Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Author Interview: Jill Williamson
I have both of Jill Williamson's books, By Darkness Hid and To Darkness Fled on my Kindle, and based on the reviews I think I'm in for a real treat. So needless to say, I'm delighted to have Jill on my blog today to share more about her books, herself, and what she has in store for the future.
SW. Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
JW. I grew up in Alaska. We didn’t have electricity, so it was an interesting childhood. I went to college for fashion design and worked a few years in that industry until I was fed up with it all. I stayed home with my kids for a few years before I started writing. My husband is a youth pastor, so we’ve worked with teens for twelve years now. We have two kids and live in Oregon.
SW. No kidding! My major was fashion merchandising. Funny how we end up where we do.
When did you first become interested in writing?
JW. During those two years when I was home with the kids, I spent some time speaking to teens, teaching classes at church. I thought it would be fun to be a full-time speaker. I heard that articles in magazines and newspapers can help a speaker, so I started writing articles. One of the Harry Potter books came out and a new barrage of debates within the Christian community flared up as to whether or not these books should be read by Christians. It inspired me to write my own novel for teens.
SW. Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?
JW. I attended my first writer’s conference in 2005. It was an American Christian Writer’s one-day conference in Anaheim, California. I talked my senior pastor into attending with me. Steve Laube was one of the speakers, and I totally bombed my pitch to him. People at that conference were saying that the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference was the best conference in the southwest, so I set my sights on that one and started saving.
I knew I had to finish my book and find a critique group and learn how to pitch! I worked hard to learn all that stuff. I read every writing-related book I could find. I did Randy Ingermanson’s Fiction 101 and Fiction 201 classes. I found a critique group, which turned out to be a bad fit, but I met a girl in that group and we started our own group that we are still in today. I was asked to submit partials to two agents at Mount Hermon that turned into requests for fulls. But both were eventually rejected. I saw no reason to keep poring over my first book, so I set it aside and wrote some more stories. I’d written six books by the time I got a book contract.
SW. How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?
JW. I brainstorm quite a bit. I need to have a premise and a three-act structure. I also need to know who my main characters are and what will happen to them over the course of the story. This often changes as I write the story, but I need a place to start and a logical direction before I can write.
SW. Tell us about your latest release?
JW. To Darkness Fled is the second book in the Blood of Kings trilogy. This is a medieval fantasy trilogy that I wrote for teens but was published as a book for all ages. Here is the back cover copy:
They have no choice. Chased by an evil prince, Achan, Vrell, and the Kingsguard knights flee into Darkness. They head north, for Tsaftown and Ice Island, where they must free an army that can help them fight for Er’Rets.
Darkness sickens Vrell. How long can she keep her secret without being caught? Achan already suspects her of lying. If she is not careful, he will suspect her of treason as well. She hopes he will let his suspicions go until they reach her home.
Achan wanted freedom, but this new journey has bound him more than ever. Sir Gavin’s claims are so far fetched. First, that there might only be one God, and second, that this God chose Achan to push back Darkness, the magnificent curse of Er’Rets. Him. Achan. Barely a man himself.
Each setback Darkness brings seems minor compared to the one choice only Achan can make. What will he choose?
SW. What inspired you to write this story?
JW. My son and I were walking past house that had burned down. There was a tree in the yard that was half charred and half leafy green. I thought it was so cool. So I ran home and Photoshopped the tree. It’s the same tree that is the header on my website.
I also had a weird dream about a woman soldier who was on a mission to rescue the heir to the land. His transport had been in an accident and he was taken to a hospital on the wrong side of the city, the dangerous side. He was in a coma. But there was another guy in the hospital room who had amnesia. And only I knew that the coma guy was an impostor. Amnesia guy was the real heir. And the soldier woman was going to be the one to figure it all out.
SW. Oh yes...dreams. They are wonderful inspiration. That's what got my last guest, Sarah Sundin, started, and it's also what plunged me into this journey. I love to hear that other authors are inspired by them too.
Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them, and what endears them to you?
JW. Achan and Vrell both came from that dream. Achan is the amnesia guy and Vrell is the soldier girl. I always knew I wanted Achan to be a lowly slave-type character, who was strong, but never really thought of trying to escape his situation.
I got the idea to make Vrell disguised as a boy from a book I was reading. There was a male character who was so skinny, who blushed and couldn’t fight—I was certain he was a girl in disguise. He wasn’t. But when I finished that book I felt that he should have been. Then it occurred to me that might be a neat thing to do in my story. So Vrell became a noblewoman in disguise rather than the female soldier. It fit better for a medieval tale, anyway.
I love that Achan is sarcastic and brave. I love that he calls Vrell by her last name, Sparrow. I enjoy writing his struggle to find his place in all he experiences.
I like that Vrell, a spoiled noblewoman, is thrust into the wilderness to travel with men. Her dose of reality is fun. I like how she interacts with Achan and how her best intentions often get her in trouble.
SW. What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?
JW. I want to write books for teens that entertain and give them some of the answers they are looking for in life. And if they don’t give the answers, at least point them in the right direction. I would love to write books for the rest of my life.
SW. Any ideas for future projects?
JW. I have one more book to finish in the Blood of Kings trilogy. I’m also polishing up some of my other books to submit to publishers. And I have lots of new book ideas, but only so many hours in each day.
SW. All right, how about some fun stuff. What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? Also, any other hobbies?
JW. The original Star Wars trilogy changed the way my imagination works. We didn’t have electricity, so on my ninth birthday, my parents rented a TV/VCR and all three original Star Wars movies. It was awesome.
My favorite food is fettuccine alfredo. Anything Italian makes me happy.
My favorite vacation place is Disneyland with my family.
I like to read, read to my kids, do kickboxing class, scrapbook, and I used to sew wedding gowns, but sewing isn’t my favorite activity. I also play the guitar.
SW. Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?
JW. Yes. Depends what you are looking for. If you love fantasy and science fiction, check out all the Marcher Lord Press titles at www.marcherlordpress.com.
If you like funny teen books, read Jenny B. Jones’s Katie Parker series or A Charmed Life series. She makes me laugh so hard I cry, which just feels good sometimes, you know?
You can find all kinds of teen fiction on my blog www.novelteen.com. You can search by genre or age group. It’s a pretty extensive database of what’s out there for teens to read.
Thank you so much, Jill. It's been a pleasure to host you. Jill is giving away one of her books, which ever the winner of the drawing chooses. All you have to do is leave a comment with your email.
For more about Jill and her books: