Monday, May 3, 2010

Jill is the author of By Darkness Hid and To Darkness Fled, the first two books in a medieval fantasy trilogy. She has worked as a freelance editor and published numerous articles. VOYA magazine named By Darkness Hid as one of the Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror novels of 2009.

Jill grew up in Alaska with no electricity, an outhouse, and a
lot of mosquitoes. Thankfully it was the land of the midnight sun, and she stayed up late, reading by the summer daylight that wouldn’t go away. But in the winter, there was nothing better to do than daydream. Both hobbies set her up to be a writer.

Jill has served alongside her youth pastor husband for the past twelve years and loves working with teenagers, especially to encourage young writers. ( An avid reader, she started Novel Teen Book Reviews ( to help teens find great books to read. She lives in Oregon with her youth pastor husband and two book-loving children. Visit Jill at

When did you decide to be a writer?

I wanted to speak to teens. I discovered that sometimes, people hire speakers based on articles written by the speaker. So I looked into writing articles. Then the new Harry Potter book came out, and a new barrage of debates within the church community
flared up as to whether or not the books were evil. The debate inspired me to write my own teen novel that all Christians would love. Yes, I was a bit naive. I have since learned that no one likes every book. But that’s how I got started. I was inspired to try and write blockbuster-style stories that glorified God.

When a writer’s conference came to town, I signed up right away. I couldn’t believe how much I had to learn. When I got home, I did everything that the conference speakers had recommended. Being teachable has really helped me, I think.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

I started my first teen fiction novel in 2004. I signed the contract for By Darkness Hid in 2008. Those four years felt like an eternity, but I passed the time by writing, rewriting, reading fiction help books, going to conferences, and participating in online critique groups. And of course, I prayed a lot, asking God if he was sure this was what he wan
ted me to be spending my time on.

Everyone’s journey to publication is different. Now that you’ve walked that road, what tips can you give to authors still hoping for that first contract?

Make yourself write until you finish a book. Then write another one. The more you write, the more you learn. Then you can go back and see what needs rewriting. Most writers never finish that first book. Or they start lots of books and never finish any. You can’t be an author if you never finish a book. Set a goal and don’t give up.

And don’t be impatient. I doubt that Leonardo DiVinci or Piccasso were in a hurry to get their artwork done. Art is a labor of love. Writing is art. Every word and scene matters. When you rush and get impatient to get published, you do yourself and your novel an incredible injustice.

Was there something about the experience of getting published that was a surprise to you?

How fast everything went. At first I thought that a year was such a long time to wait to hold my first book in my hands. Then before I knew it, it felt like I couldn’t possibly get everything done.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

I used to be more disciplined. I would write each morning. But since I’ve been published, there are many more things on my plate each day. Things like interviews, blogging, emails, and social media. It’s all very time consuming and distracting. I’m continually trying to make sure I put in my writing time first each day before the whole day is gone with these other distractions.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

Play games with my husband and kids, watch a movie or read a book as a family. Doing activities with our youth group is also a lot of fun.

What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?

I don’t like picking a favorite! I love so many books. Today I’ll say Cathy Gohlke’s William Henry is a Fine Name. It’s a Civil War era book written for teens. It’s about a white boy who is best friends with a black boy. He lives way up north, so he doesn’t understand the racial issues of the south. It was an amazing, eye-opening, thought-provoking story. I highly recommend it. Cathy writes amazing characters.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

It fills my head with stories, good and bad. I can see what works and what doesn’t, what I like
and what I don’t. Sometimes I’m even inspired with a story of my own from one little thread of another story. The imagination is an amazing thing.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

To Darkness Fled is the second book in the Blood of Kings trilogy. It’s about Achan, a young man who wanted to become a knight, and Vrell, a girl who is dressed as a boy to hide from the man who wants to marry her. Book two picks up where By Darkness Hid left off.

Here is the back cover copy for To Darkness Fled (Blood of Kings, book 2):

They have no choice. Chased by an evil prince, Achan, Vrell, and the Kingsguard knights flee into Darkness. They head north, for Tsaftown and Ice Island, where they must free an army that can help them fight for Er’Rets.

Darkness sickens Vrell. How long can she keep her secret without being caught? Achan already suspects her of lying. If she is not careful, he will suspect her of treason as well. She hopes he will let his suspicions go until they reach her home.

Achan wanted freedom, but this new journey has bound him more than ever. Sir Gavin’s claims are so far fetched. First, that there might only be one God, and second, that this God chose Achan to push back Darkness, the magnificent curse of Er’Rets. Him. Achan. Barely a man himself.

Each setback Darkness brings seems minor compared to the one choice only Achan can make. What will he choose?

Where did you get your inspiration for To Darkness Fled?

To Darkness Fled is book two of a trilogy. It picks up where book one takes off. For book one, two things happened close together that inspired this story. First, I was walking with my son one day in Burbank, California, and we came upon a burned-down house. I stopped to look at it and noticed a tree in the front yard. The part of the tree that hung over the fence and above the street was leafy green, rocking and rustling in the wind. But the branches of the tree near the house were charred and stiff.

I stared at that tree for a long time, then took off for home, pushing that stroller at top speed. I went straight to the computer, opened Adobe Photoshop, and made the image of the tree that is the header on my author website. I couldn’t wait to write a story about this tree!

Around that same time, I had a weird dream where a guy had amnesia. Little did everyone know that he was someone very important. When I woke up, I liked the idea of this lost character, so I put him together with my ideas for the half-living, half-dead tree and I was off and running.

Which character is most like you?

Vrell, I think. She is more intense than Achan. She likes to do things properly, if she can. She is kind and loyal and hardworking. She likes learning new things. She likes order and rules and wants everything to be fair and right in the world. She also stresses out too much, too.

Who is your favorite character and why?

Achan. He tries to be tough. He’s technically a man, by Er’Retian standards, though he feels insecure about stepping into that role and taking charge. He’s stubborn, and that trait often causes him a lot of heartache. His sarcasm and heroic nature work well, I think. Sometimes you want to scowl at him—boys will be boys—but you can’t help but love the guy.

Did you know how To Darkness Fled would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

I’m always a bit surprised by something. I start out with a generic plan, then sit down and see what happens. With book two, my plan was that Achan, Vrell, and the knights would flee into Darkness and travel all the way to Ice Island to rescue their comrades. When I sat down, I looked at my map and saw how far the journey was. So I knew I’d need to take my characters to some different towns and that I’d need to have interesting things take place to keep the story moving. Later I had to go back in and tweak some things so that the plot twists fit the story better.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

That there is only one God and that he is the desire of their hearts. No matter what they face, knowing God will make life more worthwhile. God created them for a purpose. If they want to fulfill that purpose, they must discover who God really is.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

I created a website: I’m also on Facebook, MySpace, Shoutlife, Shelfari, GoodReads, Twitter, Amazon…

On top of that, I run two blogs. The first is Novel Teen Book Reviews at It’s a website that reviews clean teen fiction. This is a great resource to see what books are available in the Christian market for teens. The other blog is for teen authors, though adult authors may find some useful tips too.

I do online interviews whenever I can. I try to do blog tours if I can afford the books. I’m sure that all of this adds up and is helpful. In fact, I’ve blogged about some of my marketing ideas on Go there and find the Marketing and Publicity category link on the sidebar and that will show the posts I’ve written on the subject so far.

What I think works best is talking at schools or libraries. I love meeting people and telling them about my story or the writing process. I love to encourage students to follow their dreams. It’s sometimes hard to get invited to schools, but once you do, you can usually find more schools if you are given nice references.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I am working on From Darkness Won (Blood of Kings, book 3).

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Work hard, love others, and pray! If it is meant to be, God will work it all out in his timing. Thanks for having me! God bless!
Jill is giving away a copy of her book To Darkness Fled. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!


  1. Which Friday is this? May 7th? And when on the Friday/are they any more details about how to win the book? Many thanks!

  2. Hey Selina,

    Just now saw your post. Sorry about that!

    Yes, this book will be part of the drawing held on Friday, May 7, 2010. Details on entering will be posted on that date, but basically, you just need to leave a comment or sign up to follow The Borrowed Book to be entered.


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