SKC: Wow! Another wonderful Oregon writer. I think I'm partial to those. I smile. Could be because I'm from this part of the U.S. too.
Jill: I’ve always loved reading fantasy novels. But when I first started writing, I wrote non fiction articles for teens. Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness really opened my imagination to the possibility of writing something Christian. I had never read Christian fiction before that book. When I did start writing, I didn’t set out to write something speculative. I just wanted to write something entertaining for teens. I write a teen spy story first. Then I wrote a story about a cloning lab. Then I wrote my first fantasy novel. I remember being so frustrated because I kept hearing that new writers needed to figure out what genre they wrote, and I didn’t have a clue what my genre was. Was it fantasy? Science Fiction? Urban fantasy? Contemporary? Adventure? At Mount Hermon in 2007, I went to Jeff Gerke’s class on speculative fiction and was pleased to discover that I was writing in the same genre. It was called speculative fiction. What a relief!
Jill: I started my first teen fiction novel in 2004. I signed the contract for By Darkness Hid in 2008. Those four years felt like an eternity, but I passed the time by writing, rewriting, reading fiction help books, going to conferences, and participating in online critique groups. And of course, I prayed a lot, asking God if he was sure this was what he wanted me to be spending my time on. I also did some foolish things because I wasn’t patient enough. I have learned the wisdom of patience over the years.
SKC: All authors have advice for other new authors coming into the field of writing. What is yours?
And read. When you read genres like the one you write, study what the author did. Look at their dialogue, action, punctuation, characters, plot, everything. Learn all you can. It will help you be a better writer and storyteller.
SKC: Sometimes inspirational writers have a hard time being accepted in the “real” world (Outside of CBA). What are your thoughts about inspirational writers writing Crossover Stories?
ART ALWAYS ATTRACTS CRITICS
Jill: It’s a tough thing. Many people are offended at the mention of the word “Christian.” I’ve received a few biased reviews from non Christians. I’ve been excluded from certain blog sites because I write Christian fiction and some see that as inferior. But I’ve also received letters where people were excited about the Christian analogy in my books, and letters where it didn’t bother people at all. Remember that art always attracts critics. It’s part of the field. Expect to hear negative things. Expect to be excluded. But pray for God to do great things with your story. You may never see those great things, but if you trust God, it will be easier. Trust him with your story.
SKC: Great advice. What’s it like writing for YA?
Jill: It’s the best. There is just something nostalgic about those teenage years. As I write YA, I get to be a teenager time and again. I get to hang out with teens too, as my husband is a youth pastor. I love teens and am thrilled that God has allowed my husband and I to serve in this way.
SKC: I think it really helps if you are around the young people all the time. Otherwise, it is difficult to see how they think. Okay, what about the magic of the first five pages… Tell us what gets you started on those first five pages of a brand new story.
Jill: My first five pages of a new story usually aren’t very magical. I often change them when I go back to rewrite. My goal in a brand new story is to write the first draft as quickly as possible. Now, when I do go back, I try to make sure I open with an interesting hook. I didn’t do that in By Darkness Hid, and a few writers have pointed that out. But I’m a staunch supporter of the policy, “Learn the rules, then break them when you feel like it.” I wanted By Darkness Hid to open with Achan in his everyday world so that readers could see that before the action came. And the action did come in the first five pages.
SKC: Many authors cringe when it comes to the moment they have to come up with their synopsis. What would be your best advice to them, Jill?
Jill: I like to write a synopsis using techniques I learned from Randy Ingermanson. Check out his website for great writing information. http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/
Basically, I write one sentence for each of the following things to create my blurb or one-paragraph summary that I use in my query and cover letters.
The Synopsis Technique1. The introduction. Where the story starts
2. The hook at the end of Act One.
3. The hook in the middle of the book.
4. The hook at the end of Act Two.
5. The climax and conclusion (You MUST include the ending for agents and editors! Don’t leave this off.)
Now you have a nice one-paragraph blurb of your story. Expand each sentence to a paragraph. That will give you a rough outline of a on-page synopsis, and you’ll only needed to add a little bit more to make it flow nicely. Try to keep out most of the side characters and side plots to not confuse things. Also, I learned that using all caps for the first time you use a character’s name is a nice touch.
SKC: What do you do during the waiting period when editors are looking over your manuscripts?
Jill: I work on a different manuscript.
SKC: Something that is hard for me, because I always want to continue FIXING. After you finish your present project, what plans do you have?
Jill: I’m hoping to sell one of my other completed manuscripts. Depending on what happens with that, I might work on the sequels to those books or write something new.
SKC: What would you like to ask this week about either writing or having that love to read? And what book is it that you wish to share with one of our responders?
Jill: What is your favorite speculative fiction story? Speculative fiction is anything out of the ordinary, like fantasy, monsters, time travel, science fiction, alternate history, spiritual warfare, or futuristic stories. If you’ve never read a speculative book, I bet you’ve seen a movie or TV show that was speculative. I’d love to know your favorite one.
I’m giving away a copy of To Darkness Fled (Blood of Kings, book 2), but if the winner would prefer book one, I’d be happy to give them By Darkness Hid instead so they can start at the beginning of the series.
SKC: That sounds great, Jill. And I love your question for us. Thanks so much for coming by. Please let us know where we can find your books.