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Friday, 28 November 2014

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Meet Julia, a multi-talented West Cumbrian woman

An award-winning author, publisher, editor and teacher – Julia Newsome is a multi-talented woman.

Donnelly Newsome 1

Julia, 62, who lives just outside Maryport with her husband and former foreign office diplomat, Sir Brian Donnelly, has just written her first full length novel.

Her historical novel has been published by Wigton based firm, Trifolium Books UK.

The Boy with Two Heads is a time-slip novel set in ancient Greece and present day Cumbria.

It sees teenager Suzanne, from Penrith, thrown back in time to ancient Greece after a motorbike accident on a school trip to Athens.

Her mind is transferred into the body of Olympian, Themis, in 432 BC, who has an accident at the same location in Athens but thousands of years in the past.

Julia says she drew inspiration from her experience of living in Greece for more than 20 years.

She moved there after getting a degree in drama at Manchester University and quickly came to see it as a second home.

She taught English in a Greek school and worked for the publisher Heinemann for its Greek market.

She says: “I went to do research on the theatres for a university project and fell in love with modern Greece.

“I’ve always been fascinated by what we still have from 5th century ancient Athens.

“This story grew out of my researching facets of that period that interest me.

“I used to teach English to Greek teenagers, so I also drew on their preoccupations and personalities.

“The ancient Olympics have many similarities with our modern games but many intriguing differences too.”

The book, she says, is for ages 10 and over. It’s probably more for those under 16 but if you like ancient Greece then you would enjoy it.

Julia met her husband, Sir Brian Donnelly, in Greece while he was working at the British embassy in Athens.

She travelled with him on several diplomatic roles, including those in the former Yugoslavia and in Zimbabwe, where Sir Brian was branded a spy by the state-owned media.

In Yugoslavia, where Slobodan Milosevic was facing civil war and NATO air strikes for crimes against humanity, Julia had to be evacuated three times from Belgrade amid fear of growing violence and the risk of bombing.

She says: “It was quite a chaotic time. There was an atmosphere which was quite sinister.

“For example, I sat at a restaurant table which had a bullet hole in the wall where someone had been assassinated.”

Her time in Zimbabwe helped to inspire her award-winning book, Nelson’s Dream, which is set in Africa.

It is one of several books written by Julia that helps people to learn English, whether they are foreign or have reading difficulties.

These books use a larger print that makes it easier to read but they also deal with hard-hitting, real life stories.

Nelson’s Dream is told against the backdrop of AIDS and government corruption in Africa.

A Boy with Two Heads is her first attempt at full length novel and it has been two years in the making.

She chose to have it published by Cumbrian based firm Trifolium Books as owner and friend Connie Jensen specialises in printing historical novels.

Julia says: “Connie read it, liked it and asked whether I would like her to publish it.”

Julia was born in Egypt in a private hospital in the middle of the River Nile.

She grew up in Hertfordshire, moved to North Stainmore at the age of 16 and went to Kirkby Stephen Grammar School.

She is a director of the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald; her great-grandfather Thomas Hodgson was the newspaper’s founder in 1860.

Julia has a son, 32, and a daughter, 35, who both live in Athens.

She sings in the Seaton village choir and likes walking with her husband.

She loves to travel and regularly visits her beloved Greece.

A Boy with Two Heads is out now and can be bought from bookshops and online at www.amazon.co.uk.

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