Thursday, May 16, 2013

Today I chat with dear friend and author Julie Compton who's talking about her brand new release Keep No Secrets––" At its heart, Keep No Secrets asks the reader to consider which is more important to the survival of a marriage after an incident of infidelity – trust or forgiveness?"



After the ultimate betrayal, which is more important: trust or forgiveness?
In KEEP NO SECRETS, the controversial follow-up to Compton's debut legal thriller TELL NO LIES, a district attorney struggles to redeem himself after a one-night stand damaged his marriage and professional reputation.

“An engaging legal thriller that brings to mind the intelligence and ambiguity of The Good Wife.”
–Kirkus Reviews
“In Keep No Secrets, Julie Compton merges psychological, family, and legal drama in a masterful thriller that rivals the work of Scott Turow and William Landay.”
–Sharon Potts, author of The Devils’s Madonna
A “powerhouse legal thriller . . . [A]t once a morality play, psychological drama and legal puzzle.
–Fort Myers Florida Weekly


Please help me welcome a dear friend and wonderfully talented author Julie Compton. Those of you who were with me on my B&N forum know that Julie gave up her time to answer questions, comment and just chat with us when we read her last novel Rescuing Olivia last year.

Julie, Hi. Welcome to my blog
Thanks for having me, Debbie. I'm very honored!

Tell us a bit about your newest release Keep No Secrets.
            Keep No Secrets is the follow-up to my debut legal thriller, Tell No Lies. It's a sequel, although I wrote it to stand-alone, so a reader doesn't have to have read Tell No Lies to follow the story in Keep No Secrets.
            At its heart, Keep No Secrets asks the reader to consider which is more important to the survival of a marriage after an incident of infidelity – trust or forgiveness? The main character is St. Louis DA Jack Hilliard, who, after surviving the private and public fallout from a one-night stand four years before, wants nothing more than to be trusted again by his wife, Claire, and to earn back the respect of the community he serves. Since the day Claire accepted him back into the family, he's vowed to be true to these goals, and so far he's succeeded.
            But all of Jack's efforts begin to crumble when the woman involved in his earlier downfall, Jenny Dodson, returns to town claiming threats on her life and asking for his help, and resurrecting for Jack long-buried emotions and questions of her guilt for the murder of a client. Just when he thinks the pressure can't get any worse, his son's girlfriend, Celeste, accuses him of sexual assault, and he suddenly finds himself on the wrong end of a criminal case, battling for his freedom.
            Can Jack trust his freedom to the legal system on which he built his career? Or will the ghost of his one-night stand four years before come back to haunt him, causing him to be convicted on the mistakes of his past?

I love the cover of Keep No Secrets.
How much influence did you have in the choice?
            For the first time ever, I had complete control over my book cover (unless you count having to listen to the advice of my daughter, who is a motion media/graphic design student at SCAD and designed the cover for me). J  Obviously I'm biased, but I love the cover, also.  I think she did a fantastic job that rivals anything the designers at the big publishing houses create.

Keep No Secrets is the sequel to Tell No Lies. Was the story not finished or was there some other reason to revisit your characters and storyline from St. Louis.
            The short answer is, my readers kept asking for a sequel. Despite the intentionally ambiguous ending of Tell No Lies, I never intended to follow it up with a sequel. It took me forever to write that first book, so by the time I finished, I was tired of the characters and had no desire to ever spend time with them again. That's why my second novel was a completely unrelated story.
            The long answer is, after finishing Rescuing Olivia, I finally reached the point where I was willing at least to consider a sequel to Tell No Lies. But I didn't have a plot idea, so I just let the possibility hang out there for a while. I started writing a different novel about a guy wrongly accused of sexual assault by one of his kids' friends – an idea given to me (unwittingly) by my sisters-in-law during a discussion we had at Christmas one year about who (husband or wife) drives the babysitter home. About twenty-five pages into it, I realized, this could be the next chapter in Jack's story.
            Once I made the decision to write the sequel, I knew I wanted it to be a redemption, of sorts, for Jack. I knew exactly how it would end, but I also knew I had a tough road ahead of me if I wanted my readers to understand why I chose to end it the way I did. It has a somewhat unconventional ending.
Speaking of St. Louis, it was so refreshing to actually recognize places that the characters were going in the story. So many times when reading a novel I might as well be on another planet as far as knowing where I am.
How important is it to you as an author to know the roads your characters travel?
            I've always felt setting to be one of the weaknesses in my writing, so having some personal knowledge of the place I write about is very important to me. I admire those writers who can capture a place without ever having seen it. Interestingly, even though I'm a St. Louis native, I've found it a bit easier to write a Florida setting (where I currently live), or even a place I've visited, than about St. Louis. I think perhaps I'm too close to St. Louis, emotionally speaking. It's so ingrained in me that when I write about it, I'm already there in my head, and I forget that most of my readers (excepting my St. Louis readers, of course) don't know it like I do.

What are you working on now?
            I'm working on a novel that is not quite a sequel to Rescuing Olivia, but is definitely connected to that book. It's a coming of age story told from the point of view of Maddie Erickson, the eleven-year-old daughter of Anders (the protagonist of Rescuing Olivia) and Olivia (of the title). All of my novels to date have been told from the POV of an adult male, so this story is quite a departure for me.

Your road to “authordom” was a diverse one, from your beginnings in J-School to a practicing attorney to finally a novelist.
Where did your love of writing come from and when did it first begin?
            Well, I actually never made it to journalism school. J During my freshman year of college, I attended University of Missouri-Columbia with the intent of majoring in journalism, but I changed my mind early on and transferred to Washington University for the rest of my college career. I ended up majoring in English (surprise, surprise) before going on to law school there.
            I've always loved to write, and I wrote stories (quite bad ones) even as a little girl. I just never thought it could be more than a hobby, hence law school. Plus, I've always loved to argue – just ask my family! The jump from law to writing isn't as far as many people believe. A lawyer does a lot of writing, and legal writing teaches you structure and organizing your thoughts in a logical manner, which comes in handy in fiction writing.
            In the end, though, I credit my dad with my love of writing, because he turned me into a big reader at a very young age. I think you have to be a reader to be a writer.

Are you still a practicing lawyer?
            No, but that's not to say I might not do it again someday. There are times I miss practicing. (Especially when I write my courtroom scenes!) I also miss hanging around other lawyers. We are a unique bunch, for better or worse.

You have gone the way of self-publishing like so many other authors both novices and pros.
What was your reason behind this decision?
What would you tell other authors if they ask about your decision?
            Wow, you realize the answer to these two questions could be an entire book in itself, don't you? Indeed, my husband keeps encouraging me to write it!

            Again, the short answer is, I'm a control freak. The long answer is very long, but a large part of it is that I got tired of a system where a new author's hardcover book priced at $25 gets a few weeks on a bookstore shelf to become a success, and if it doesn't, it's over for that book (and increasingly, for that author – the days of the Big 6 giving a new author several books to build a readership are long gone). Sure, the book is still available online, but what customer is going to pay $25 for a book (or even $9.99 for an e-book) when on the same website they see they can get a used copy for two bucks or less (especially if they've never heard of the author)? That $2 purchase never shows up on a publisher's sales report, and the author never sees a penny from the sale. It's a downward spiral.
            I watched the rise of self-publishing for a few years and paid careful attention to what worked and what didn't. After I got the rights back from Macmillan to my first two novels, I decided to give self-publishing a try by re-releasing them as e-books at a competitive price ($2.99). At the time, my agent was still shopping Keep No Secrets to traditional publishers. I told myself I would decide what to do about Keep No Secrets after I'd tested the water with the first two. Well, the rest is history, as they say. I was so blown away by the success I had with self-publishing Tell No Lies and Rescuing Olivia as e-books that I immediately decided to do the same with Keep No Secrets. (I also published a print edition of Keep No Secrets.) It's truly been amazing. In the four and a half months since I first released Tell No Lies, I've sold more copies of that book than I did in the US in the five years since it was first published. I expect to reach the same milestone with Rescuing Olivia very soon. I haven't even figured the free downloads into my numbers, because I don't get paid for them, yet those numbers and the resulting benefits of the giveaways have been huge. In addition to making my books more visible on Amazon, which boosts sales after the giveaways, the number of sign-ups for my mailing list and the number of reviews posted on Amazon and Goodreads have skyrocketed. I've reached more readers in these past few months than I ever thought possible.
            Is this to say I've turned my back on traditional publishing forever? Not at all. I believe one of the reasons I've been able to have this type of success with self-publishing is because the books I've written so far are categorized in the mystery, thriller and suspense genres. Writers who self-publish in these genres have it a bit easier, I think, as do writers in the romance genre. I'm not sure if I'd have the same success with another type of book. My decision about what to do in the future will depend a lot upon what I decide to write. Plus, the industry is changing so rapidly. I have no idea what the landscape will look like in three months, much less a year or two years from now. I intend to play it by ear.
Do you read your reviews, good and bad?
How much effect do they have on you?
            When one of my novels is first released, I read almost all of the reviews, if I'm aware of them. I'll watch for "quotable" lines in a positive review, which can be very helpful to my promotional efforts. And I'll try to learn from negative reviews, especially if they are written thoughtfully and address issues of craft. But as the number of reviews grows, and I have a general sense of how the novel is being received, I pay less attention to them and get back to writing.
            I'd be lying if I said reviews didn't affect me. Good reviews, of course, are wonderful and I find them very motivating. But someone once said: if you believe the good things a reviewer says about your writing, you also have to believe the bad. I agree. So you learn to take them all in stride, good or bad. My skin has grown pretty thick over the years, so I'm able to move on from a bad review pretty quickly now. Joe Konrath recently wrote a blog post about dealing with bad reviews, and in it he said something that I think is brilliant: "What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than Paul." It's so true! Every reader brings his or her own experience to a book, and that experience colors how they receive it. I've been fortunate in that the lion's share of my reviews have been very positive, but I've noticed that when I do receive a negative review, more often than not the reader is upset about what my characters have done as opposed to the quality of my writing. I'm okay with that. It means I've struck a nerve.

How does it feel to have your novels sold internationally?
How many countries have you published in?
            It's a pretty cool feeling to receive an email from a reader overseas. I get them from readers as far as Australia. Despite cultural differences, human emotion is universal, and I strive to tap into that when I write my novels. So when someone from another country appreciates something I've written, that's a neat thing.
            When my first two novels were published by Macmillan, they were published here in the US, and also in the UK, Australia, Belgium and Spain (and translated into Dutch and Spanish for those last two countries). Now that I self-publish, my books are available anywhere Amazon operates a site. That's the best!

Julie, we’re Facebook friends and follow each other on Twitter.
How important is social media to you as an author for connecting with fans both present and future?
            I love how easy social media makes it for readers and authors to communicate with each other. Before Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads, before email, if a reader wanted to contact an author, she had to write a letter to the author's publisher and hope it was forwarded. I think of how, many years ago, I wrote to Frank McCourt (author of Angela's Ashes) by mailing a letter to his publisher, and how surprised (and delighted!) I was when I received a handwritten response back. Now, it's as simple as a click of the mouse. I'll confess, though, as a fairly private person, it took a while for me to get used to sharing so much of myself publicly. But the advantages have outweighed the disadvantages. There's nothing so motivating as when I get an email or a posting on my Facebook wall from a reader who says she loved one of my books.
            Having said that, however, I'm not sure how many books get sold because of my time spent on social media. A "like" is not the same as a "sale." I'm sure there are a few, but I do it more to maintain existing relationships, which is important in itself. If I gain new readers in the process, I consider them icing on the cake (excuse the cliché!), but overall, most of my marketing efforts are pointed in other directions.

Where is your current favorite place to write?
            The beach. Always the beach! We have a small house in Daytona Beach Shores (south of Daytona) that we rent out as a vacation rental, but I often schedule a week or two each year for myself so I can go off alone and write. But on a day-to-day basis, I have an office in our home where I do most of my writing. After Tell No Lies was first published back in 2008, I spent a small portion of my advance on redecorating the space. I painted it a soothing blue color (to remind me of the ocean) and bought a new desk, bookshelves and two chairs – a desk chair for writing and a cozy armchair for reading. My office is my own private oasis.

Do you have any upcoming events to meet and greet with fans?
            I'll be at the Tallahassee Writers Conference and Book Festival on May 17 – 18, where I'll be teaching a workshop on backstory with my friend and mentor, Jamie Morris. I don't have any events planned in St. Louis at this time, but I get back there pretty often to visit family, so I'll be sure to let you know if I schedule something.

Julie thanks so much for stopping by, answering questions and catching up. I loved the new novel. Good luck with it and all your future endeavors.
            Thank you, Debbie! I appreciate being asked to do this!

Visit Julie's Website Here

My Review of Keep No Secrets

Keep No Secrets
Julie Compton
Fresh Fork Publishing
344 pages

Four years ago newly elected St. Louis D.A., Jack Hilliard became involved too personally in a case that almost cost him his job, his freedom, his marriage and his family. Somehow with sheer determination, a successful trial and a wife who’s heart was big enough to forgive the job, marriage and family survived.
Just when he thought his past was safely behind him an illicit accusation against him has once again threatened all he holds dear. To add to the drama the catalyst of his past problems, the  “other woman”, Jenny Dodson is back asking for his help and he’s wondering about the timing of her arrival.
Suddenly facts that once seemed certain are becoming questionable, and what seemed to be a solid foundation is crumbling beneath his feet. As Jack once again has to fight for his freedom and at times his sanity, as layers of deceit and lies fall away he has to wonder what’s real and what’s just smoke and mirrors.

Julie Compton’s amazing storytelling ability is very evident, and her legal expertise is a real standout in every heart-stopping and legally accurate court scene in this her latest legal thriller. Her characters all shine in their individual roles but it’s her protagonist Jack, his son Michael and Jenny that really steal this show. The narrative is emotional, graphically visual and the action is non-stop and gripping. The dialogue is gritty yet elegant and it’s what I like to call legalese for the layman. The novel stands well on it’s own but this is a true sequel and you’d be missing half the story if you didn’t read Tell No Lies. I’ve been to many places with Julie through her novels and I can’t wait to see where she takes me on our next journey together.
Fans of Michael Connelly, John Grisham and Linda Fairstein will love the works of Julie Compton.


  1. Lovely review, and your thoughts on reviews are so true, personal experience affects how one perceives a book and a character.

    1. Thanks Kim I love Julie and her novels and I highly recommend them

  2. "overall, most of my marketing efforts are pointed in other directions" Could Julie describe those "other directions"?

  3. Marketing is a topic about which I could give a two hour (or longer) workshop. There are many, many sites that help authors spread the word. Google "how to market a self-published novel" and you will find many of them. I use different resources for different purposes. For example, when I'm run a freebie offer on my backlist, I will use resources like Bookbub, BookGorilla, Kindle Nation Daily, Digital Book Today, etc. Sites like Digital Book Today also provide additional advice for marketing. EbookBooster lists many, many sites that will help spread the word. For a new release, one of my goals is to generate a lot of reviews, so I use resources such as NetGalley. If a writer chooses to self-publish, he/she has become more than a writer. He/she is now a business, and a business should be treated as such. Set a budget for marketing and spend it wisely. There are also many books available that talk about marketing a self-pubbed ebook. Some are better than others, so read what others have said before choosing one.

    In my opinion, the best marketing is still word of mouth, so above all, write a good book that people love so much that they want to tell others about it.