Julia Pomeroy’s NO SAFE GROUND brings the stark reality of the consequences of war on the lives of ordinary people into all those nooks and crannies where readers settle down with a good book. And the Iraq war provides the added component of women in combat. Within the framework of PTSD, corruption, prostitution, and renegade soldiers, a female combat veteran on the run and her estranged father come face to face with themselves, each other and a killer.
Vida, the daughter Reynold Packard had given up fifteen years ago, bursts into his dull and safe life, asking for help. A wounded Iraq veteran, declared AWOL, she is running for her life from a former platoon-mate. At first, Reynold shuts her out. Now, with the help of his ex-cop cousin Millie, he is in a race to find his daughter before he loses her again – this time to an assassin.
Polyglot Julia Pomeroy’s insight into character and expertise in locale were honed by a childhood spent on several continents. Her flowing penmanship is a synthesis of her creative writing degree from Columbia University and her experience as interpreter, wife, mother, actor, model and entrepreneur.
Her previous books THE DARK END OF TOWN, and COLD MOON HOME received acclaim for her female character Abby Silvernale, an ordinary person in a small town who finds herself at the epicentre of intrigue, mystery and danger.
In the tranquil life-style of upstate New York, Julia composes these enthralling stories for an ever increasing number of fans.
In the following interview, she graciously lets her readers into her personal and creative life, sharing her thoughts about the art and craft of writing.
Thank you for accepting to be interviewed. Could you introduce yourself please?
My name is Julia Pomeroy. I live in a small upstate New York town. I was born in Okinawa, and because my father was in the Foreign Service, I grew up in Libya and Somalia, and then Rome. I moved to the US when I was 19, and eventually ended up in NY, where I worked as an Italian Interpreter and an actor.
What influenced you to change your artistic field from acting to writing?
An actor has to be ready to go out of town for months at a time, and after my daughter was born, I realized I had no interest in doing that. And truth is, I’ve always been a private person. Auditioning was always hell for me, and that’s a good part of an actor’s life.
When I went back to college, I found that the classes I gravitated to were nine times out of ten to do with the written word, or stories, in one form or another. I took playwriting, creative writing, literature, and so on.
How did the transition from actress to running a restaurant and then writing novels go?
We decided to move to the country, and then, with the arrogance of New Yorkers who think they know better than anyone, we thought, this town needs a good, inexpensive, fun place to eat. And after three years, successful ones, mind you ( we sold the restaurant – the Blue Plate – to a customer, and it’s still going strong), we were fried. Exhausted. Probably a year away from divorce. Writing was a perfect antidote to the frenzied, people-saturated world of the restaurant. Quiet, alone, and in my own head.
Which of these three activities gives you the greatest satisfaction?
They’re similar, in some ways. All three creative and demanding worlds. But a restaurant is all about theatre: you have the public face and what goes on behind the scenes. In both fields, you have to think on your feet – you deal with people – cast and audience or customers and staff – nonstop.
But writing probably suits me much more now that I’m older. It’s quieter and solitary, and until it leaves my computer, I have more control. I find it the most creative. I can get lost in it.
To what extent has your creative writing degree been helpful?
It was vital because it made me write, every day, for one assignment or another. And that act of writing gave me confidence to keep going. And it got me used to hearing and accepting criticism, praise, and suggestions. I began to learn to filter those things. And if someone wasn’t clear, which they often weren’t, and aren’t, it helped me learn to decipher what they were trying to say. And keep writing.
Do you follow a structured plot outline, start on an idea and let the story develop, or is there another way your novels emerge?
I have tried to outline, but I’ve never gotten the hang of it. So now I write a first draft, and call that an outline, because I expect to flesh it out and add scenes, as I go back over it.
My stories tend to be character-driven, so the direction I head in comes from the details that emerge along the way. And I don’t have the vision to see those details until I get to them. But I do set out knowing where I want to end up, approximately. And roughly how I want to get there.
What’s your writing schedule?
Ideally, late morning through early afternoon. I wish I could write early in the morning, but I need to do what my editor calls “burning off the fog”. No target words, though I’m happy if I write 500 a day.
What influenced you to create a female veteran of the Iraq war running for her life from her comrades in arms?
My older brother did three tours in Iraq. Not because he believed it was a justified or well-executed invasion (he didn’t), but because that was his job. So I was invested in the war, because of him, and because we as Americans sat there, watching it unfold, watching the deaths pile up, most of us frustrated and angry that we were there. But my brother helped me get what I hope is a fair sense of the experience. He loved being a soldier, always had. He would also talk about how much the army has changed now that there are so many women in it, and that intrigued me. I went on to read some personal accounts from young female soldiers. And it sprung from there.
Is the story of NO SAFE GROUND based on any facts other than there being female veterans of the Iraq war?
I was intrigued at the idea of prostitution on some of the big bases. I mean, these were cities populated largely by young men.
Are your three novels —DARK END OF TOWN, COLD MOON HOME and NO SAFE GROUND united by a common theme that impassions you?
I think I’m drawn to stories about regular, everyday people, particularly women, pushed to do acts they would never think themselves capable of. Some of it because they take one step in a certain direction, and then a second step, and at some point they realize its too late to turn back.
At what stage of writing do you start planning out the next novel?
I wish I could say its half way through the one before. But it changes. I have promised myself, however, that I’ll only write something I really get excited about, that has enough going for it that it’ll propel me through the next book.
Under what conditions do you write best?
Perfect conditions! I am easily distracted, so I have to tie myself to my computer.
How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?
With my family. Traveling. I have family in Italy.
Thank you, Julia.
“Pomeroy’s characters are … expertly drawn, … fast-paced thriller … intriguing and believable.” —PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY.
“A great thriller.” —Andrew Gulli, Managing Editor, STRAND MAGAZINE.
“A gripping, human tale … will keep your pulse pounding and the pages flying.” —Andrew Gross, NYT best selling author of EYES WIDE OPEN and 15 SECONDS.
Julia Pomeroy was born in Okinawa, and spent her childhood in Benghazi, Mogadiscio, and Rome. At nineteen, she came to the States and worked as an Italian interpreter and an actor, eventually going back to school and graduating from Columbia with a degree in Lit/Writing. Soon after, she and her husband opened and ran a restaurant in Chatham, NY. It wasn’t until they sold it that she finally started to write. Her previous books are THE DARK END OF TOWN, and COLD MOON HOME. She is a member of ITW, SinC, and on the board of MWA-NY. Her talent for the plotting, characterization, pace and impetus required of a classy thriller has been recognized by peers and reviewers alike.
To learn more about Julia, please visit her website.