Monday, January 7, 2008

Interview: Author Julia Ward

I was elated when I found out my freelance writing friend, Julia Ward, published an e-book. She chose to self-publish, What Your Landlord Doesn't Want You To Know, at In it, she shares a bit of the nightmare she endured when attempting a move to a property she had envisioned would be a nice, quiet place to call home - as well as information you'll need to avoid the dilemma she faced.

I met Julia via this blog and we've chatted ever since. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to feature her self-publishing adventure in Writing the Cyber Highway's first ever interview! Julia was gracious enough to oblige and she quickly answered the following questions. She also sent me a complimentary copy - thanks Julia!

In case you're not familiar with Julia, she is a freelance writer who has overcome massive amounts of adversity. She truly is amazing - a friend well worth knowing! She blogs at and now has a new site as well - but you'll have to keep reading to find out more!

Writing the Cyber Highway:
Could you share a little bit about your bad tenant experiences with us so we can understand where this e-book came from?

Julia: John and I decided to finally give up on Southwest Florida after twenty some years of low paying jobs, hurricanes, bad drivers, and the deteriorating "quality of life" of anyone not retired with the disposable income of Paris Hilton. I wanted to move to a college town and be closer to my mom in Jacksonville. John needed to change careers and be able to reduce his commute time to less than three hours a day.

John found a cute little mobile home on five acres tucked away under beautiful live oaks and pines - perfect, affordable, and private. It was not to be. Even though he rented the unit from a Licensed Real Estate Agent, she didn't disclose that the place had been the home of a "crazy cat woman". The floors, walls, and doors were saturated and caked with cat urine which they had masked with deodorizers when John first looked at the unit. None of the appliances had been tested before we moved in. And she became hysterical the night John moved in with our belongings because he wouldn't agree to "illegal" lease clauses and took off with our money and the lease. It went downhill from there. No electric for three days - we blew the main breaker when we plugged our microwave in. No water for five days . The switch was bad and helped blow the main breaker. We never had a working stove. The gas man refused to hook it up because it wasn't safe. And, I slipped in raw sewage and fell on a broken sewer line that was overgrown by weeds and installed improperly above the ground. I'm still on crutches.

The bottom line: the Landlord was the Real Estate Agent's daughter and we were "done over." They sent us a (defective) Notice of Lease Non-Renewal (Constructive Eviction) after less than 10 days of occupancy so we could find another place to live and have since refused to return our Security Deposit and pre-paid prorated rent. Yes, John is a Licensed Real Estate Agent and I had been an on-site Commercial Property Manager. How could this happen to us? More to the point: if it can happen to us, it can happen to you!

CH: Do you remember the exact moment when the light bulb went off in your head: Aha, I'm going to turn this horrific experience into an e-book to educate other tenants.

J: When John and I went to Lake City, Florida to file a claim against the Real Estate Agent and the Landlord for damages and the return of our Security Deposit in Small Claims Court people kept coming into the Clerk's Office and asking for help. It broke my heart to see a young woman practically in tears with an eviction notice in her hand begging for help and trying to explain that she hadn't done any of the things her Landlord was accusing her of. They told her to wait seven days and then come back and file and answer. They can't tell you how to fill out a form or give you legal advice. The lawyers have made sure that you can't step foot inside a courthouse without hiring them to decode the secret code they use to wield unknowable forces against you. I had to stand silently with my head down because I can't give legal advice either. But I made up my mind that when I got home I was going to write a book
to help tenants understand how to protect their rights and the laws that govern those rights.

CH: You chose Lulu to publish your e-book. Have you had a good experience with them? Some people are curious about Lulu. Are they a simple, economical choice? Have you enjoyed working with them? Will you use them again? Do you recommend them?

J: Lulu has been a wonderful experience. The forums are full of educated, talented writers who are happy to answer any question, no matter how silly it may seem to us. There are no upfront costs and with an e-book- no printing costs. My biggest hurdle was formatting. I used a number of resources online and off line for formatting - with direction from Lulu's FAQ's. I've set up a Storefront and hope to begin the real work- marketing- in the next week. I plan on using them to publish the printed version of the whole book when it is completed.

CH: What have you learned this past year as you've focused on your writing and getting published?

J: Grammar rules!

Although I want to be a freelance writer, I find that I really gravitate towards book length manuscripts. Even though I know my memoirs need my attention I'm really excited about self-publishing and being able to market a product which I hope will help those people that find themselves at the mercy of unethical lawyers and landlords.

CH: Could you tell us about your new blog, The Florida Tenant's Survival Guide?

I've really enjoyed my blog "a BLINDING heart". Blog's are an exciting venue for interacting with like-minded people and "changing the world- one word at a time". I'm planning on asking for guest bloggers and maybe even reviewing apartment complexes, property management companies, and a few savvy lawyers. The foreclosure pandemic is forcing more people to rent and they need to make sure they aren't going to fall victim to more predatory practices by unethical real estate professionals.

CH: What is your main goal for 2008?

WRITE! This year I'm going to work towards finishing my memoirs and getting some articles into some mainstream magazines. I plan on having The Florida Tenant's Survival Guide in print by March.

CH: Any advice you'd like to share with other writers? What do you suggest they do when they feel like giving up on their dreams?
We only learn from the dreams we have to work for, the ones we have to claw our way through the bedrock to get to. We fail - we become better writers. As an artist, writer, poet, and musician I have found that my best work comes from within, from the unique perspective and vision that only my heart can follow like a pale whisper of smoke from the past. What we learn from our failures and what we choose to do with that knowledge is where dreams reside - humble though they may be- they are the seeds of all greatness.

I haven't had the privilege (time, actually) to read every page of Julia's e-book as of yet, but what I see so far is a great tool for anyone who is considering renting property in Florida. It's a great resource to help guide you through the process. I love the illustrations, the no-nonsense advice, and of course the humor. You'll even find a sample letter you can send your landlord, a rental checklist, and a tenant's survival list - very helpful!

Thanks, Julia! It's an honor to
glean from the personal experiences of someone who has been there. Here's to lots of success with your e-book, the upcoming printed version, and all your other creative endeavors!

You can purchase
What Your Landlord Doesn't Want You to Know here for only $5!