Thursday, April 8, 2010

Want a Little Fantasy in Your Life? Come Meet Author Jill Williamson!

Welcome to you Jill

Jill Williamson is the author of By Darkness Hid and To Darkness Fled, the first two books in a medieval fantasy trilogy. She has worked as a freelance editor and published numerous articles. VOYA magazine named By Darkness Hid as one of the Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror novels of 2010.

Jill grew up in Alaska with no electricity, an outhouse, and a lot of mosquitoes. Thankfully it was the land of the midnight sun, and she stayed up late, reading by the summer daylight that wouldn’t go away. But in the winter, there was nothing better to do than daydream. Both hobbies set her up to be a writer.

Jill has served alongside her youth pastor husband for the past twelve years and loves working with teenagers, especially to encourage young writers. ( An avid reader, she started Novel Teen Book Reviews ( to help teens find great books to read. She lives in Oregon with her youth pastor husband and two book-loving children. Visit Jill at

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.

So you write fantasy. What inspired you to come up writing for your particular sub-genre? Tell us about the circumstances.

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!

SKC: How interesting! I have been to Jeff Gerke's class on speculative fiction myself when I was at an ACFW conference. It was excellent. How long had you been writing before you got your first contract? And tell us how you dealt with your patience.

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?

Jill: Write, write, write. Finish that first draft. Don’t agonize over perfection until you’ve got a finished draft to agonize over. The beginning of the story might change once you know the end, so don’t waste time poring over every sentence until later. Save that for the rewrite stage. But don’t get stuck there either. Finish that book, send it out, then write a different book.

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?


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.

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 Technique
1. 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.

Jill: Online go to,, or You can also buy an autographed copy from me through my website. You can special order my book at your local bookstore by giving them the name and author. Also, many libraries have my first book, and if they don’t, they would likely order it if you ask. You could print out a couple reviews from the Free Download section of my website ( and take them to the library with you when you ask, so that they know they books is something they’d like to have.


Readers and Writers... Please drop a line. Tell Jill and I what your favorite speculative fiction book is, and why. If you have not yet read one, why or why not? We look forward to hearing from you. I will announce the winner in a few days.

And our winner is
Angie Lusco, Mt Vernon, Oregon. Congratulations, Angie. Be watching for your book!


  1. Liked your blog. Someday I hope to write a book tooo...where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away.

  2. Join the club, Nikki. There are very few that actually make any $$ at this. I have a feeling the majority of us simply write because we love the craft. Otherwise we wouldn't be wasting hours upon hours doing it.
    Blessings, and thanks for writing in.


  3. Jill, my favorite spec-fic story is an older one. CS Lewis' That Hideous Strength. It used to be hard to pick just one, but since reading that one, no trouble at all.

    Outside of the Christian writers, I'd pick Thud! or Going Postal, both by Terry Pratchett. Lewis is still better though.

  4. My favorite Christian spec-fic would have to be Bill Myers' last two Fire of Heaven books. Some AMAZING storytelling going on there! Others are A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz (just dang good scifi!) and Saint by Ted Dekker.

  5. Frank Perreti's the very first speculative Christian fiction writer I had the pleasure of reading. This was years before I began writing. Before that, when I heard the term "Christian fiction", I automatically thought "boring". Perreti's writing is anything but boring. Now, I write Christian speculative fiction.
    Isn't it a beautiful thing? God brings us where we need to be with the smallest things. I call them little kisses from heaven. This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness will forever be at the top of my favorites list.

  6. I was impressed with Randy Alcorn's Lord Foulgrin's Letters. Like the others, I also really enjoy Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. Dekker's Circle Books are probably my favorites. Outside of Christian writers I also enjoy S.M. Stirling's Change novels (but wish he would write without bad language!)

    I found you through Jill's Facebook page. Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. I love Jill's books, I'm just getting into sci-fi so am not at all able to give the name of a favourite one. Please enter me in the draw

    wyndy C

  8. Oops should have left an email addy, sorry,.

    wyndyc at gmail dot com

  9. What great comments so far. Thanks so much. Keep 'em coming! Jill will be here to offer her comments soon too.

  10. I lent your first book to my cousin, And he totally loved it and read it really quickly

    He really only reads popular teen fiction, like Harry potter, eragon, and twilight.
    Now he's really looking forward to the rest of this series of books! :)

    I'm really excited to have introduced him to a great author!

    I honestly have probably liked your books the best out of all the spec. fiction i have read (which even includes dekker!)

    rebornbutterfly (at) sbcglobal (dot) net

  11. wow... I said really a lot... sorry :)

  12. Well, I reviewed Jill's first book and loved it so much that my review was put on USA Today's Faith and Reason column! In addition to Jill's book I would list "Hero, Second Class" by Mitchell Bonds, of course Frank Peretti and many of Ted Dekker's books, a new favorite would be The Sword by Bryan Litfin oh and Shaunti Feldhahn has her Veritas series that is amazing.

    Honestly, I could go on and on about Christian Spec Fiction - love it!!!

    ryanx6 at msn dot com

  13. What is my favorite Speculative Fiction story? By Darkness Hid, of course!

    Okay, I actually am being serious. I love, love, love this book. And I can't wait to read the next one. Everyone should pick up a copy of By Darkness Hid ASAP.


  14. I would have to say it is the first one's I read of Frank Perretti - This Present Darkness and Piercind the Darkness.
    I love medieval books and these sound good.

  15. Frank- Cool! I've never read those books and need to check them out. They sound awesome!

    Holly- I loved Blood of Heaven. I'm excited to meet Bill Myers at the OCW conference this summer. Also, I told Kerry what you said about his book. :-) I'm sure it made him smile.

    Diane- Amen! Peretti's books did amazing things for opening up the Christian speculative fiction world. I'm so thankful for them too!

  16. Angie- I've never read Randy Alcorn yet! I just know I would love his books. So little time...

    Thanks, Wyn!!!

    Shirley and all, I'm in Alaska right now talking to schools and I'm having difficulty getting online! I thought I'd have more opportunities. Sorry it took me so long to stop by, guys!

  17. rebornbutterfly-- Thanks for those encouraging words! You can talk all day! :-)

    Janna! Hello! I'm so glad you mentioned Hero, Second Class. It's such a fun story.

    Chris- You are my hero, always. :-) I should put you in my story somehow...

  18. Wendy,

    Yay! More kudos for Frank Peretti. He is so talented. Do any of you know that I got to take him to lunch once? It was very cool.