Interview with Jenny Gilliam For Manic ReadersMay 8, 2008
I’m so glad for the opportunity to interview a romance author – not just another romance author – but, you have a distinctive style, insist on the HAP – as you call it, and your ideas are certainly unique as your titles suggest. So while I am as curious as a cat in a room full of cat nip—I’m sure our readers are too.
First up tell us a little about Jenny Gilliam. Who is she, where does she hail from, how’d she get her start in writing the romance the way she does it? I know a lot of this is on your bio but, it’s so fascinating I know our readers would like to hear about it right here.
Well, I’m originally from Portland, Oregon, but we moved to a small (and when I say small, I mean, blink and it’s gone) in the coastal mountain range. We live on ten acres overlooking the mountains. It’s beautiful.
As for my start, I’ve always been a sucker for romance. Any movie I watch(ed)—even as a child—I watched for the romantic element. When I started writing at age 10, my stories forever contained the Happy Ever After (HAP) element.
Two years ago, I joined Romance Writers of America and a local chapter, where I became instantly inspired. I was like a sponge; soaking up as much information on the craft as I could. Since then, I’ve been writing toward the goal of publication. And recently succeeded.
If I was to visit you on your off hour – when you are not writing — what would you be doing? Favorite hobby, interests?
When I’m not writing, I’m cleaning house—not my favorite hobby or interest, but I’m a stay-at-home-mom with a 2 ½ y/o and a 5 ½ y/o, so it’s cleaning and getting snacks, making meals, etc. When I have a little time to myself, I love to read, knit and sew. I’m big into crafts.
Your first published title makes me want to ask about this crazy juxtaposition of words The Wedding War? Tell us about the book – also, how did you come up with that title? I love it.
Here’s the back cover blurb:
What happens when a fairytale-believing wedding planner and a jaded hot-rod builder who thinks love is nothing more than a chemical reaction end up on opposite sides of the aisle at the wedding of her best friend and his brother? A wedding war erupts.
Jake Ryan will do just about anything to keep his brother from making the same mistake he made. He’s convinced there won’t be a wedding because he’s out to stop it. Mia Briscoe’s determined this will be the most spectacular wedding she’s ever planned. And when she discovers the groom’s brother is out to break up the happy couple? The battle begins.
Jake and Mia have both suffered deep emotional wounds that prevent them from making lasting connections. And both are baffled by the intense feelings they bring out in each other. Can Mia teach Jake that love is something to cherish and not loathe? And if she can, will he be strong enough to bury his past so they can have a chance at a future together?
Mia and Jake have such a hard time getting together—and along—that I thought The Wedding War would be perfect. They’re two people on opposite sides of the aisle, fighting for what each of them believes in.
How long did it take you to write The Wedding War? What was finding a publisher process like?
It took me about two months to write The Wedding War. Actually, I wrote 3 full length novels last year. I get into what my husband refers to as the ‘twillight writing zone” when I work. Things like food and water go to the wayside when I’m on a project.
Finding a publisher was an eye-opening, albeit painful, experience. I’m a sensitive gal (dubbed “The Drama Queen” by friends and loved ones), so the rejections, or passes, as my good friend Eli says, hurt. But, I pushed past them and kept moving forward.
The former president of my local chapter, fellow TWRP author Paty Jager, turned my attention to The Wild Rose Press and the world of e-publishing. I was on the fence for a while, but decided to go ahead and take the plunge. It was the best career decision I’ve made.
The Wedding War has received some really great reviews – Did you know exactly what you were doing when you wrote it – or was it more of a seat of the pants lets see what happens kind of thing? Did you have any kind of an outline?
Did you have a publisher in mind when you wrote it?
I’d originally written it for Harlequin’s Blaze line (rejected). It was the first time I’d ever used an outline for a novel. Usually, I outline (note taking is more like it—I have notebooks filled with novel plot points) as I go, but I used a concept I’d gleaned from a reference book: index cards. I wrote down the key plot points in the novel on the index cards, spread them out in chronological order, then filled in the blanks. It made the writing process a lot easier. Of course, the characters changed their minds about some of the things, so it wasn’t an exact science.
You’ve just contracted your second book with Wild Rose publishing – Congratulations. The second book tells people for sure you are not just a one book wonder. Tell us about The Truth About Roxy — I love the premise for this one. I just know it will be a lot of fun to read.
Here’s the blurb:
Roxy Palmer is a walking, breathing cliché. And darned tired of it.
Working as the assistant librarian in her small, Southern home town, Roxy also anonymously pens the local love column, Ask Paula Rockwell—Thorton, Georgia's answer to Dear Abby.
But when the door leading to Roxy's lifetime dream is slammed in her face by one of the good ol' boys, Roxy brings out the big guns--and turns the genteel town upside down with her racier, feminist, home-wrecking new format.
Paula Rockwell is making Sheriff Noah Kennedy's life crazy. He's got angry husbands lined around the block, demanding the cancellation of the column, fights breaking out and women catching their boyfriends' trucks on fire. If he ever gets his hands on that woman…
But he's got his hands full of Roxy at the moment, and if he ever discovers the truth about Roxy, all hell will break loose.
I’ve also sold a third novel to Amira Press called Letting Luce. Here’s another blurb:
When Lucy Hollister tried to drop-kick her personal computer out her second-story window, she had no idea it would eventually lead to the seduction of her very hot, very yummy best friend, Rory Carlisle. After all, she’s the queen of passivity, and he’s the reining king of the non-committed relationship. When a sexy online flirtation leads the couple into some steamy situations, Rory realizes that his cute best friend is letting loose—in the best possible way. Can this couple get past old hurts and guarded hearts to embrace the passionate love that awaits?
What comes first for you Character or Plot? Do you do a detailed character sketch for your main characters before you start?
It really depends. Sometimes, the characters start conversing in my head before any kind of plot develops; other times it’s the reverse. I always sketch out my characters before I start a novel.
Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
I’m an extremely nosy person by nature, and I also think way too much. This leads to the ‘what if’ factor. Often times, I get a kernel of an idea from the lyrics of a song, or watching a person walking down the road when I’m driving. Just going into the world creates a plethora of creative opportunities for me.
Many writers, especially new writers it seems have problems with writer’s block. Do you ever experience this, if you do how do you deal with it? If you never have, what do you attribute that to?
I don’t believe in writer’s block, I believe in the fear of failure. I’m struggling with this myself right now; I’ve started my fifth novel—the first one since I’ve been published. It was slow going at first—I had to force myself to sit down and write everyday. It was excruciating; I would write and say, “This is going to suck!” Then I’d take a look at it and say, “Okay, this isn’t bad.” Which is ultimately what kept me writing. I call it the sophomore slump. I think any kind of writer’s block can ultimately be attributed to fear or something in the subconscious. Whether or not the writer wants to admit it.
You seem to have a very full schedule when I looked at your events list – chats, interviews, conferences and you write a newsletter quarterly. What kind of marketing advice would you give a new writer that wants to brand themselves, get their name out there?
When I learned that I would be in charge of most of my own promotion, I wanted to cry. I couldn’t sell firewood to Eskimos. But, I started by getting my name out there on loops; giving kudos to other writers. It’s like karma; treat others how you wish to be treated and the world will be kind. Does that make sense? After that, I just heard by word of mouth (or email) about different groups, such as Manic Readers, and put myself out there with a request. I made up some simple business cards that I hand out (and coerced my parents into handing out). I’m not sure about pens or bookmarks yet, since I’ve heard they’re not that great a marketing tool. We’ll see.
How do you family and friends respond to you now that you are a published romance author?
They are all very proud, but basically, I’m still the same old Jen to them. My husband keeps asking when he can quit his job, so I support him. I just laugh. At him.
Are there any other genres that you would like to write in that you haven’t explored yet? Why or why not?
I’ve always been interested in true crime, but I don’t know if I have the chutzpa to interview serial killers. The last novel I wrote is a romantic suspense. I adore forensic shows and have a lot of respect for detectives and those in the field. I could see myself moving into the romantic suspense genre. But, I don’t think I could ever completely cross over into mystery. There’s not always the HAP. Have to have the HAP.
Do you have anything in the works now?
As I mentioned above, I’m currently at work on my fifth novel, the stand-alone sequel to The Truth About Roxy.
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years from now?
I want is to be able to write for a living. That’s all I want. A bestseller or two would be nice, too. (*cheeky grin*)
Thank you so much Jenny for spending part of your busy day answering our questions here. Would you please tell our readers where they might find out more about you, your books and where they can buy them?
Thanks so much for having me! It’s been a pleasure.
You can purchase The Wedding War (available now in digital and print form) from The Wild Rose Press (http://www.thewildrosepress.com/), which is also where The Truth About Roxy will be available soon. My third novel, Letting Luce, will be coming soon from Amira Press (http://www.amirapress.com/).
I have a website http://www.jennygilliam.com/, on which I’m starting a new quarterly newsletter. I’m encouraging readers and fellow writers to add their names to the list by shipping me an email. I also have a myspace page www.myspace.com/jennygilliam and a blog http://www.jennygilliam.blogspot.com/.
I look forward to seeing more work by you. I hope you’ll let us help you announce new books as they get accepted. Many Sales to You and Write Like the Wind
Interviewed by: Billie A. Williams at Manic Readers
Interview with Jenny Gilliam For Manic ReadersMay 8, 2008