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Interview With Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Hide your priceless paintings and antiques, art lovers! Romantic Suspense Author Jill Nelson joins us to share the latest release in her To Catch a Thief books.

Your latest book, Reluctant Runaway, releases in March. Give us an overview.

Each book in the To Catch a Thief series is complete in itself, but the same main characters and some of the secondaries—hopefully readers’ favorites!—carry over throughout the series.

Reluctant Runaway opens four months after the traumatic events of the first book, and Desiree Jacobs is very much in charge of her museum security company since the murder of her father in the previous book. As always, the story opens with a caper, and Desi strikes out across a narrow beam in the dark, ten stories above the ground. As she says, one misstep and she’d make a nice Impressionist splat on the pavement below! An excerpt is posted on my web site.

The plot heats up from there with Desi and her steady date, FBI agent Tony Lucano, locking horns over her risky lifestyle—but hey, what about his? And then crisis strikes her best friend, plus a museum secured by Desi’s company is robbed of priceless ancient Indian artifacts, and so it’s off to the high desert country of New Mexico to defend her company, help her friend, and save a missing woman. And Tony’s right on her heels. But when the horrifying purpose for the stolen artifacts comes to light, can they even save themselves?

Tell us a little about your publication journey.

Since the sixth grade when I penned—er, penciled my first tale of mystery, my writer’s journey has taken me in many different directions. I’ve worn the hats of journalist, columnist, essayist, poet, short-story teller and book reviewer. My current chapeau is the one I’ve coveted all along—novelist.

The dream of becoming a published novelist has come to life and died an unsung death several times. As I look back, I see that I wasn’t ready for the fulfillment until, in the Lord’s grand plan, it happened.

In the year 2000, after writing little or nothing creative while I was raising young children, a storyline grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I wrote the book and started seeking fellowship with other writers. Since I live in a very small rural community with little access to other writers, on-line writers groups like ACFW have been my lifeline. One group awarded me a scholarship to attend the Mt. Hermon conference in 2002. I made contacts there that have opened doors for me ever since.

After several more years of persevering and writing more manuscripts, I got The Call about the contract offer during a writers’ conference that was themed, interestingly enough, “Answer the Call.” Oh, my yes, God’s got a sense of humor.

How do you balance your writing time and with your other responsibilities?

In the same way that other people go home from their day job and do woodworking or crocheting to relax, I go home to write. It’s what I do. It’s not who I am, because my identity is found in God, not some outside activity. But writing is a divine assignment, a fire in my bones, so I fit it in whenever, wherever. That’s one reason I have a laptop, so I’m not tied to a stationary PC.

After becoming a published author with deadlines—shudder—I had to make some hard choices to cut out a few things from my schedule. I DO still need to be a wife and mom, even though my kids are grown. That’s non-negotiable, but you’d be surprised what you don’t miss if you just say no.

And how does your faith and spiritual life play into the picture?

Reliance on God has to be the bedrock of anything I do. If He’s not the core, then I’m trusting in the flesh, and my flesh is utterly feeble. Nothing done by human effort alone will last. Frankly, as a task-oriented person, I’ve had to learn that lesson the hard way time and again.

It’s important to me and to the Kingdom of God that what I write has eternal impact. I believe storytelling is the most effective way to pierce the heart with truth. That’s why I write fiction.

As far as the writing process itself, I lean especially hard on the Lord when I hit a wall in the story. The breath of the Holy Spirit in my heart—often at unexpected moments—is the only way I find the inspiration to take the next step forward. Each book is very much a fresh journey of discovery. Maybe that’s why I love writing so much.

What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle was the Three Stooges—me, myself, and I. First of all, I had to want publication for all the right reasons. Plus, I had to grow up spiritually. I don’t mean “arrive.” None of us has done that. We’re all still learning and growing, because if we’re not, we’re stagnating and dying. And I needed to wait until my children were old enough not to need me so much. I marvel at writers with young children at home. That simply wasn’t within the scope of my capabilities, and the Lord knew it. I guess you could say overcoming the Stooges was a factor of time and maturity as a person and as a writer.

What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Holding the finished copy of my debut novel in my hands. I was alone at home at the time. I could have been disappointed that I had no one to share the moment with, but then I realized I’d been given a great gift—an opportunity to create a profound memory between just the Lord and me.

Whenever discouragement closes in, I remember holding that book—absorbing the feel, the scent, the sight—with God’s arms around me and His triumphant laughter in my inner ears. Pretty hard to be a quitter then—even when the blank page mocks me, and I’d rather touch my tongue to a flagpole in sub-zero weather than try to eek out another word.

Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

As my Amazon blog says, I write what I like to read, so I guess you could say that every author whose book I’ve loved has inspired me to be a writer.

I get my story ideas in different ways. Sometimes a phrase or a headline will spark an idea. Sometimes playing “what if” while people-watching suggests a story. And I love brainstorming with my closest writer friends. Wow! What a fount of ideas! Watch out or you’ll get swept away by the current.

The To Catch a Thief series came about in a completely different way than any of the above. I’ll dish the details in my answer to the next question.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique? Tell us more about your love of art and antiques and what brought you to connect this with writing.

I’m all about letting the characters guide the story. If I’m true to them, the plot will flow naturally. Any story I write will have a whisper of romance, a hint of humor, and a whole lot of adventure. I’ve dubbed myself with the tagline—Live the Eternal Adventure! Isn’t that what we’re all caught up in as we walk with God? And the coolest thing is that the adventure story will NEVER end!

Writing is an art form, especially fiction or poetry, so I consider myself an artist. In college, I took classes in theater and ceramics, which are also art forms. However, the notion to write a whole series of novels centered around art and antiquities took me by surprise.

The To Catch a Thief series was born of a literal dream in the night. I woke up in the wee hours all tense from a dream about a woman sneaking into an estate, taking a forged painting off a wall, and replacing it with the genuine. The strange activity so intrigued me that I began toying with careers this woman might have that would give her cat burglar skills yet not make her a criminal. And I simply had to understand what dire circumstance would force this woman to do something so outrageous. The answers turned into Reluctant Burglar, first in the series.

Finish this question. When I get a rejection, I…

. . . smile and file and go on working at what’s before me. Later, I can come back and rework and resend the rejected piece. If it’s a novel, of course, my agent does the resending. Sure, disappointment stings for a moment, but I don’t have time to set up camp on Melancholy Mountain. If that opportunity didn’t work out, then God’s got something better for me. He really, really does! Another lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again through hard experience.

Any parting words for up-and-coming writers?

Get comfortable in your own skin as a writer. We each have something unique and precious to offer. Don’t try to be someone else, but DO try to learn from those ahead of you on the journey. A humble, teachable spirit will serve you in better stead than almost anything else.

Thanks for sharing with us, Jill!

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