Jill Elizabeth Nelson Interview

» Posted on Mar 20, 2007 in Blog | Comments Off on Jill Elizabeth Nelson Interview

1. What made you start writing?

I turned into a voracious reader in grade school, but it was my sixth grade teacher whose love for the power of words inspired me to move beyond just reading them to writing them. I penned—er, penciled my first mystery novel that year. It was a ridiculous caper involving a group of kid sleuths, but I finished it. At the time, I had no concept what a milestone completing a manuscript is in a writer’s life.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

After that first foray as a novelist, I did many types of writing throughout high school and college—poetry, journalism, essays, short stories. Then for many years, I set writing aside as I raised a family of four children. In the year 2000, as the kids began leaving the nest, the urge to write stirred again in my heart, and I began to sell short pieces and write for a magazine as a book reviewer while working on a novel that hasn’t yet sold. I wrote several more manuscripts after that one, and in 2005, I got the call from Multnomah that they were picking up my romantic suspense series. Reluctant Burglar, the first in the To Catch a Thief series, came out last September. The second book, Reluctant Runaway, just released, and I’m very honored and thankful for the warm reception from readers.

3. How do you handle rejections?

I’ve long ago accepted rejection as part of the business. Some rejections are more disappointing than others, of course, but mostly I keep too busy to waste time dwelling on a door that didn’t open. There are so many other opportunities, and I know my God: He has that exact right door, that exact right path, and it’s foolish to mourn for the one that didn’t work out. I’d rather shoot for His best!

4. Why do you write?

I can’t not write and remain obedient to the call on my life.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

Reading. Spending time with my family. Watching Numb3rs, or CSI, or Criminal Minds, or even a Columbo rerun. (I’ve got this odd attraction to who-dunits.)

6. What are you working on right now?

New project proposals for consideration at Multnomah. Marketing the current series. Edits on the third book in the To Catch a Thief series.

7. You have some great topics to speak on. What is your favorite topic? Why?

I gleaned a lot of cool facts and insights about art and antiquities theft in researching my current series that features a museum security expert and an FBI agent on the trail of murderous art thieves. I love to share that fascinating real-life information with interested audiences. But when speaking specifically to writers, I’d rather talk craft. My experience with Karen Ball as an editor on my first two books was a real eye-opener, and I love to share my Ahah! revelations on craft so up-and-coming writers can get a jump ahead.

Information about my speaking topics can be found at my web site .

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.

Reluctant Runaway officially releases on March 20. In this new caper, museum security expert Desiree Jacobs and FBI agent Tony Lucano hunt for a missing wife and mom who may be connected with a bizarre cult, as well as the theft of ancient Indian artifacts. Secondary characters like flame-haired genius Maxine Webb and all around irritant Steve Crane are still on board for this one, so we continue to have humor mixed in with the high-speed chase and mortal danger. We also meet new characters—allies and enemies and some that fit in that gray area in between. Plus we get to travel to fresh and intriguing areas in the U.S. in pursuit of a twisted evil that masquerades as light.

On my web site, I’ve posted a fun video trailer of Runaway that captures the flavor of the story. Video

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Persevere. Don’t look at circumstances (especially the rejection pile). Trust that the good work God has begun, He will finish. But let Him do it His way and in His time!

10. How important is faith in your books?

Faith expressed naturally in the lives of my characters is integral to my stories. As my web site says, I like to write a fast-paced adventure with more meat on its bones than just a slick plot. That extra something is faith. A book that ignores man’s need to believe in something or someone beyond himself leaves out a vital part of our humanity. Of course, as a Christian, I realize that God created us with the craving to be filled by Him.

11. What themes do you like to write about?

I’m particularly fond of a tale that features a winsome underdog facing insurmountable odds and fighting through to victory by trusting in God. Reluctant Burglar is quite strong on that theme, but all of my books explore the aspect of overcoming difficulty through faith in one form or another.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

My favorite book is one that’s not yet published—the book I started in the year 2000. Actually, it’s two complete novels now, but fantasy is a tough sell in the CBA. It’s a small reader demographic in the ABA, and even smaller in the Christian market. I’m extremely fond of my swashbuckling hero with a bushel of strikes against him and the temptation to bitterness that attacks him every day. He’s the classic underdog bucking the odds, like I mentioned in my answer to the last question.

13. What kind of books do you like to read? Why centered around art theft?

I read a lot of mystery and suspense, which qualifies as research as well as pleasure. But my reading tastes are pretty eclectic. If the writing is good and the themes touch my heart, I’ll devour a book in any genre.

Writing a series about art theft came as much of a surprise to me as anyone. The concept was born in a literal sleeping dream. I woke up in the wee hours one night all tense from a dream about a woman sneaking into a fancy estate, then taking a painting off a wall and replacing it with an identical work. In that strange way dreams have, I knew she was removing the forgery and putting the genuine back. I also knew that if she were caught returning the painting disaster would follow for many people, not just herself.

How would someone acquire cat burglar skills and yet not be a criminal? And what circumstances could force her into committing this outrageous act of reverse larceny? Reluctant Burglar was born out of the answers to those questions.

14. What is your writing schedule like?

Daily and dogged. I like to achieve a certain word count each day, but since I work full time out of the home, I need to keep my expectations reasonable. The key is to be consistent. A 90,000 word book can be written in 90 days if a writer taps out 1,000 words a day. Of course, you have to figure in time for research and life interruptions, so my six month per book deadlines were realistic for me.

15. I love your quiz/contest on your web site. How did you come up with it?

Since each book in the To Catch a Thief series has a different art theme, it seemed logical to offer a contest that provides entertainment and education in the same package. A matching game that challenges the art IQ and then supplies interesting answers about art theft fit the criteria.

Reluctant Burglar featured the European masters, so the game focused on classic works by Renoir, da Vinci, Rembrandt, and the like. The current contest focuses on American and Native American art to correspond with the theme found in Reluctant Runaway. The third book in the series, Reluctant Smuggler, takes our heroes south of the border, so the art theme is Hispanic works. That contest will be posted when we get close to the January release date.

For now, people can go to my Stealth and Wealth page to enter the contest for a chance at a signed copy of Reluctant Runaway. Stealth and Wealth page