We're talking to Jill about her third book in the To Catch a Thief series--Reluctant Smuggler, a truly wonderful read!
I’m so thankful for all the great things the Lord has done and is doing with the gifts and talents He’s given me in the area of writing. For most of my life, my ultimate goal was to be a published novelist. That has happened, praise God! On speaking engagements, I like to tell my audience that if God can bring a dream to pass for this nobody-in-particular from nowhere special, He can and will do it for them too. Now I’ve had to set a new goal—to reach that “tipping point” in readership where I begin to have regular bestsellers. I don’t desire such a thing for my glory at all, but so that the truths He flows through me into entertaining stories reach the most people possible.
I know what you mean. That's what I want as well. Tell us a little about your family.
My first and only marriage to a great guy is going stronger than ever. We’ve been husband and wife for almost 27 years, and have raised four children—two boys, two girls. The eldest (a son) is married, but no children yet. Three of my four kids have dogs, so they tease us that we have “grand-dogs.” The canines may be cute and friendly, but they are so not the same thing as grandchildren! LOL.
That's the truth. Grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your teenagers. Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
I’ve been an avid reader all my life. Immediately prior to getting my first book contract, I was the “Senior Inspirational Reviewer” for Romantic Times magazine. As such, I read and reviewed 12 – 15 books per month. However, book deadlines have seriously curtailed that aspect of my life. I’m lucky to read one book a month strictly for pleasure, and when I’m hot and heavy into a manuscript, I actually avoid reading other authors’ work so as to keep my “voice” pure. I just turned a manuscript in, and as a reward to myself, I’m taking the next ten days or so to read and enjoy some of those books on my TBR (to-be-read) pile. Then it’ll be back in the swing with the book that’s due September 1.
What are you working on right now?
I just turned in Evidence of Murder to Steeple Hill romantic suspense. Here’s a teaser: When a new business owner discovers on her property photos of a decade-old mass murder, she and the surviving son of the massacre become the targets of a desperate and powerful killer. I hope that whets your appetite!
Next is a project tentatively entitled, Witness to Murder. One of the secondary characters from Evidence becomes the central character in a nail-biter about a TV news reporter who walks in on a murder scene with the killer still standing over the body. Or is he the killer after all? She reluctantly teams up with the sportscaster from her station, a man she has reason to detest, in order to discover the truth, and they both step into danger more grave than they had guessed.
Wow! Bring them on. You'll have to come back for an interveiw when they release. What outside interests do you have?
My church, of course, as well as a weekly prayer meeting at our house. We’re reaching unexpected people in our community! For recreation, our family loves to camp during the summer. Of course, at our age, my husband’s and my idea of “roughing it” is our elderly but well-preserved motorhome. I adore waking up in the morning to birdsong in the peaceful woodlands. We also like to take walks at home and when we are camping. Other interests include working puzzles of many varieties and outdoor grilling. In my family, I’m the griller. I particularly enjoy putting together a good shish-kabob.
Yum! How do you choose your settings for each book?
The criteria are different for every story. Generally, I start a story idea with a character in a certain situation. The setting is an outgrowth of whatever works best to place that character in the needed predicament and to carry them through the story.
For my latest release, Reluctant Smuggler, I was looking for an exotic location that wasn’t too far out of the United States, so my main characters could travel in and out of the country with relative speed. Mexico worked wonderfully in that aspect, as well as providing a spooky backdrop in the Mayan ruins. Human trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico and South America is rampant, so Mexico worked well in that regard also.
If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
Well, I’d say Jesus Christ, except He’s not a historical person, He’s a NOW person.
Possibly the Apostle John, the revelator and apostle of love. The love-walk is probably the most vital component in our Christian witness, as well as our success in life. I actually do expect to spend time with John in eternity.
As do I. What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
I would have liked a more realistic expectation of how long it takes to break in. This is not a moment that comes fast or easy, but with perseverance, determination, and patience, it does come!
What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
Rest. To “labor” to enter into His rest and stay there, regardless of what occurs in the natural realm. When I walk in that “rest,” I allow the fullest scope of His working in and through my life. Our worry-prone flesh and the perilous times we live in work against our walking in the peace of the Lord, but it IS doable, or He wouldn’t command us to do it. Stay in the Word, stay vitally connected to a healthy body of believers, and spend time in His presence. Those are my keys to maintaining rest.
What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
1. Write—a lot! Write—regularly! Write—even when you don’t feel like it!
2. Get connected with other likeminded writers through online and in-person groups.
3. Don’t despise the day of small things. Get published in shorter pieces, even if it’s just regular blogging online to start with. Build writing credits and creditability in the industry as someone who can complete a project and do it on time.
4. Attend conferences to meet writers, agents, and editors. Oops! That was four. But I can’t see leaving any of those components out.
Reluctant Smuggler is my personal favorite of the To Catch a Thief series, and I hear that a lot from readers too. Many things that have been building in Reluctant Burglar and Reluctant Runaway come to culmination in Reluctant Smuggler. Also, as I mentioned in an earlier answer, I chose an exotic setting that was quite fun to write, as well as an issue of human trafficking that I care a lot about. I dedicated Reluctant Smuggler to the International Justice Mission, an organization that battles slavery and exploitation of the helpless throughout the world. You can check them out at http://www.ijm.org.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
That’s easy. Just hop on over to http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com. I’ve got some cool stuff on the site. My Stealth and Wealth page contains an art matching game. Playing the game will get a person’s name in the hat for a monthly drawing for a signing copy of Reluctant Smuggler. Also, my TCAT Books page has a variety of fun features. My publisher came up with an awesome animated ad for Smuggler that’s posted there. I also recorded myself reading the first chapter of Smuggler. At the click of a button, anyone can satisfy their multi-tasking little heart, and fold the laundry or do the dishes while listening to Chapter One. There are also traditional print excerpts of the other novels, as well as a video trailer for Reluctant Runaway. Those are just a few highlights of my web site.
Also, for anyone looking for signed copies of any of the series for themselves or as gifts, my books are listed with Signed by the Author. Go to http://www.signedbytheauthor.com, plug in one of the titles in the search bar, and voila!
I, too, have books on Signed by the Author.
Thanks, Jill, for spending time with us again. It's always a joy to have you.
Readers, now you have two chances to win a copy of Reluctant Smuggler. One on her site and one on this blog. Just leave a comment to be in the drawing.