Posted on 07/13/2015 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

The average person loves to gush about his or her gratitude for spell check. But writer Julie Ortolon has an even deeper appreciation for it than most of us.

The USA TODAY best-selling romance novelist has dyslexia, and the day her husband brought home a computer — with spell check — was the day she was able to move stories from her head onto the screen with greater ease.

Since then, Ortolon has gone from graphic designer to author of eight novels and three sets of short stories. She recently chatted with Fussy about her journey to the top.

SADYE: Were you diagnosed with dyslexia early, or did you struggle for years without knowing why? 

JULIE: I was diagnosed early. Unfortunately, that was in a day when little was known about dyslexia, and there were no special school programs. I spent most of my days staring out the window dreaming up stories to entertain myself while the other kids did their school work.

SADYE: You’ve said you became a reader after discovering romance novels were worth the effort — what prompted you to keep trying?
 
JULIE: “The Flame and the Flower” by Kathleen Woodiwiss was the first novel I ever read. I was 18 and living in LA with my cousin who was a voracious reader of romance novels. We shared a one-room apartment, and she wouldn’t let me watch TV because she was always reading. 
 
One evening, when I was driving her crazy, she handed me a paperback and said, “Here, if you’re so bored, read this.” I was instantly sucked into the story, since I’d never read anything but snippets of children’s books and textbooks. ...
 
(Growing up), I didn’t really see words as a grouping of letters. I memorized how they looked, and that this squiggle picture meant this word. Once my cousin handed me that first novel, every time I saw a word picture I didn’t know, I’d put my finger on it, turn the book to her and ask her to say the word out loud. Then I’d repeat it in my head several times, until I had it memorized. I had to do that several times on every page. 
 

It wasn’t until years later, when I discovered computers had spell check and I started writing, that I started to see letters, not just squiggle pictures. Today, I read like anyone else, just very slowly.

SADYE: How did you find your “lifeboat” author group, and how would you recommend other authors find theirs?

JULIE: The lifeboat came about in the early days of the ebook revolution. A lot of analogies were being drawn between traditional publishing and the Titanic. Those of us who were “jumping ship” were floundering around trying to learn how to do this new-fangled thing called epublishing. Back then, there were very few formatting services, cover designers, or help of any kind. 

In desperation, I started emailing fellow members of Novelist Inc., which led to my forming a small group. We quickly realized the power of sharing knowledge and brainstorming strategies, which felt like climbing out of the cold, scary water, into a lifeboat and rowing as a team. 

Our cross-promoting efforts became so successful that Novelist Inc. asked us to do a workshop at their conference in 2012, which inspired other authors to form their own lifeboat teams. ... 

My advice for other authors forming a team is to look for authors who write to your same target audience and who are at your same level of knowledge for publishing and promoting.

SADYE: Did you design your book covers yourself? And if not, what prompted you to seek someone else’s help?

JULIE: I did the original covers for all my ebooks. But then, I worked as a graphic designer before I sold my first novel. Last year, however, I had the covers for the first three books in the Pearl Island series redone. I was adding a fourth book to the series and I wanted a consistent look for all four books. Since I wanted to focus on finishing that fourth book, I hired CreateSpace to do the covers for the ebooks, print editions, and audiobooks. 

... My advice on what makes a strong ebook cover is to keep the image simple and make the title and author name big. Always reduce it down to the size of a postage stamp, and also view it in grayscale, before approving the design.

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Read more about Julie Ortolon and her books on her website; like her on Facebook; and follow her on Twitter. You can purchase her books on her website or at Amazon.

Categories: Author Interview

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