cold seconds later. He didn’t consider the trouble he’d be in for wetting his pajamas, right now he just wanted to be anywhere else but in the middle of the woods with a murderer for company. He was tired, cold and wet. He watched the man leave and when he was sure it was safe, he ran all the way home. He was relieved that his parents hadn’t missed him.  He half expected all the lights to be on and his father standing in the middle of the living room asking him where the hell he’d been. Instead there was a gentle snoring noise coming from the bedroom.  Luckily the twins hadn’t woken his parents up while he’d been out. He quickly changed into clean pjs. He’d admit to wetting himself in the morning but that was all. 

He crept into bed and fell asleep straight away but somehow his mother’s words kept playing on his mind over and over again. ‘Mind the bugs don’t bite.’ He dreamt of bugs covering him but instead of a bug’s face, he saw the man in the woods. He was to dream the same dream time and time again.

And now for the giveaway! 
Click on the link and you will be taken to the Rafflecopter site:


  1. Thanks for taking part in today's promo event. Great interview ladies! x

  2. Thnaks so much Marie - lovely interview

  3. You are very welcome Julie. It was a pleasure! Thank you JB for leaving a comment too!