Julia Press Simmons is the CEO of QMB Publishing and the critically acclaimed author of more than ten novels including Strawberry Mansion, Begonia Brown, Violet, and Fornication. She is an award winning Spoken Word Artist, and Playwright. Although, Strawberry Mansion: A Philadelphia Story is her first novel, my play “Down There” was selected by the Shades of Black Festival Emerging Playwright’s Series in Nashville, Tenn. “Down There” also received a staged reading by the African American Playwriting Exchange in New York City. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family.
1) First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview, it is such a pleasure to get a chance to pick your brain. What is it that first peaked your interest about writing? Did your desire for writing come at a young age or later on in your adult life?
When I was really young, I’d say about 8 or 9 years old, my mother would punish me with reading. I was into everything, busy as all hell, and my mother would sit me down and make me read one of her thick sci-fi fantasy novels. Before long, I was enjoying them, and looking forward to reading when I got home from school. I think I was 10 or 11 years old when I started writing my own stories. I started my elementary school’s newspaper, and fancied myself a journalist. I’ve always wanted to write, and I always have.
2) Cutting to the chase, you write very gritty, provocative books, for the most part. What led you to write in this particular genre as opposed to straight romance, or mystery, or even science-fiction? What kinds of books do you enjoy reading in your spare time?
Well, Strawberry Mansion is my first published book, and it’s more chic lit, than anything else. I started writing street lit because I didn’t see my “hood” reflected in the stories that were circulating. Crack devastated my neighborhood, and I wanted to tell a story that highlighted the poverty and indomitable will and human spirit in North Philadelphia. That is what led me to write and publish Begonia Brown. As far as reading, I am a super geek, and I love all things fantasy. The first book I ever wrote was fantasy. “Time Keepers” was about a group of teenagers on spring break that found out they could control time. I love sci-fi fantasy, and will be releasing several projects in that genre this year. I write across the genres, Street Lit, Erotica, Chic Lit, NonFiction, Thrillers, Romance, and Children Books.
3) You have quite a few books to your credit, between print and Kindle books? You set out to do 20 books before 2016 hit, and you achieved that goal. What is your secret to your writing process? How much time do you devote to writing and how much of your time is devoted to the actual marketing of your work?
I didn’t reach the goal. I made it to seventeen books, though, and that’s not too shabby. I write 5 to 10 thousand words a day. I start around 4 o’clock in the morning and squeeze writing in whenever I can. I work a full-time job, and have a family to take care of, so I am pretty exhausted when I hit the bed, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. I love my life. As for marketing, I do that throughout the day as well. I utilize Hootsuite and pre-post on my fan pages. I advertise through promoters and love interacting with my readers via social media. (I have two smart phones) I’m always plugged into the matrix.
4) You don’t just write fiction, you also are very public about your weight loss journey, and you write about it in “Fuck it, I’m fat” and “Oh shit, I lost some weight. How hard is it for you to be so vulnerable about something so personal or is it something that you consider to be difficult? What is different for you, writing non-fiction as opposed to writing fiction?
At first, it was very hard sharing my struggle, and then it became therapeutic. I started to get flooded with inboxes, tweets, and direct messages from people who found my journey inspiring. Inspiration is cyclical. The more people tell me that I inspire them, the more I am inspired. It is a beautiful circle.
5) So tell me about Bravegirlology and what you aspired to do by creating this video series? Where can the readers find the video series? While we’re plugging your projects why don’t you go ahead and share all of your sites where people can find your books and video series?
I wasted so many years doubting myself, not liking myself, and being afraid to reach for my dreams, Bravegirlology is the end of that. It is me publically learning to love, celebrate, and honor myself. It is the study of being a brave girl, and I hope it inspires women to make themselves a priority. I had to take a brake from taping the youtube series while I prepared for my countrywide tour that kicks off this month, but I am going to the gym tonight to tape next weeks episode.
You can follow Bravegirlology on Instagram HERE
You can find me on Amazon HERE
You can find me on Nook HERE
You can follow me on twitter HERE
You can follow me on facebook HERE
6) I follow you on Facebook and Twitter as well. You do a very good job at marketing yourself and your products. I have to be honest, I struggle with the marketing myself part and I know I’m not alone but you make it look so easy. Is it a struggle for you to balance the creative side of being a writer with the business of it all? How do you balance writing and your regular job and having a personal life?
What is this “balance” you speak of???? It’s hard as hell. I just believe if I work my ass off, I’ll get results, so far, so good. You have to write your goals down, and then you have to work day and night to achieve those goals. I really don’t watch TV, or do things that don’t benefit my family or my brand. I am sacrificing to live the life of my dreams, and I am not there yet, but I can see it. I feel it. I taste it. And, I’m going after it.
My favorite quote is as follows…
“If you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it, to work day and night for it, to give up your time, your peace and your sleep for it…
if all that you dream and scheme is about it, and life seems useless and worthless without it…
if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it and lose all your terror of the opposition for it…
if you simply go after that thing you want with all of your capacity, strength and sagacity, faith, hope and confidence and stern pertinacity…
if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout, sickness nor pain, of body and brain, can keep you away from the thing that you want…
if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it, with the help of God, you will get it!” —Les Brown
7) What’s next for you in 2016 as far as your projects go? Where do you see yourself within your writing career in the next five years?
Well, I hope to publish 20 books this year. I am touring the country and hope to make it to England before 2017. In the next five years, I hope to retire from nursing and turn a few of my books into movies or web dramas.
8) If you could sit down and have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would you choose? What about their work inspires you the most?
Nora Roberts, she’s a beast, and I am a huge fan of her work.
9) If you could simplify what it means to be successful, how would you sum that up?
Happiness. If you are happy, you are successful.
10) I feel like so many of us writers, or artists in general, are made to conform to other people’s idea of what we should be. I think we creative types should be unafraid to be whoever it is that we feel we have the right to be. So what is your write 2 be? What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity?
I’m fucking awesome, and I believe that with all my heart.