Q&A with Author Julie Gianelloni Connor

Q: When did you begin writing your debut memoir, Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike?
In 2016 the buzz was all about blogs, so I thought that instead of handwriting journal entries, as I usually did when traveling, I would try posting blog entries while on my Camino. I set up a blog, Camino for Boomers; got familiar with blog basics; and set off for France and Spain planning to blog every day. Once I got to Spain, I found myself fighting with technology on a daily basis, sometimes for several hours. WiFi was limited, and uploading posts difficult. I began to feel like I was wasting the limited time I had each day. About halfway through the trip, I gave up on blogging and went back to handwriting journal entries. Those blog and journal entries eventually
found themselves into my book. The blog also proved useful later as a place to store color photos from the trip that didn’t make it into the book, so it ended up being a sort of extension of the book.

Q: How did the idea of writing this travel memoir start?
As I mentioned above, I wasn’t thinking about writing a memoir when I set off on the Camino. I
thought a blog would be interesting as a permanent record of the trip and perhaps as a way for
family and friends to keep up with me. While on the trip, I began to think about things I wished I
had known before setting out. Wanting to share those insights became one of the reasons I
decided to write the book, along with fact that I felt a message about diversity needed to be
shared.

Q: Why was this pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela important to you?
My mother and handicapped sister made a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1956, so going on a
pilgrimage was sort of imprinted on my DNA. For me personally, I thought it was time to say
thank you for all the years I have enjoyed since 1971, when I was a victim of violent crime and
thought I would die. The need to give thanks was reinforced in 2014 when I survived cancer.

Q: Tell us, readers, about the pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage can be begun anyway in the world, but it ends at the cathedral in Santiago de
Compostela, in northwestern Spain. Pilgrims first began traveling the route right after the burial
place of St. James was discovered around 822 AD. So, pilgrims have been making this journey
for over a thousand years. The so-called French route is a treasure trove of churches,
cathedrals, monasteries, castles, and towns that grew up along the route that was most
commonly taken by French pilgrims in the Middle Ages.

The pilgrimage is what each individual makes of it. For some, it is walking the long distance—
from wherever they start to Santiago de Compostela—that gives them time to reflect on their
lives and to re-evaluate their priorities. They hold the actual walking as sacred and necessary. I
am not of that philosophy. For me, the glory of the Camino is the history and art that pilgrims
encounter along the Way. I feel most spiritual sitting quietly in a cathedral thinking about all
those who have gone before me, thanking my ancestors and God for my life, and reflecting on
the many reasons I have to be grateful.

Q: Explain why walking is the best route for exploring the Camino?
I don’t actually believe that walking is the “best” method for traveling the Camino. It is certainly
best for those who like to walk or hike. It is best in the sense that it forces people to slow down
and be mindful. Walking definitely has many positive attributes. However, I do not agree with
those who think that walking is the only true way to travel the Camino. It is one way, but I do not
believe it is or should be thought of as the only way. I personally did a hybrid trip—walking some
days, taking a bus or taxi on other days. I walked many, many days, but I also made time to visit
churches and museums and historical sites along the Way rather than just walking day after
day.

Q: What three tips would you give to others wanting to travel and take the same pilgrimage?
First, just do it. It is worth it. Don’t let fear—of the walking, of not speaking Spanish, of not
having anyone to go with—stop you. Camino pilgrims like to say that “the Camino provides,”
and I think it does. Second, do as much reading (or listening to audiobooks or watching films
and documentaries) about the Camino as you can before departing. Explore its history, art,
architecture, culture, and food. The more you know about Spain and the
Camino, the richer your experience will be. Third, don’t rush. Maybe you only have time or the
finances to do a small segment. That’s fine. You can come back another year and do more, or
take a different route. Most importantly, savor the experience while you are there. Don’t let
somebody else’s opinions about the Camino make you travel in a way that you do not enjoy.

Q: What other travels have you completed recently if any?
My most recent international trip was a Camino on horseback in September 2021, riding north to
Santiago from near the Portuguese border. That will be the subject of my next book.

Q: Where do you plan to travel next and when?
I am scheduled to return to Portugal and Spain in September 2022. I might try bicycling a part of
the Camino.

Q: How has your career helped inspire your taste for traveling?
Love of traveling came first, not the other way around. I dropped out of college in my junior year
and went to live in Europe for three years, teaching English. It was the wonder and excitement
and joy of those three years that made me want to have a career that involved traveling. I was
lucky enough to land a job that involved massive amounts of living overseas in seven different
countries.

Q: What is it like being the owner of a publishing company?
The publishing industry is undergoing a revolution, just as is the newspaper industry. For an
indie publisher like myself, that means there is a huge amount of new knowledge to try to ingest
each and every day. Technology and marketing are key to publishing nowadays. Just being a
good writer or editor or manager is not enough. I work very long hours even though I often long
just to lie in bed and read.

Q: Which of the two do you find easier, being the publisher or being the author?
Being an author is definitely easier, particularly if you can find a publisher—traditional,
academic, small press, or indi—to take over the mechanics of getting your book into print. The
weight of the world lies on the shoulders of the publisher, who has to worry not only about
shepherding the book into print but also about helping to make the book a success via skillful
marketing.

Q: Where can readers find you and your book online?
My author website is JulieConnorAuthor.com, and my publishing website is
BayouCityPress.com. I can be contacted through either one. My books are available on my
publishing website, on Amazon, or in local bookstores.

Author Bio:

Julie Gianelloni Connor is an award-winning author and retired senior Foreign Service
Officer. Her first book, Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, not the
Hike, garnered no. 1 status on Amazon in both the category for new books on hiking
and walking and the category for Spain and Portugal. It subsequently went on to win a
silver medal in the eLit national competition as well as being selected as a finalist by
Self-Publishing Review (SPR). She released her second title, a children’s book, in 2021.
It has just won first place in the children’s book category at the North Texas Book
Festival. The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise tells an
international adoption story. Her short stories have appeared in four anthologies. Julie is
the owner and publisher of Bayou City Press (BCP) in Houston, Texas, which focuses
on travel writing, Houston, history, and international affairs. Julie writes a weekly
newsletter for BCP updating subscribers about activities. She founded BCP after
spending 33 years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, first with the U.S.
Information Agency and later with the U.S. Department of State. She had nine overseas
assignments in seven different countries: Israel (twice), Paraguay, Guatemala,
Indonesia, Colombia (twice), Malaysia, and Chile. In Washington, DC, Julie worked on a
variety of matters, ranging from nuclear non-proliferation to narcotics control to women’s
issues. She has one son, James, and two cats, Halloween and Charles Augustus V.
Her books can be ordered from her publishing website (BayouCityPress.com), from her
author website (JulieConnorAuthor.com), or from Amazon.com.

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