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Monday, December 10, 2007

Interview with Jill Nelson!

LISA: Today I want to welcome back Jill Nelson to our site! Jill's latest book, Reluctant Smuggler, is a book you won't want to miss! Jill, tell us about your upcoming release.

JILL: Reluctant Smuggler is the third book in the To Catch a Thief series of romantic suspense for Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishing Group. It’s my personal favorite of the series, and I hope my readers agree! Reluctant Smuggler releases on January 15, and I can hardly wait. Lots of things come together in this one for my museum security expert heroine and my FBI agent hero . . . and lots of things blow apart, too.

Curious? Smuggler is available for preorder on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.

If readers haven’t grabbed the first two in the series, Reluctant Burglar and Reluctant Runaway, I recommend doing so. Each book can stand alone plotwise, but it’s best to read them in order to get the continuity of character growth. Readers can help me out particularly by buying through the click-through to Christianbook on my web site books page.

I’ve been very pleased and honored with the reaction of reviewers to the books. Folks who are unfamiliar with the series can find out what other readers think by checking out the numerous reviews posted on Amazon and Christianbook.

LISA: Tell us how you came up with the plotline.

JILL: Abuse and persecution of the helpless is always a burden on my heart, so writing a story that features the thriving underworld of human trafficking was a labor of love. Check out the ministry of the International Justice Mission, and your eyes will be opened.

Besides, Tony and Desiree needed to go someplace exotic for their new adventure. Mexico, and all its mysterious Mayan ruins, grabbed my imagination. Mel Gibson’s rather violent movie, Apocalypto, is no joke as to ancient Mayan culture, which makes the unseen principalities and powers pitted against my main characters quite formidable. The power of prayer plays a big role in the story, as well as the spiritual force of hope in shaping destiny on a personal level and in society as a whole.

LISA: What kind of research did you have to do for the book?

JILL: You should see my list of experts that I thank in the acknowledgements—several medical practitioners, a dietician, a former naval intelligence operative (oh, yeah, I didn’t get to list him), linguists, world travelers, an electronics expert, and the list goes on. For Reluctant Smuggler, I didn’t travel to Mexico like I went to Albuquerque for Reluctant Runaway, but I did have eye-witness input from folks who’ve been there. Also, my bookshelves are groaning with tomes on the FBI, the Maya, Mexico, museum security, etc. Plus, the Internet is always an invaluable source of information. I utilize every resource I can get my hands on to make the read as realistic as possible.

LISA: Can you share some of the ins and outs of writing a series?

JILL: Naturally, it’s vital to keep details straight from book to book—eye and hair color, personal preferences in the characters, foibles and habits. It’s also necessary to keep the characters growing and changing in a believable manner from book to book. Frankly, some series’ main characters change little in the sequels, and the emphasis is all on the action. I prefer to build in the kind of depth that can only come with character development. The reading experience—as well as the writing experience—is much richer.

In Smuggler, I hope readers find a lot of satisfaction in developments, not only in the main characters, but in some of the secondary ones as well. But I don’t want to say more than that and spoil the surprises.

LISA: Are you a seat of the pants plotter? Or do you go by a more rigid outline?

JILL: I’m a middle-of-the-road plotter. I know my starting place and where I want to end up, as well as the high points in between. If I try to plot more specifically than that, I get bogged down. My characters drive the story anyway, and sometimes—er, often they surprise me.

For instance, there is a major piece of back story for my male protagonist, Tony, in Reluctant Burglar. When I got done writing that bit, I figured that was the end of it. However, in Reluctant Runaway, he “told” me some back story to the back story that really livened up the personal issues in that book. Now, in the third book, we point some of that unfinished business toward a fresh resolution.

Those ahah! moments with my characters are exhilarating. I simply can’t plot those things. They have to happen organically.

LISA: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

JILL: It’s a toss-up between research and editing. I love chasing after those elusive nuggets of fact. Also, I enjoy the editing process once a manuscript is finished. Nothing like seeing that baby sculpted into its best form that brings honor to the Lord. I’ve been blessed with wonderful and insightful editors to work with in this process.

LISA: What is your least favorite part?

JILL: That first draft can be a love/hate relationship. While I love telling a rousing good story, the labor of making it so during that all-important initial draft can make me ache mentally and emotionally—like my soul has been yanked through a knothole backward. Those moments when I paint myself into a plot corner and haven’t a clue how my characters get out always send me to my knees. But God faithfully answers the sweat and tears with inspiration. The story is always better for the test—and so is the author.

LISA: What is your advice for someone wanting to break into the suspense/mystery genre?

JILL: Read a lot in the genre. Study the best and even the worst, and write, write, write, especially when you don’t feel particularly inspired. It’s good discipline.

That said, stay true to your heart in the stories you craft. Of course, if you can do that and write something commercially viable, all the better. I write what I like to read, but in this series, I also deliberately sought for and exploited “a big idea” that hadn’t been done before in the Christian market. Good business decisions need to go hand-in-hand with our writing ministry.

Also, dive into craft books (both general and genre-specific) and practice to polish your prose as bright and shiny as possible. Don’t let discouragement make you quit! Perseverance lands more contracts than talent alone does. Complete the projects you start. Editors are looking for writers who can be counted on to produce a finished, polished manuscript in a timely manner.

LISA: Any other advice you’d like to share with our readers?

JILL: Buy books. Give them as gifts. Talk about books to friends and family. Promote good, clean, fun fiction. That’s how we’ll see more of it out there, planting good seeds of blessing and truth in hurting souls.

LISA: Thanks so much for the great interview, Jill! Check out our contest page for a chance to win a copy of the book!


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