Book Nerd Interview
I was raised in rural Alaska. Alone with my thoughts and the moose, daydreaming was a favorite pastime. As was reading.
I’ve always loved reading. I started out with Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Little House on the Prairie, The Hobbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia. I love just about every genre out there, but my all-time favorites are speculative fiction novels.
I met my husband Brad in college. My dreams of becoming a fashion designer dragged us to New York City for one year. After that, Brad’s dreams of directing movies dragged us to Los Angeles. We both worked really hard for people who weren’t very excited to help our careers grow.
A few years of torture passed.
Brad started volunteering with teens at our church in Burbank, California. We had our first son, Luke, moved to a house, I got out of the fashion industry (woo hoo!), and Brad became an ordained minister and full time youth pastor (double woo hoo!).
I learned that God is good. All the time.
I started writing a book. I wanted to write fun stories that were clean but real. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it sure beat watching TV all day. I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into. All I knew was that it was totally fun. Until I tried to get published…
A few more years of torture passed.
It took me four years until I got my first book contract. Writing was something I never did when I was younger. Daydreaming and plotting, however, were familiar old friends. So now I write… everywhere. At home, in the car, at church (only notes, I promise!), in line at the grocery store, at the park, while walking, in the shower… (TMI?)
And I love it.
Creating characters and taking them on a journey is an amazing experience. I never knew how much I would come to love my characters until I met Spencer, Nauja, Martyr, and Achan. Writing is a whole lot of fun. Plus, I couldn’t get in trouble for forgetting to add a rosette onto a K-mart costsheet and causing the company a loss of $5,000. (True story…) And, I couldn’t get yelled at when the line of evening gowns I shipped via Fed Ex didn’t reach the showroom in New York in time for market to open. (Was it really my fault the plane got snowed in?)
No. I have no bitter memories of the fashion industry at all. (Can we say The Devil Wears Prada, anyone?)
But yes. Writing is something I adore. Writing is something I could do forever, if God allows it. (Please, God? Pretty please?)
May He do with me whatever pleases Him.
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
Nope. I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up, and I sort of did. I worked for five years as an assistant designer in Los Angeles. It was fun, but a little too Devil Wears Prada for my tastes. So I switched gears when I was twenty-nine years old and started writing.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Besides the fashion design thing, I grew up in Alaska in a home with no electricity or running water. Not too many people grow up that way anymore, and I’m thankful for that unique experience.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
That I wasn’t/didn’t have to be who everyone thought I was. I went to a small school from first to twelfth grade, so we all knew each other and had branded each other in ways like: the shy girl, the cheerleader, the nerd, the pothead, the jock… And while each label may or may not have some truth to it, there is more to people than one label. And I remember vividly when I realized that about myself. My high school peers didn’t know the real me. And most of them never got to. But high school wasn’t the end of life, and when I went to college, I got to be the real me. And that was amazing.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Don’t try and copy everyone else. You have to write the way you write. It’s the only way to find your voice.
Can you tell us when you started Replication: The Jason Experiment, how that came about?
I was riding in a car in upstate New York, visiting my sister. We were headed to an orchard to pick apples. We passed farm after farm after farm. And I got thinking… What if there was a farm that grew people? Clones? They could call it Jason Farms! And that was it.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Martyr?
Most of us take the comforts and beauty of everyday life for granted. We forget to look at the sky or trees and appreciate how beautiful everything is. We don’t even think about how convenient it is that we can buy food at the grocery store, put it in a freezer, and microwave it later. We don’t appreciate about how colorful things are and how special that is. Martyr helped me better appreciate the little things in life.
If you could introduce Abby to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think Abby would enjoy meeting the Time Traveler from H.G. Well’s The Time Machine. Since Abby loves science, she’d enjoy hearing all about how the Time Traveler created a time machine and how it worked and hear about what he saw on his travels.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your teen readers. What would it be?
Make yourself finish a book. It will be REALLY hard, but so many writers never finish a book because they spend their time rewriting chapter one again and again or starting new books. But if you really want to be a writer, you have to practice all the parts of being a writer, not just the idea part, and especially the parts you struggle with. So, choose your favorite idea and make a goal of writing the whole book, even if it's terrible. You can always make a terrible book better, but you can’t edit or publish a book you’ve never finished.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
There is no question I always answer with a lie. The thing is, I used to have a major lying problem. And lies make so much trouble. So I’ve learned the hard way that even a little fib can come back and bite me. And really, there is no reason to tell lies. I used to lie because I was afraid to tell the truth about myself. But that fear is the biggest lie of all. Everyone is messed up. Everyone has a past. And we can’t help each other realize that if we’re telling lies about ourselves. So I’m an open book. I’m not always proud of my answers, but they are what they are and I am who I am.
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
I’ve always been blessed with pretty decent jobs. Probably the hardest job I’ve ever had was working at a little one-stop everything store in Alaska called Miller’s Market. It’s still there, in Houston, Alaska, a half-hour north of Wasilla on the Parks Highway. The reason that job was hard was because it got so busy in the summer with all the tourists stopping for ice cream or hamburgers or the gift shop, post office, grocery, or fishing licenses, etc. And there were many times that I came to work and didn’t sit down for ten hours. And there were other times when the owners left me to work the store alone. It was great to be trusted, and I was a hard worker, but it was hard work!
When was the last time you cried?
Uh… this morning? Joking. But I do cry a lot. It doesn’t take much. I’ve got the mom thing going on. I look at my kid and think, “How did ten years go by already!” And boom! Niagara Falls, baby. But the last time I really cried and was legitimately upset was when someone came over and accused my husband of something in his job and I felt attacked and defensive on his behalf. I hadn’t been having a good morning already that day, so it didn’t take much. But we worked it all out.
Most horrifying dream you have ever had?
Who knows! But one I remember recently was that my family was on a cruise ship and it tipped over on its side and we couldn’t get out. This dream came, thankfully, after our Disney Cruise adventure. I can’t imagine how unpleasant it would have been to walk around that ship after having had that dream. *shudders*
Where can readers stalk you?
My website is www.jillwilliamson.com and there are links on my website to my Facebook page and Twitter and Goodreads.
Martyr---otherwise known as Jason 3:3---is one of hundreds of clones kept in a remote facility called Jason Farms. Told that he has been created to save humanity, Martyr has just one wish before he is scheduled to 'expire' in less than a month. To see the sky. Abby Goyer may have just moved to Alaska, but she has a feeling something strange is going on at the farm where her father works. But even this smart, confident girl could never have imagined what lies beneath a simple barn. Or what would happen when a mysterious boy shows up at her door, asking about the stars. As the reality of the Jason Experiment comes to light, Martyr is caught between two futures---the one for which he was produced and the one Abby believes God created him to have. Time is running out, and Martyr must decide if a life with Abby is worth leaving everything he's ever known.
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