Julie (Boyd) Navickas’ evolving hobby as a romance novelist has been a decade in the making. When the three-time alum and current School of Communication academic advisor was an organizational communication graduate student at Illinois State, she enrolled in a scriptwriting class. 

“The script was absolutely dismal but it was the exact story that I took and turned into a full-length contemporary romance novel,” said Navickas ‘07, M.S. ‘10, M.S. ’18. “Ten years ago, I was writing this story, and it stayed with me and just evolved over time.”

Her work has now become the “Trading Heartbeats” trilogy. The first novel in the series, I Loved You Yesterday, is scheduled to publish in August 2022 with Inkspell Publishing. The release of I Love You Today and I’ll Love You Tomorrow will follow in November 2022 and April 2023. She has completed her first two books and is currently writing the third book to end her trilogy.

Each book in the trilogy focuses on two love interests with different stories. Themes cover second-chance love, finding new love, and reconnecting with a current love.

“The definition of love is not singular. There are many interpretations of it. You can find it in so many different places in your life,” she said.

“It doesn’t always have to be romantic love. Love comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s what we want out of a relationship that matters the most.”

Julie Navickas

While writing her novels, Navickas enjoyed the challenge of transitioning from crafting communication materials to creative writing. It took her 10 months to complete the first draft of her first book, I Loved You Yesterday, a story about second chances with a spicy love triangle.

“When I started the initial process of writing, I was just doing it for myself. But it quickly turned into a full-blown challenge. I suddenly didn’t just want to write a story—I wanted to publish it, too,” she said. And within five months’ time, she had queried and secured a publisher.

Navickas began writing romance novels at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to relieve the stress of working from home while being a mother to three children, all age 3 or under. Her own passion for writing and working in higher education is what helped inspire her to keep working toward her goals.

“Writing gave me the time I needed for myself and turned into something pretty cool. Some days are harder than others but for the most part, I keep a good balance between my professional career, my family, and my own personal fulfillment—storytelling. If I have that balance in my life, I feel like I can do everything else well,” she said.

Writing has always been a part of Navickas’ career. The Johnsburg native transferred as an undergraduate to Illinois State, where she majored in public relations. She went on to receive her master’s degrees in the School of Communication and Department of English. In between her graduate school career, she worked for YWCA McLean County as the director of marketing and public relations. She returned to Illinois State as an academic advisor in 2013.

“I wanted to get back into the classroom, and lucky for me, an academic advisor position was open. In 2013, the School of Communication hired me, and I’m not leaving. Not now. Not ever. I love this job and the University,” she said.

Writing her trilogy was an opportunity for Navickas to expand her skill set while also learning about the process of book publishing.

“My training and experience have always been in public relations, but you don’t get a lot of opportunities to be creative when you’re writing for a purpose and a target audience,” she said.

Navickas has found support for her writing and communications career through the Bloomington-Normal chapter of The Association for Women in Communications (AWC). Navickas is now a member of AWC’s national board and is a past president of the local chapter.  

“(Navickas) has this beautiful mind that is shaped in the study of both in English and communications,” said Hatch, a fellow AWC member and assistant director of Media Relations at Illinois State. “She has a way of seeing potential connections at the beginning of a project. Along with being a great storyteller, that means she also sees people and connects with them in an incredible way.”

As Navickas opens a new chapter in her life as a novelist, she hopes to continue writing and has developed new ideas for her next set of novels.

“Right now, I’m just enjoying the process and looking forward to the launch of each individual book in the trilogy,” she said.  

Navickas shared a message to those searching for love: “It doesn’t have to always be romantic love. Love comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s what we want out of a relationship that matters the most. Yes, my books are these sweet little love stories about finding a romantic partner, but there’s so much more to it that gives the reader insight into women’s empowerment, finding yourself, and living authentically as your true self,” she said.