Welcome back, and thanks for stopping by for a chance to meet Jill Williamson, author of
“By Darkness Hid”, a medieval speculative fiction novel about two people who learn that they can communicate from mind to mind.
Today and tomorrow you have the chance to meet her and sign up to win a copy of her novel! Just leave a post (or a question! Jill will be stopping by to see what you have to say!). Don’t forget your email address. I’ll pick a winner on Wed. July 1st.
And now…here’s Jill!!
Tell us a little about yourself:
I grew up in Alaska. We lived in the woods, several roads away from any other house, but not totally isolated. We didn’t have electricity or running water, though. I spent most my time daydreaming I had another life. We were pretty poor. Most my clothes came from thrift stores, so I became good at remodeling outfits. I was good at sewing and that gave me the goal of becoming a fashion designer.
We were a non-believing home, but, thankfully, I met God in college. I stayed focused on my fashion design dreams. I met and married Brad, who wanted to direct movies. We made a deal: we would go to New York City for a year so I could finish my fashion design degree, and then we’d move to Los Angeles so he could get into film. Over the years, however, we both found our industries unfulfilling. The people we worked for were driven to the point of ruthelessness and we couldn’t bring ourselves to the task of sucking up to get promoted. We came to discover that our dreams were not what we expected. So we prayed God would grant us the desires of our hearts, which were no longer fashion and movies. And God did grant them. Brad went to school and received his minister’s license. He is now a youth pastor and he loves it. I got to stay home with my baby. Life was great.
Why did you start writing?
I floundered around a bit trying to find a new career that I could do from home. I designed a line of wedding gowns and went to the Chicago bridal market, only to discover I needed a lot of money to succeed in starting my own business. I tried a few more home businesses, but it wasn’t until I shared my life story with some teen girls that God opened a new door in my life. I discovered that there is power in a story. I wanted to tell more people about my life if it would help them. So I started researching how to be a speaker. During that research I saw someone had gotten started by writing articles.
How did you start writing?
I looked into how I might write an article and get it published. I was shocked by how complicated the writing industry was. In the meantime, there was an argument within my church congregation as to whether or not the Harry Potter books were bad for Christians to read. My husband was a youth pastor now and loving teenagers had become our life. This debate left me with a new idea. Why not write a book for teens that would capture the awe and adventure of Harry Potter, but have faith in it? So I brainstormed up what I thought would be the perfect alternative. I got hooked on fiction and article writing took the back seat.
How did you select your genre?
Since I love to read fantasy, science fiction, and all things weird, I started writing those kinds of books for teens. First I wrote a teen spy novel. Then I wrote a cloning story. Then I wrote my fantasy novel. I worried that I didn’t have a brand and was writing too many different types of books. But eventually I discovered a word that encompassed everything I write: speculative fiction.
What is your writing day like?
I just sit down and write. I do better when nothing/no one is around to distract me—including the internet. I also do better when I have all my stuff right there beside the computer.
How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
I have a manila folder for each novel. Once I spend months on a novel, the folder overflows into a 3-ring binder. For By Darkness Hid, I have my maps, each city’s crest and colors, my genealogy chart of who was king when, and things like that in the front of the notebook. Then I have a section for each town. There I list the lord of the manor and his family and any other pertinent characters. I have each town’s geography, history, and crop or export listed. I might also have a sketch of the stronghold for that town and drawings of main characters. I also have a list of additional names that fit the town in case I need a new character. I used a theme for each town when I brainstormed names. For example, Allowntown is an orchard village, therefore I used types of apples for character names: Crab, Cider, Gala, Cortland, Ginger, Braeburn, Pippen, Taylor, etc.
What’s the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
One of my first novels was about a girl who lived in the Alaskan bush. Her dream was to move to the big city. During the novel, she gets to live in town with her aunt and go to school. Amaraq, her brother, also gets the offer to go live in town, but he says no. I had planned to have Amaraq move to town, but his character wouldn’t let me. It never occurred to me when I started the book that a person might not want to live in a city. Having been raised in a poor family, my dream was to get away and “make something of myself.” I sort of discovered though Amaraq that a simple life of hard work can be wonderful and that we don’t need to assimilate into society to be happy. Often people find they were happier before they changed everything. Amaraq was happy with his bush life. He didn’t want to live in a city, ever. This was the first time I discovered that a character might not think like me.
Do you have a list of characters that you’re saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters?
I don’t really have a list of characters. I do have pages where I’ve jotted down story ideas. I put those into a manila folder with a tentative title on it. Then, should something more pop into my head about that premise, I write it down and stick it in the folder. Sometimes I’ll stumble onto a related article or a book that might be great research for a premise I’ve come up with. So I put the article or the book title in the folder so everything is together should I decide to write that book. I do the same for sequels to the books I’ve written. I have a folder for each so everything will be together when I’m ready to start writing.
What does your work space/office look like?
I don’t have my own space. I share the computer with my husband and kids. That’s why the folders are so important. When I’m ready to work, I drag out my notebooks and folders so that I have everything close by.
What is your go-to snack when writing?
I try not to have a snack. Eating distracts me from writing.
If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
I loved the book William Henry is a Fine Name by Cathy Gohlke. It’s the story of two boys who are best friends in pre-Civil War America. Robert Glover is white, and William Henry is black. As the country draws closer to war, Robert discovers that there are some who feel strongly that he shouldn’t be friends with William Henry or any other person with dark skin. Robert has to decide for himself what kind of man he will be. This book drew me into Robert’s world and gave me a different look at the underground railroad. I loved the characters and the plot. It’s a wonderful book.
If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers helped me the most as I was learning. It is a really great tool to have once you’ve completed your first draft and are ready to rewrite. It helps you see where you are making novice mistakes in your writing and helps you learn how to fix them.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Writing is so much fun, but it’s not easy. It takes time to write a whole book. It takes even longer to go back in and edit and rewrite. Plus, spending time brainstorming characters and their childhood and motivations also takes time. All this time adds up into a major life investment. But the more time you put in, the stronger your novel will be. So, even though it’s difficult, try not to be in a hurry to get published. Work on your novel until you feel it is perfect. Then, while you wait to see if someone wants to publish it, write another book. The more you write, the better you get at writing.
Wow! Thanks, Jill, for your time. I’m so glad to have met you!
Now if you have a question for Jill, something to add, or just want to sign up for a free copy of “By Darkness Hid”, please leave your name and email addy.
Have a great day!