Author Spotlight #13

The Author: Julia Vellucci

Julia Vellucci is a 17-year-old girl, born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario. She is Italian by origin. She has never been good at visual art but her mom and younger sister both of whom she admires are definitely her creative endeavours as she was inspired by them to find a way to express her creative side, through writing. She discovered her love for creative writing almost two years ago when she first began to bring fictional characters to life through the written craft thanks to a school book club she was part of and couldn’t help but wanted to discover what made her characters unique and carry out their story until the very end. Julia’s dream is to be able to inspire readers through her words as she believes words can project more than actions ever could.

The Book: The 30 Day Exchange

With this day and age, everyone’s stressing about something or someone. You have so much to worry about and bringing an infant into the world shouldn’t add to your stress; your bundle of joy should and will relieve your stress with a store-like exchange among infants. The 30 Day Exchange. All parents are given a slip of paper as soon as they bring their child into the world, a paper asking if they want to participate in The 30 Day Exchange. 18-year-old, Jonah Walters, given up at birth to only be adopted and then placed in a foster home after the passing of his adopted parents and uncle, has had many questions about his upbringing since he was five.

All he wants is closure as to why his biological mother gave him up, but things aren’t as simple as they may seem especially with The 30 Day Exchange being involved which is no longer legal and doesn’t just affect him. One 30 Day Exchange affects two people, little does Jonah know that the person he got exchanged with was the only woman he has ever truly loved. Join Jonah on an emotional ride full of pain, deceit, friendships and most definitely love as he seeks out the answers he’s been aching for practically his whole life.

The Review: 3 stars

The 30 day exchange had such an exciting premise – something that I found myself wanting to know more about. It tells Jonah’s story, a young Canadian man searching for the truth about his beginnings and the scandalous secrets at the core.

We spend most of the book looking back over his life, meeting the people he cares most about, while he searched for his birth mother. The reader follows along through his adoptive parents and uncle’s death and his time in foster care. We are introduced to a myriad of fascinating support characters and learn about their lives too. Vellucci manages to portray relatable, funny teen characters that you actually want to care about – a single mother, a boy in the LGBTQ community, and a rebellious girl with a sharp tongue.

Throughout, you are made to feel that something isn’t quite right – that there are things at play that Jonah doesn’t know – and other characters, if aware, aren’t willing to talk about. It isn’t until we find out precisely what the 30 day exchange is, do we understand the scandalizing truth of our MC’s birth situation. It’s treated as a taboo subject, something that no one talks about due to its disreputable nature, and the more we find out about it, the more you feel for Jonah and the others involved.  

Vellucci tells of a Canadian policy in place that pretty much treats newborn babies as a purchase – you can trade babies with other mothers for 30 days. Some of these children are given up for adoption at this time, and most people are unaware that this has taken place.

Julia Vellucci’s The 30 day exchange is a book about love, deceit, betrayal, and self-growth – and although the writing style can, at times, be a little clunky and drawn-out, Vellucci makes up for this with incredible amounts of passion and deep emotion that draws you in.

The Interview:

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?

The most surprising thing when writing this book was that I was able to convey many sad emotions throughout the book despite me preferring to read books that are happy throughout and without experiencing tough obstacles that can even come close to what the characters had to overcome.

Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

The blurb describes the main plot to this book, but there are three major subplots among Jonah’s three close friends he meets at the foster home as they each have their own romance story and their own obstacles that they assist in helping each other overcome.

There’s 15, almost 16-year-old P.J who gets Jonah used to the foster home, makes him feel welcome and becomes a close friend and older brother to him in a way.  P.J is part of the LGBTQ community, he is openly gay and has been crushing on the pizza delivery guy for two years but isn’t sure if the guy is also gay or even interested. 

There’s 16, almost 17-year-old Alana, who is a rape victim, has a six month old son as a result and is almost like a mother figure to Jonah since she always looks out for him and unlike his biological mom, actually kept her son and loves him to pieces despite the terrible circumstances.  She also has an emotional and complicated romance story with her boyfriend along with that that is explored throughout the book

 Lastly, there’s Hope who is your typical 14-year-old rebel girl, who there’s more to than meets the eye, especially when she’s forced onto a path she probably wouldn’t have taken at this age or maybe not at all, a path that exposes her for who she truly is and she has a sweet and humourous romance story as well to add to the mix.

Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?

Yes, Hope holds a special place in my heart as she was originally meant to be your typical teen rebel girl, whose main purpose was supposed to be just to add some humour to the story with her blunt attitude.  However, she became so much more than that as I instantly saw some potential and room for her to grow emotionally adding more depth to her character, allowing her to be more relatable, as well as still being a humourous addition to the novel.  It truly taught me to not judge a book by its cover, not to judge a person by what they allow you to see, a message I portrayed throughout this book and I’ve grown to love Hope because of that, her humour, sass , how upfront she is, and her character development was what made her my favourite character to write and definitely close to my heart as how she embraced a change that came her way and truly found happiness after a major obstacle, is definitely an inspiration for myself and I hope to others as well.

What was the inspiration for the story?

My mom, sister and I went to a clothing store to look at grad dresses for my sister’s eighth grade graduation.  My mom found a dress for her that she was on the fence about, so she asked the cashier what the return policy was and she said that you have 30 days to exchange the item.  The thought of what if babies were exchanged like items in a store pondered in my mind and the main plot to “The 30 Day Exchange” immediately came to me and subplots, characters, themes and certain scenes came later.

What is the key theme and/or message in the book?

There are actually two main messages I hope readers can take away from this book.  

One is that no matter what obstacles are thrown your way, you can always overcome them by relying on those closest to you as although you may feel alone, you’re not.  Everyone has their own problems, usually different from one another but even if you can’t relate, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or just even an outside voice from the terrible situation is what everyone needs, as we’re all meant to bring each other up in life because similar or different, when one of us is in a tough situation, we all are. 

The second one is to never give up.  Things may not be as they seem and it’s difficult to be patient or hope for the best, but if it’s worth hoping for, waiting for, standing by your beliefs even when no one else will, then you shouldn’t settle for any less than that.

What is the significance of the title?

The title is the exchange policy both Jonah and the only woman he has ever truly loved were put in after they were born as they were exchanged like items in a store.  The main plot is the mystery behind all this as both Jonah and the woman he refers to as his fiance seek out the answers they most desperately deserve involving their upbringing.  

What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

Yes, there will be a sequel. I don’t want to reveal too much as I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone interested in reading book one.  All I’ll say is that it’s called “The Seven Day Return”, is all about forbidden love, there is another birth exchange, lots of love, betrayal, deceit and denial, and some characters return from book one and some don’t.  This is the final book in my exchange series as for when and if it will be released, I encourage you to follow my Author Instagram account @juliavellucci_ which will have any announcements or posts regarding that in the near future.

What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book? What was the highlight of writing this book?

A challenge I faced while writing this book was throwing obstacles Jonah’s way as well as the other main characters as I hated throwing heartache good people’s way, but I managed to get through it as overcoming obstacles are what make people stronger, make them grow emotionally and definitely allow my characters to be more relatable and human.  The highlight of writing this book was definitely gaining a more positive mindset in my life as if my characters can be strong during the worse of times for them and throughout many barriers, so can I.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

When a creative idea forms in my head, I know it is meant to be so much more than just a single idea, so I allow my imagination to run wild and expand, and as soon as characters begin to enter it, I can’t help but want to write their story until the very end, hoping I can portray it the best of my abilities and hope my words can shape readers lives for the better once my words are out in the world for all to see.

Who is your favorite author, and why?

Michael Hiebert is my favourite author with his unique and exquisite writing style that makes his mystery books all the more intriguing along with his characters that are so relatable and human, some of which are children and have been proven to be just as capable as an adult in doing anything.

What are you reading now?

Right now, I’m reading “Ignite Me” by Tahareh Mafi which is the third book in her Shatter Me series, I’m reading it on and off as I can’t seem to get enough of writing, but her series is phenomenal and even during book three, I’m still in love with it.

Favorite book/story you have read now, and what was your favorite book when you were a kid?

I loved “Dream With Little Angels” by Michael Hiebert and that whole series of four in general which are honestly my favourite mystery books of all time.  When I was a kid, I loved “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carl, with its colorful shapes, bright colours and adorable caterpillar that immediately drew me to it and read it with my mom quite a lot.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

If I’m not writing, I enjoy to read mainly mystery books, my favourite are those that have romance as a subgenre in it.  I also enjoy to watch my favourite TV show “Supernatural” as well as spend time with family and friends.

What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Advice I’d give to a new writer starting out would be to never give up even if you have a dream as big as getting a book, short story or a written work of yours published, with the right mindset it is possible.  There will be people that try to change your whole written piece, parts of it, or might even say it’s not good enough, which isn’t so good on your self esteem, I know that from experience.  But at the end of the day, your written work is yours, so keep writing if you enjoy it, don’t let the negative opinions of others discourage you and write to impress and express yourself and the right audience, right publisher if that is your goal, will find you.

How do you handle writer’s block?

I honestly don’t believe in writer’s block because your imagination is always up and running as for the right words to express it, you can always fix the wording as you go along. 

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

The most important elements in good writing are the intriguing plot and characters you can’t help but love, hate and relate to all at the same time.  Some people believe that big, fancy words are what make good writing, but I disagree with that as you don’t have to use big words to be a good writer, but add meaning and feeling to your words that make them look and feel big, something I believe I incorporate in my writing the best I can.

What comes first, the plot or characters? 

The plot usually comes to me first and then the characters, setting and other important details come to me later.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

The world around me, may it be paintings, nature, TV shows, movies, books, quotes, family and friends, all provide my imagination with the creative juices to get a plot going.  Once I have a plot, character traits soon begin to come to me for a potential protagonist that will be able to overcome what I throw their way or not, depending on what I choose for the book to be about.  Their appearance, flaws and more in depth character traits soon follow as I reflect more regarding my idea and secondary characters along with an antagonist begin to join in the fun and scenes as well as subplots form or slightly change once I get to them when writing.

Describe a typical writing day.

If my day doesn’t consist of school, work associated with school or anything else that isn’t writing, I’ll be listening to a song that relates to the chapter I’m working on on some level while writing with a goal of at least 2,000 words which I meet on most writing days and sometimes exceed.  

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

The most difficult part of writing for me is writing a necessary but boring scene or chapter before the scene I’ve been dying to write for so long.  It’s like knowing something big is going to happen in the next episode of your favourite show, but forcing yourself to watch the episode before it first.

How do you do research for your books?

The books I mainly write are romances with subgenres that usually are teen fiction, mystery, adventure or fantasy, or a combination of all or a few of them.  These books are fiction but that doesn’t mean I don’t try to make them realistic, like find a video of a couple kissing from a TV show I’ve seen and watch it several times, so I can use that as inspiration to write my main character’s first kiss with his or her love interest and describe it in a way that allows you to picture a scene similar to what I watched and be in awe while reading it. 

 I’ll also use pictures to better envision how certain rooms I’m describing look, look up character descriptions to envision and describe my characters all the more vividly.  Then there would be certain things I’d look up in a private window, so my family doesn’t think I’m a serial killer when wondering why what is the most efficient way to remove a heart from someone’s body is in my search history or think I have a disease if I’m constantly researching one or wondering why I’m looking up information regarding different stages of pregnancy.

When you’re writing an emotionally draining scene, how do you get in the mood? How do you deal with emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?

I’ll usually listen to music when writing, that goes along with the theme and mood of the chapter I’m working on, especially if it’s emotionally draining, so I can get into the character’s mindset, sort of become the character in a sense.  Often it won’t be one scene that’s emotionally draining, but the entire chapter itself or most of it which I won’t do in one sitting or one day which helps or following it, I’ll watch something with my family that lessens the emotional impact of the book as I’ll be focused more on something else.

How do you handle literary criticism?

When I first began to write, I wasn’t very good at taking literary criticism as I always believed it brought me a step backwards and that I had to follow it.  But with time, I began to realize that at the end of the day, certain criticism can help enhance my written work, make it all the better, and the criticism I don’t agree with, I don’t have to use as at the end of the day, it’s my book, my words, my emotions, and if I really like it and am happy with it, the right audience for it will soon find my book.

How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

I’d say about 25 percent of world building takes place before I start writing, sometimes more, it really depends.  But that’s enough to give me a vague idea of it and as I start writing, the holes and questions regarding the world I’m building, begin to fill itself and become complete.

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

I hear from my readers quite a bit on Wattpad in the comments section (I couldn’t help but laugh with certain comments I received that were thoughts about characters that never crossed my mind) and when I got this book published, I received many words of encouragement and so much support from my fellow readers which I’m entirely grateful for. 

Some asked me about the publishing process, one of those people recently got accepted by the same publishing company I’m with, Ukiyoto Publishing, after I went over the process with her and helped her correct her author profile, so I’m pretty happy for her as it has also been a dream of hers to get one of her books published.  One girl even said that I’m an inspiration to her and that I gave her the courage to complete writing a book and pursue that which is truly touching.  I’ve been told by many readers that they hated me throughout the book as I brought plenty of pain the main character’s way and secondary characters’s ways which are almost as main as Jonah, but they said it was completely worth it in the end and I did try to incorporate some light hearted humour throughout which many readers enjoyed.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book, and are you on social media? Can your readers interact with you?

I can be reached regarding any questions on my book, writing advice or anything work-related in general on my Instagram account @juliavellucci_. I always love to hear from readers, their questions, comments and feedback in general, so I highly encourage you to reach out.  I also have free books to read on Wattpad under the username JuliaRV3 if you’d like to check out those books as well and a sample chapter of “The 30 Day Exchange” is also posted up there.  I encourage you to look up my book “The 30 Day Exchange” on Goodreads if you’re interested in leaving a review and this book is available for purchase on Amazon in ebook and paperback format, Barnes&Noble in paperback format, Ukiyoto’s official website in ebook format and other smaller online bookstores listed on Goodreads if you’d like to give this book a try.

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