Author Spotlight – Jule Kucera

Vintage typewriter with lamp on wooden table at wooden wall background

This month I’m happy to welcome Jule Kucera to the Author Spotlight. I met Jule in a writer’s sprint group several years ago and enjoy both her fiction and nonfiction works. Jule’s Storywheel is a tool I use regularly. Storywheel explains story structure in a way that is easy to understand and implement. I highly recommend it for anyone struggling with structure or needing a refresher.

On to the interview!

Photograph of author Jule Kucera
Photograph of author Jule Kucera
Do you have a writing ritual or routine that you use?

I do! When I’m drafting, I have an extensive ‘prime the pump’ routine. After I wake up, do 15 minutes of sun salutations, walk the dog, and have breakfast, I sit at my desk and:

  • Say my Writer’s Prayer.
  • Pick up a book, blindly point to a sentence, write that sentence at the top of a blank page in my composition notebook, then write anything from that jumping off point and stop when I reach the bottom of the page.
  • Reread what I wrote yesterday—to get my head into the story, not to edit.
  • Review where the scene I’m writing today is headed (this was the last thing I did yesterday).
  • Write that scene.
  • Figure out where the next scene is headed.
  • Call it quits and say thank you to whoever heard my Writer’s Prayer.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

The situation. For example, “What’s it like to be the moderately attractive sister of a beautiful celebrity?” These ideas typically arise when I’m flipping through People magazine, seeing headlines like “Superstar Siblings.” How would you like to be Margot Robbie’s attractive-but-not-stunning sister?

If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?

If I could bring back someone from the dead, I’d bring back the incomparable Toni Morrison. Beloved is the only novel I’ve read five times. But she might not want to be brought back. If not, I’d hang with Margaret Atwood. But she might not want to hang with me (I’ve seen her interviewed—she doesn’t suffer fools lightly). So, for a combo of outstanding author and someone who seems like a nice person, Ann Patchett.

How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book? 

I didn’t, which was a mistake. Now I buy myself something that connects with the accomplishment. For example, when I refreshed my memoir Sweet Baby Lover, the audio and large print versions were both new, bringing the version total to four. The window of a local coin shop/jewelry store had a necklace with a pendant made from four unique stones. It was perfect. I stand up straighter every time I put it on.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

There is so much good writing advice out there. My most treasured craft book is If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland. Ueland believes “…everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” Favorite chapter: “Be Careless, Reckless! Be a Lion! Be a Pirate! When You Write.”

What advice would you give new writers?

Stop wondering if you are a ‘real writer.’ Non-writers don’t ask themselves that question. If you’re wondering, you’re a writer.

Start asking other writers what their inner critic says to them. You’ll quickly learn that the critical voice you hear is not unique. It’s generic and unimaginative. It’s not worth listening to.

Continue doing whatever you do that works for your writing. Treat yourself and your writing as a science experiment. Learn and do what works.

How do you come up with character names for your stories?

I love naming characters! I look for a name that seems to fit the character and the age of the character. For example, in a writing class, someone’s story had an 80-year-old grandmother named Brittany. No! Nobody in the plains of Nebraska in 1930 named their baby Brittany. I keep a paperback of The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg handy. It includes lists of the most popular names by year, says something about how the name is perceived (Maverick, anyone?), and provides nicknames, variants, and sister/brother names. The book hasn’t been updated in about a decade, but it’s still useful. When I think I’ve got all my characters named, then I’ll check my character spreadsheet to make sure I don’t have names that sound similar or too many that start with the same letter.

How do you handle bad reviews? 

I stopped reading reviews, after reading one that was more of an attack on the author than a commentary on the book. But I made an exception before I refreshed Sweet Baby Lover. I skimmed through all the reviews, looking to see if there were any themes. There was one, and it pointed to a weakness in my writing: there wasn’t enough description for the reader to get a clear picture of what was happening. Here’s an example: “Unfortunately, there were even times where I felt excluded because of an inside joke or something that simply wasn’t explained in enough detail for the reader to understand…” I felt badly that my writing had caused someone to feel disregarded, but grateful for the insight. When I know what’s not working, I know what to fix.

Do you have any book recommendations? 
  • Nonfiction, to deal with that critical voice: Better Days by Neal Allen
  • Fiction, lighter: anything by Emily Henry
  • Fiction, more literary: anything by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Fiction, espionage escapism: anything by Daniel Silva

Tell us a bit about your WIP. 

My WIP manuscript is finished and currently in London with the illustrator/book designer. The Rocking House is a fable for anyone who ever lived in a house that rocked—and especially for those who still do.

What other pastimes or hobbies do you have?

I lose myself taking close-up photographs of nature and enlarging an intriguing part into an abstract.

More about Jule and where to find her work

Jule Kucera believes stories have the power to make us smarter. After a successful corporate career, Jule now spends her days doing what she used to do only on nights and weekends. She blogs at, teaches Memoir Mastery, and volunteers at The Mercantile Library.  After publishing her memoir, Sweet Baby Lover, and a fable, Prince Tarkten, Jule is at work on her next fable, The Rocking House. She lives in Cincinnati with Roxie the Wonder Dog.

Until next time…