Thank you for joining us today Jill, why did you decide to write a book?
I have an overactive imagination! I’ve been making up stories since I was a kid. I was always the one sitting in the back of the classroom, staring out the window, and daydreaming. I was also a big television and movie buff. My first love was screenwriting and I spent quite a few years working on that before I switched to writing books.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for over twenty years. When I returned to college for my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, I studied writing and literature.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I write part-time because I have a day job. I wrote the first draft of The Fixer: The Naked Man in about six months.
What do you use to write your books?
I always write longhand using pencil and paper. I usually write on yellow legal paper but for some reason I have been using journals to write The Fixer books. But the journals have cream-colored paper. I never write on white paper. I learned that in Robert McKee’s Story seminar. There’s something about staring at a blank white page that’s not good. So now I’m superstitious about it.
What problems did you encounter?
I didn’t have any problems writing The Fixer: The Naked Man. Before the book, however, I had been going through a very bad bout of writer’s block and I had not been writing for a while. That was the worst. With the help of friends and family, I came out of it and latched on to this idea of a young woman as a “fixer,” a term I had heard before. I thought it might be interesting to make an origin story. I relaxed about the process and the story took off. Creating this story and developing the series has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had as a writer. I’m very grateful for that.
How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer since you’ve started?
I think my writing has changed tremendously since I started. I think my style is more developed and mature. I think there is more emotional depth to my characters. But I’m always looking to improve.
Is there anything you wished you’d known when you started writing?
I wish I had found Robert McKee’s course ten years earlier than I did! That would have been incredibly helpful. His teaching was a revelation of learning to look at story from the character’s perspective, from the inside out. His lessons on conflict and complexity in storytelling were an eye-opener. I am forever grateful for his work. It changed me as a writer.
Do you structure your plots or just go with the flow?
For my first two books, Project Jennifer and For Better or Worse, I followed the McKee method of meticulous planning of the plot. For some reason, after I fell into the writer’s block, I just couldn’t think of doing that. Emotionally, it wasn’t working for me. For The Fixer: The Naked Man, it felt right to relax and go with the flow. It’s been working that way for book 2, The Fixer: The Killing Kind, and for plotting the series. So, I’m not fighting it or forcing myself to work a certain way. I’m just going with the flow and writing down notes in a journal and making character and plot connections as they come up.
Do you work on a set amount of words per day or does it change?
Nothing is set. If I get a chance to write, I write down what I have to say until I feel I’ve finished what I want to do for that day.
Do you do a lot of research when writing a book?
Yes, a ton! I love research! I will go into NYC and take pictures so I will have a reference when I describe a place. I knew I would be setting certain scenes in later books in Vermont, so I took a trip there to visit places and take pictures. I always read magazines and books for subjects I mention in the book. Most importantly, I have met some incredibly generous people who have given interviews and provided technical information.
How would you describe your writing process?
I usually start a scene with a conversation between two people. I play with dialogue and see where the conversation goes. It’s hard to explain but characters have a tendency to take over and run amok. Even I’m surprised sometimes at what they do and the twists and turns a story takes!
What time of the day do you find is best to write?
I try to do some writing during my lunch hour at work but I’m a night owl. Most of the time, I get to work in the evenings, after dinner, and I can be at it until 1 in the morning.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My curiosity. I’m always interested in learning something new, investigating new subjects and ideas. So I’m always looking at newspapers and magazines and I will almost always find something to inspire me.
What draws you to this genre?
This is the first time I’m writing suspense/mystery. I love reading mysteries (I’m a big Agatha Christie fan) and I do enjoy the excitement of spy novels (Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series). So I thought it would be fun to try to mix in a little of both.
Have you ever tried to write other genres?
My first published book, Project Jennifer, is chick-lit. It was a lot of fun to write that book! The second book, For Better or Worse, is women’s fiction and a multi-character story. I enjoyed exploring the power structure of different relationships. I enjoyed both projects. I should mention, I am a big fan of dystopian novels and I think one day I would like to try that genre too.
Which author/book would compare yours too?
I would say that my book has some of the spirit of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Lots of interesting characters and different adventures.
Can you relate to any of your own stories?
I don’t live an exciting life like my character does! I think my character, Katerina Mills, is very relatable in that she is trying to find her way in the world. She is trying to be brave when that’s not easy to do and she’s making decisions hoping she’s doing the right thing. She’s also struggling with her own ethics and her conscience as she makes choices.
How many books have you written?
I’ve written four books. Project Jennifer, For Better or Worse, The Fixer: The Naked Man. The second book in the Katerina Mills series, The Fixer: The Killing Kind is going through final edits now. It will be published shortly.
Have you ever written in collaboration with another author?
I haven’t ever written in collaboration. I don’t know that anyone could put up with me!
Who designed your front cover?
The cover for The Fixer: The Naked Man was done by Alan Gaites/Graphic Design. I’ve known Alan for over ten years. He is wonderful to work with and he did the cover for the next book in the series (that will be out shortly), The Fixer: The Killing Kind.
Who was the first person you showed your novel too?
My mom. She has a fantastic eye as a reader and always gives honest feedback. That’s the one thing every writer needs, I think. One person who will tell you the absolute truth.
Have you ever dedicated a book to someone?
My books are dedicated to my mom. She has supported my work from the very beginning. She’s always encouraging me and she doesn’t let me give up. Even when I want to!
How do you market your books?
I am hopeless with marketing! But I’m trying to learn. I have found some lovely people to work with through Twitter and Facebook and I reach out to readers through Facebook groups. I love to hear from readers!
How do you deal with bad reviews?
I feel bad! I want everyone to have a great experience reading my book. But a bad review can help me to see my story and characters from another perspective and can prompt me to think about the story in a way I haven’t before. So, a bad review can be constructive and helpful.
Do you use an agent?
I had an agent for my first two books. For The Fixer series, I’m self-publishing on my own. I’m not sure I would return to having an agent again and going the traditional publishing route. My first two books were published traditionally, and it was a great learning experience. It really taught me how the process should work, step-by-step from editing to copyediting. I never say never, but I do enjoy the freedom of setting my own schedule and having the creative control over the cover art, etc. I’m not overly tech savvy, but Amazon’s self-publishing platforms make everything very easy.
How much time do you devote to marketing your books?
That’s tough to say. I try to put in at least a half hour a day posting in Facebook groups. I write my own ads so that takes time as well. I also try to post a little on Facebook and Twitter daily to introduce myself to readers.
How do you get your book reviews/reviewed?
It’s not easy! I don’t feel comfortable paying for reviews but I’m okay with services that will introduce the book to their subscribers and make my book available to read. I look on Twitter and Facebook for book review blogs that take book submissions for consideration. There are some great book review blogs out there. I’ve met some lovely people. I’ve also done a book blog review tour and that was fun as well.
Do you ever run free book promotions? Have these worked for you?
I don’t run free book promotions but I like to do giveaways.
Do you do all your own proof reading and editing?
I do. When I studied for my Master’s degree, one of the courses was Teaching Grammar and Composition. That forced me to brush up on my grammar. I have to admit, I’m still always looking up grammar rules, like the difference between using lay vs. lie in a sentence! And cumulative and coordinate adjectives! Ugh!
How and where are you publishing this book?
I’m self-publishing The Fixer: The Naked Man through Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. I’m also publishing in paperback through Amazon CreateSpace (although you can get the paperback through Barnes and Noble as well)
What are the main benefits of being an independent author?
You can set your own schedule for writing, editing and publishing instead of being on the publisher’s calendar and deadline schedule. If I need some extra time for research or editing, I can do that without a problem. That takes some pressure off so I appreciate that.
What are you reading at the moment? Which book do you have by your bed?
I’m reading Shadowed by Karen E. Olsen. It’s the second book in a series. The first book is called Hidden. She’s a wonderful writer and creates a mood of danger and suspense so well. I’m enjoying the book so much. I also have Simple Genius by David Baldacci by my bed.
What was the first book you ever read?
I can’t remember!
Who is your favourite author/book?
So many! Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum series), Daniel Silva (Gabriel Allon series), David Baldacci (King and Maxwell series). I also love Joan Didion, Jane Austen, Cormac McCarthy, and so many more.
What is your favourite quote from a book?
“Reader, I married him.” Jane Eyre.
I’m a hopeless romantic.
What is your favourite book to film adaptation?
Emma and Sense and Sensibility.
Where are your favourite places to read?
I prefer to read in bed.
What books do you read to your children?
I don’t have children. But, I remember a children’s book I used to read to a little girl I babysat (many years ago!) called Imogene’s Antlers by David Small. It was such a wonderful book I never forgot it.
When you read do you prefer a book or a kindle/tablet?
I still prefer reading a book and holding it in my hands but I have read books on a Kindle and I was very excited about the library ebook app, Overdrive.
Thank you for your time today Jill, any tips for aspiring authors?
Read as much as you can! I find that reading inspires creativity and helps make a better writer. Not sure how that happens, but it does.
Write as often as you can. I know the rule of thumb is to write every day but life can definitely get in the way of that. I’ve had many days where all I could do was get down a few sentences but even that helps, so don’t be too hard on yourself and do what you can, when you can.
Also, I always think of The William Faulkner quote, “in writing you must kill all your darlings.” It’s a hard truth. I think the writer has to be willing to take a hard look at the writing and be willing to make edits and admit that it needs work. It’s a process I’ve had to learn.
What’s coming next?
I’m finishing the edits for the second book in The Fixer series, The Fixer: The Killing Kind. Then I plan to jump right into the third book for the series, The Fixer: The Last Romanov.
Where can we find more about you!