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Interview with Jill Eileen Smith

I met Jill before I knew who she was—through judging Michal in a contest. My reaction was—this book is going to sell. So when, a few years later, I learned it had, joy raced through me. What a special gift to bring these women and David to life! May Jill’s words in this interview bless you as much as they blessed me.

What inspired you to write Biblical fiction, starting with David’s wives especially?

In my teens I read a biblical novel called Two From Galilee, The Story of Mary and Joseph by Marjorie Holmes. When I closed the last page on that book, I realized that these people were real! I never viewed the Bible the same way again. So after co-teaching a Bible study on King David’s life, I wanted to read a biblical novel on him – a story that would take me there. I could not find one that satisfied, so I set out to write the book I wanted to read. That eventually led to (20 years later) the Wives of King David series.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
A lot of little things added together, but the most significant factor in my ability to even see publication was ACFW. Through ACFW I met my critique partners (without whom I would never have improved as a writer), my agent (without whom I would never have sold this series), and met many people I now consider dear friends.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Knowing how to balance interruptions. Relationships will always matter more to me than writing – my family most of all. But full-time writing is a job like any other, and I can’t neglect the work I’m entrusted to do – even when the interruptions seem like something good. I try to make all of my errands in one day so that I don’t have to run out on days where I could be researching and writing.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
When it all comes down, life is about Jesus Christ and our relationship to him. Apart from him, I can do nothing. And writing biblical fiction brings that truth even closer to home for me. I spend a lot of time in the Word, not just to study the characters but to read for my own spiritual growth. And the more I study my characters, the more overwhelmed I can feel. I pray continually for insight into who these people were. Phil Wickham sings a song I love called “Grace.” Some of the words are: “I need hope, and I need you, ‘cause I can’t do this alone.” That’s me. I can’t write biblical fiction alone. It’s hard work! I also find that I tend to live the emotions of my characters. Sometimes, that’s as hard as writing their stories.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
That’s a tough question! There have been many great moments. Just selling my first series was wonderful. Then selling another before the first book released and a third after the second book released was huge. I’ve been so honored by the contest mentions and making the bestseller lists. But the greatest joy would have to be the comments from my readers – whether in person or by email. It is such a joy to me to have people tell me that my books inspired them to read the Bible again. What else could I ask for? God’s Word is the bread of life!

Who/What spurs you to write?
I once had a mentor who is now with the Lord, who said to me, “I’ll bet you can’t not write.” We might criticize the grammar in that statement, but it’s a true one. God wired me to write since long before I realized the calling. Friends that I haven’t seen in years will find me on Facebook and tell me they are so glad I finally realized my dream. I don’t recall having the dream that long ago! (Middle-aged memory, I suppose.) But I write because I have to. It’s who I am. If I go too long without writing, I get crabby. Nothing brings me joy like writing fiction. ☺

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
Another tough question! I think every writer is unique because we are all different. But what I strive for in my style is to show emotion and hopefully evoke that emotion in my readers. I can’t change the “what” of Scripture, so that only leaves me the “how” and “why”. So I explore motivations and feelings, and I hope that comes across in my stories.

Would you want to have had the opportunity to meet any of your characters in person?
Oh absolutely! And I can’t wait to actually meet most of them in heaven someday! We’ve got eternity to get to know all of the people God immortalized in His Word. I expect David and (hopefully) Michal, and Abigail, and Bathsheba will kindly tell me the things I didn’t get quite right. ☺

Any parting words?
It took me twenty years to break into publishing and ACFW played a huge role in making that possible. So thank you to ACFW, and to every reader willing to take the time to read my work. I am most grateful.

Thanks for sharing with us, Jill.
Thanks for having me!

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