Writer Interview: Published Author Jillian Shares Advice
This week meet Jillian Brookes-Ward in our exclusive writers interview. She is a published author and brilliant writer. I thought I would ask her a few questions about the industry, how she got published, and how she stays motivated.
What inspires you to write and how do you keep motivated? What do you do when you face writers block and how do you personally overcome this?
I am always on the lookout for inspiration for the next story. Sometimes, as in the case of Three Way Street, it can come from the most unlikely of coincidences. Once I have the bare bones of a story, I set my fingers on the keys below a blank document and begin. Keeping going is the trick. Inspiration isn’t enough, you have to have the motivation.
I see motivation as the drive gain completion that keeps the keys clicking and the words flowing and it can be a fickle master (mistress?). When it is being beneficent, the creative tap is turned on in full flow and all goes well. And then suddenly can happen, a crisis of confidence, a lack of inspiration, a distraction and the tap is off and you are left hanging in mid air. Nothing happens and the only thing you can do then is wait. It will come back but it might take a while. Sometimes when the creative juices dry up, they haven’t gone altogether, the gush has just reduced to a trickling stream and they need time to recover. What is assumed to be ’writer’s block’ usually turns out to be nothing more than a dense prickly hedge and all it takes is a sharp pair of clippers to snip away through it to the words on the other side. Think of it as an insurmountable wall, and it will be. Motivation and patience go hand in hand. The best solution I have found is to put the work aside and go and do something completely different. All of a sudden you will feel that prickling at the back of your mind indicative of the tap coming back on, and away you go again. Never give up.
What are your goals as a writer?
My real goal is to tell the best story I can, in the best way I know how and to get it out there to as any people as I can because I like to share. A few pennies in the bank in return wouldn’t go unappreciated, though.
Who is your favorite author, and why?
Anthony Trollope – his political books, brought together as ’The Pallisers’ are a collective masterpiece. Vanity Fair is a true joy and The Little House at Allington, is a particular favourite. He had a genuine flair for making a mockery of the society he saw around him and bringing it down to an ordinary level. They might be rich, they might be landed and titled, and think they are a cut above, but underneath, they are no better than the hoi polloi around them. Masterful.
What do you think makes a great book?
I feel it is vitally important to engage with the characters first, to get inside their heads, to understand their motives and feelings and to either empathise with or, sometimes, loathe them. Once you have a handle on them, you connect with their standing in their story. Sometimes, I think, you may even take sides, rooting for one character over another. This all adds to the spirit of the story.
What is your favorite magazine this week?
Apart from having a look at my Other Half’s monthly angling periodical – Trout and Salmon – I don’t read magazines.
What genre stories do you write?
My comfort zone genre is romantic fiction, although lately I have been dipping my toe into different genres with a saucy comedy set in the angling world and have just completed a retribution thriller which looks at the unpleasant effect revenge can have on both the instigator and the recipient.
Is your writing reflective of the kind of books you tend to read?
I don’t think so. I tend to read mostly classics – Trollope, Gaskell, Austen, Hardy et al. They can be rather wordy, stiff and formal with implied rather than actual sex. My stories use contemporary idiom, language (sometimes strong) and settings and are more relaxed and informal in style and when my characters have sex, you do to!
What is your favorite story written by you?
Saving Nathaniel is and always will be my favorite, simply because it was my ’firstborn’ and I fell a little in love with Nathaniel myself, but I do have rather a strong liking for my latest Watch Your Back.
What do you like most about your story?
In Saving Nathaniel – the interaction between two socially diverse people, one gruff and brusque on the outside while underneath, cracking under the strain of unresolved guilt and grief and a woman who, despite having serious baggage of her own, understands how close he is to emotional collapse and grabs him by the metaphorical collar and won’t let him go, whatever happens. I have also tried to dispel the myth that men, when faced with overwhelming loss and grief, ’just get on with it’. I wanted to portray how underneath the mask of normality they show to the world, sometimes they are barely muddling through and how simple human contact with someone who understands can make all the difference, literally between life and death.
Why should an agent / publisher take on your story?
Night Publishing already did. I presented the first chapter to the members of Night Reading, they voted for it in the monthly poll and thus the book came to be chosen for publication. It may not have set the literary world on fire just yet, but it is doing OK as far as first novels by unknown new authors go.
What is the unique selling point of your story?
The maturity of the characters. I don’t go for the Ken and Barbie type cookie-cutter heroes and heroines. My characters are middle aged with plenty of life experiences. They have problems and mental and physical scars but also the wisdom age sometimes brings.
What market do you hope your story will reach?
That’s a tricky one. As my characters hover around the middle age, I think it would appeal more to the female readership of a certain age, perhaps the 30-60 age range, although I have had some men who have enjoyed it because of the way I tackled the issue of loss from a man’s point of view.
How did you hear about Write & Share?
Someone posted a link on Facebook and I thought I would have a look.
How do you feel the site will benefit you and your writing?
By having a fresh pair of eyes cast over my work, it is more likely that errors of grammar or spelling or just ’Well, that doesn’t work!’ will show up and with subtle changes here and there, the writing will improve and make a more comfortable, easy experience for the reader. And a happy reader is what we all strive for.