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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Interview with Jill Nelson!

LISA: Welcome back Jill, to another interview on our KMIS website. And a big congratulations on the release of Reluctant Runaway!

Let’s go back a bit in time. What was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL!

JILL: Stunned silence . . . for all of two seconds. And then if I’d let out the scream that burst inside me, the hotel staff would probably have called the police.

THE CALL came for me at a unique time and place. I was attending the Ohio Christian Writers Conference in the fall of 2005. Naughty me, I kept my cell phone on through the whole thing because I was expecting to hear from my agent one way or another. My cell rang during desert at the awards banquet, and I went out into the hall to take it.

The whole next hours were surreal as I got to share my news with the others at the conference and then make phone calls to family and friends who were likewise waiting to hear. I hope my big moment encouraged someone to believe that things like this really do happen, and it could be them next!

God’s got a great sense of humor. The theme of the writers’ conference was “Answer the Call!”

LISA: That’s a fantastic story, and I’m sure encouraging for many who were right there! Tell us some of the background behind the idea for your series and a blurb about the story itself.

JILL: The concept for the To Catch a Thief series came to me in a literal sleeping dream. I woke up all tense in the wee hours of the night after a dream about a woman in black sneaking into a mansion. She takes a painting off a wall and replaces it with another. In that odd way dreams have, I had bits and pieces of understanding about the situation, but not the whole picture. I knew she was taking the forgery down and putting the genuine back. I also knew that if she were caught disaster would follow for many, not just herself.

In my waking mind, questions haunted me. What sort of career might this woman have that would give her cat burglar skills without making her a criminal? And what circumstances could force her to take such an outrageous risk? The answers gave me Desiree Jacobs, museum security expert out to protect her murdered father’s reputation and save the family business, while dodging the lethally attractive lawman and a pack of bloodthirsty thieves. That was Reluctant Burglar.

Coming up with fresh capers for Desi and her hunky federal agent boyfriend has been a blast. The current release, Reluctant Runaway, has them scrambling to find a missing wife and mom connected to a bizarre cult and stolen Indian artifacts. I enjoyed concocting wild twists and turns, while weaving in some profound basics of the Christian faith.

There’s a nifty video trailer about Reluctant Runaway posted on my web site.

LISA: I just checked it out and it’s great! Now, I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?

JILL: In Reluctant Runaway, it wasn’t a single character alone that fed truth into my life. It was the interaction between them that made me grapple to effectively express the basics of my faith. My reader letter at the back of the book tells about my writing journey with Runaway.

Here’s an excerpt—I understood afresh the unique claim of Christianity: that God Himself became a man, the Christ . . . Without the understanding that Jesus is the Christ, there is no salvation. Christianity as that simple and that mind-boggling . . .

This is a truth that seems foundational. Kindergarten stuff to the believer. And yet, in conveying that concept repeatedly throughout Runaway, I built the knowledge more thoroughly into my own heart, and the understanding has added boldness and clarity to my witness in daily life.

LISA: Wonderful insight that I know the readers will be challenged with. Tell me what the number one thing is that you’ve learned from your writing journey?

JILL: It’s about Jesus. It’s not about me. I figure that’s the number one thing a person can learn about any undertaking. Keeping my eyes on the true prize—glorifying God—makes those rejection times go down easier. If one door closes, God’s always got a better plan in mind. You “get” that when you begin to know His character, and I’d say my writing has made me dig deeper into who He is.

LISA: Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

JILL: I would really like to continue writing for the house I’m with. My editor feels the same way. We’re a good fit and so are exploring options for new books we can do together.

One day when I grow up, I’d like to publish something that affects people’s lives profoundly for generations. Like Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love. Only with me there would probably have to be some kind of who-dunit involved.

LISA: Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published?

JILL: Find a story that you can tell with passion and verve that also has solid commercial appeal. The rookie needs a strong starting mark. You can blaze new trails when readers and publishers have learned to trust you.

LISA: Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

JILL: An excellent dictionary and thesaurus. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Story by Robert McKee. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas.

LISA What is the process you use when writing a mystery/suspense?

JILL: I need to have a premise, and I need to know my characters. Of the two, the characters are more important. Even if I only have a sketchy idea of what I want to happen plot-wise, if I spend time with my characters the story spins out from who they are and how they react in certain situations. I include detailed character sketches as part of my proposal package. Oftentimes, when I start a book, I only know the beginning, high points along the route, and how it should end. The characters walk me through the details in between. I’m just the lowly scribe who puts their adventures into words. Makes for a pretty interesting ride.

LISA: What is your system to keep the story/clues organized?

JILL: What system?

I think my style of writing helps me keep track of the details. Some writers start a story and zip straight on through the first draft. Then they go back and add and fix and edit. I can’t do that. To get myself into the story, I need to reread and edit a chunk of manuscript before I write anything fresh.

LISA: Tell us a bit about the research you had to do for this story?

JILL: For Reluctant Runaway, I had the opportunity to detour through Albuquerque on my way to the Colorado Writers Conference. I stayed for two days. What an intriguing city of mixed cultures surrounded by unique topography! I certainly discovered some details I would never have known any other way. My web site blog archives hold several entries and some photos about my trip, including a stop at the Albuquerque FBI office.

I also read extensively about the Indian cultures of the area—ancient and modern. Plus, I sought out input from several experts on technology and police procedure. Getting information from live bodies definitely fleshes out research (pun intended). Plus it’s fun to interact with live ones when you spend a lot of time writing about
dead ones!

LISA: Wow. Sounds fascinating as does your newest release. I’ve already read The Reluctant Burglar and can’t wait to pick up a copy of this one. Which reminds me. Be sure and check out our contest page for a chance to win a copy of The Reluctant Runaway. All it takes is a quick comment!

Thanks for dropping by, Jill!



Blogger Jill said...

I see I forgot to mention a great writers resource for characterization. Mea culpa! Do stock Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins on your writer's helps shelf. It's a must-have!

7:48 AM  

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