Sunday, April 28, 2013

Interview with thriller author Jennifer Hillier.

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Hillier.  Her debut thriller, CREEP is available in all formats everywhere.   Her second novel, FREAK is available in the US and Canada, and her third novel, MAGNOLIA will be released in June 2014.

Tell me about yourself Jennifer.

Hi Bryan! I'm a psychological thriller writer and I live in Toronto, Canada. I love chocolate (can't write without it), a cat named Kobe, and a fascination with serial killers.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?
I knew I wanted to be an author when I was in my early twenties. However, I knew I wanted to be a storyteller when I was five years old. My dad, who isn't a writer, has always been a natural born storyteller, and he preferred to make up stories for me at bedtime rather than read to me. I knew early on that I wanted to make magic the way he did.

Is there a central theme to your books?
So far there seems to be. My stories focus on my villains almost as much as my protagonists, and I love exploring the idea that everyone has a dark side. We all have secrets, things we don't want anyone to know about ourselves. My books focus on the duality of human nature.

What books have inspired you the most in your life?
I cut my teeth on Stephen King. His books were the first adult novels I ever read, and PET SEMATARY and IT were probably the two books that influenced my writing the most. What I love about King is his ability to get you to believe in, and root for, his characters. Because of that, I believe in every crazy, awful, scary thing that happens to them, and I always read a King book feeling a sense of genuine terror.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?
I start each morning with coffee, a burning candle (rain-scented) and a quick edit of everything I wrote the day before. Then I work on adding about 2,000 new words to my manuscript. While I'm writing, I'll tweet and check Facebook and send emails (which sound like they should be distractions, but are actually little breaks for me that give my brain a rest from fiction writing), but the rule is, I don't finish for the day until I hit my word count. Then I'll do another quick edit of what I just wrote. In a good day, I'll work for about four hours. On a bad day – one where the words just aren't flowing well – I might be at my desk for twelve to fourteen hours.

What is it that you do to relax?
I have a few TV shows that I love (Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men) and I also love to watch sports. I'm a big fan of UFC, the Seahawks, and I never miss a grand slam tennis tournament. I also spend a lot of time with friends and family, and of course I love to read.

Do you use an outline or do you write organically?
I'm definitely an organic writer, which can be fun, but also a pain in the ass. I've written more plot holes than I can count, and I've written myself into corners more than a few times. But my favorite thing about not plotting ahead of time is that I often shock myself by what actually happens in the story. And if I feel that way, I like to think my readers will, too. It makes it totally worth the risk of getting stuck or going in the wrong direction.

Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?
I've been blocked before, and I don't so much push past it as I'll write around it. A novel doesn't always have to be written in a linear way. Sometimes I can't see what happens next, so therefore I can't write it, but maybe I can see what happens at the end, and so I'll write that scene instead. Or I'll write scenes I know will happen somewhere in the middle. I've learned that as long as I keep writing, those blocks will eventually dissolve and the pieces will all fit together.

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?
Nights are when I get my best ideas, but mornings are when I write my best. My writing is terrible at night – disjointed and lazy – but my ideas are more interesting. Which is why I love to write right when I wake up. That way, last night's idea is usually still fresh, and my rested brain is capable of putting strong sentences together.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?
Typically I'll write four drafts of a manuscript before I'll feel comfortable that it's the best it can be. The first draft is written really fast, as my goal is to get the story down before I lose it. My second draft is always the most challenging because it's when I'm fixing the story structurally and making sure my plots arc where they're supposed to, and that my characters are developing properly. The third draft is where I really clean up the prose and make each sentence, paragraph, and scene shine. The fourth draft is a polish.

What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?
Whoa, that's a very big, very open ended question! Which recent changes are you referring to? As a relative newcomer to publishing (my first novel was released in July 2011), I'm honestly not sure I know how to answer this, except to say that I'm all for e-books. There was a time when I never thought I'd own an e-reader, but I do now, and I love reading books digitally almost as much as I love reading traditional hardcovers and paperbacks.

Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?
CREEP will always be my first love, and I don't know that I'll ever be able to duplicate the experience. Writing it was all passion, all heart, all mojo. I didn't have an agent then, I wasn't published, and I didn't know if I'd ever be published. I simply took all the time I needed to tell the exact story I wanted, and it was done when I said it was done. With FREAK, I was very aware that I had a deadline and that there were expectations I needed to fulfill, and an audience I wanted to market to properly. From a technical standpoint, I think FREAK was a better book than CREEP, but I loved every moment of writing CREEP, and I definitely can't say that about FREAK.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on a standalone book tentatively titled MAGNOLIA. It's a psychological thriller about an 85-year-old serial killer who was never caught, who's now living in an old folks home and getting bored. And so he decides to come out of retirement for one last hurrah.

Where can we buy your books?
Pretty much everywhere books are sold! Thanks for having me, Bryan. This was fun!

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