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Interview With Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Welcome, Jill! We’re pleased to chat with you today about your books and whatever else you feel like sharing!

You’ve just released Legacy of Lies from Steeple Hill. How many books have you had published now?

I’m pleased to say that Legacy of Lies is my eighth release. I have three out with Multnomah, one with Guideposts, and four with Steeple Hill. Details, excerpts, and a contest for a monthly giveaway of a signed copy of my latest release are on my web site.

What got you hooked on writing romantic suspense?
I’ve always been a fan of mystery and suspense novels, and I can’t seem to write anything that doesn’t include romance, so the genre is a perfect blend for me. Though I hasten to assure my male readers that I don’t do “gooey” with my romantic touches, I revel in exploring the emotional poignancy of that most basic of human relationships. Love makes the world go round, they say. But my real focus, even amidst the male/female attraction, is God’s love and His wooing of us to Himself. The suspense aspect of my stories—which is the danger to the main characters—generally involves an element of mystery, as well. This is the puzzle those central characters try to figure out before it’s too late! I don’t like the reader to guess “who dunnit” before I reveal the culprit at the end of the book.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
There have been many significant milestones. But I can honestly say that joining ACFW (back when it was ACRW) and finding the support system and contact base in the industry that this organization uniquely provides was among the most significant.

We know you’re a busy person, wife, mom, grandmother - what’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
When my husband or my kids, or especially my little granddaughter needs me, I’m ready to lay down whatever else I’m doing and be there for them. This can be a problem if I’m approaching deadline. But I find that the biggest time-stealer can be fiddling around on the Internet. Even doing research can lead to an infinite number of intriguing rabbit trails, so I have to rein in my eclectic interests sometimes.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I can’t NOT reflect my faith in my writing . . . or anything I do. Sometimes the faith element in writing and in daily activities can be quite subtle, but what—or Who—I believe in is an integral part of who I am. Whether they want to admit or not, every novelist’s worldview comes through in their work. We can’t help it, and as Christian writers we shouldn’t want to prevent that from happening in a frank and natural way.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Oh, my, so many moments of wonder and gratitude brighten the path of my journey. Among them was certainly the moment I got “the call” about my first book contract. The call came while I was attending a writer’s conference (not ACFW), and I was able to share my news with the other unpublished attendees, which was a great encouragement to them to see that it can happen. In fact, whenever I go out on speaking engagements, I like to tell my audience that if God can bring to pass a cherished dream for this nobody in particular from nowhere special, He can and will do it for them too!

More recently, the moment I learned that my book, Evidence of Murder, won the 2010 Carol Award in the short romantic suspense category took my breath away. I wasn’t able to attend this year’s ACFW conference for personal and family reasons, and the concept of actually winning the category was the farthest thing from my mind. I was humbled and thrilled to be a finalist and figured that was the end of it, considering the competition. When I opened my email to see the results the night of the conference banquet, I sat frozen for a long time with my hand over my flopped open mouth. I could barely think a coherent thought, much less speak! Probably a good thing I didn’t have to walk up to the podium and try to talk.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
A fire in my bones to tell Christ-honoring stories spurs me to write. I’m called to do it, and God would get on my case if I didn’t. I’d just as soon not make Him do that. My story ideas come from a variety of sources. Even a glimpse of an intriguing news headline can spark my imagination. My characters are often a blend of characteristics from people-watching. But I try never to pattern someone entirely after a person I know. I’d just as soon avoid that kettle of worms . . . can of fish? ;-)

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I have a rather dry wit (perhaps stemming from my largely British heritage—pip-pip, cheerio, and all that), which tends to emerge through one or more of the characters. That’s why I claim a touch of humor as one of my trademark characteristics, even though my stories drag my characters through dire situations. Also, I write with a technique some call Deep Point of View, which keeps my readers planted inside the point of view character’s head and enhances the emotional resonance of the story. One of the most well-received classes I teach to writers is Rivet Your Reader with Deep Point of View. Currently, I’m putting the course into booklet form, which I will make available at future speaking engagements or on my web site.

Is there anything about your publication journey thus far that you would go back and change if you could?
I would probably stress less about marketing and focus more on growing in my craft. An over-emphasis on marketing activities is another time-stealer for a writer. Truly, the impact I can have on gaining readership through my puny efforts is minimal. Sure, I do what I can, including maintaining a web site, a blog, and a presence on various social networking sites, as well as sending out a quarterly newsletter, but if I write with excellence and people love my books, they’ll tell other people. That’s the best marketing in the world!

Any parting words?
Love what you do, and do it for love of the calling, the craft, and Christ!

Thanks for sharing with us, Jill!

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