Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms and the award-winning author of several young adult books including the Blood of Kings trilogy, Replication, the Mission League series, and the Safe Lands trilogy. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children and a whole lot of deer. Geeks Under Grace interviewed Jill to bring you insight on her writing, faith, geekiness and some of her past and upcoming novels.
Q. When did you know you wanted to be an author and how long have you been writing professionally?
Jill: I was about twenty-eight years old, at home with my infant son, when I decided to try and write a book. It was a combination of several things that set me to writing. First, I had left the fashion industry, for which I’d gone to college. After five years working for designers, I came to discover that I hated it! So I was at home with my son, just being a mom and loving it, when a new Harry Potter book came out. I saw a scene on the news one night about some church groups burning copies of the books. This frustrated me. I wanted to do something proactive, so I set out to write a book for Christian teens. It was quite naïve—I had no idea what I was getting myself into—but I fell in love with writing and haven’t stopped since. That was eleven years ago. My first book was published in 2009, so I guess I’ve been writing professionally for six years.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your recent series The Safe Lands and what inspired it?
Jill: The Safe Lands trilogy was inspired one day when I was sitting in my ladies Bible study group. We were working through Beth Moore’s study on the book of Daniel. At one point in the study, Beth asked us to think about some teenage boys we knew and how they might fare if taken from their homes and forced to live in a Babylonian culture. This train of thought sent me brainstorming what became the Safe Lands trilogy.
The Safe Lands is not really safe at all. It’s a walled-in city in Crested Butte, Colorado in a dystopian 2088. Everyone in the Safe Lands has a terminal disease, and the government is desperate to find a cure. So desperate that they conquer a nearby village and take the young, uninfected people captive to experiment on. I wrote the story of three outsider brothers, Mason, Levi, and Omar, and how each reacted differently to being taken captive. Levi wants to save his people and get them home. Mason thinks it would be best to help the Safe Lands find a cure. And Omar totally adapts to the Safe Lands, finding his new life a vast improvement over village life. Each brother learns that what they want isn’t necessarily what God wants, and that they must learn to love people who are different from them if they are ever going to find freedom.
Q. What is your favorite book that you’ve written?
Jill: I don’t have a favorite. I love them all. To choose a favorite is like choosing a favorite child, which, as a parent, I could never do.
Q. Who is your favorite character from all of your books and why?
Jill: Again, can’t choose. I love all my guys. I love Spencer’s sarcastic voice (The Mission League), I love Achan’s selflessness (Blood of Kings), I love Martyr’s simple questions (Replication), and I love how hard Omar tries (an often fails) to make things right (The Safe Lands). Each one has taught me more about loving people different from myself.
Q. Are there any other authors whom you look up to or draw inspiration from?
Jill: I draw inspiration from any book I read. Right now I’m reading a historical nonfiction book about the Tudors, and I’m getting tons of ideas for medieval politics, day-to-day life, and décor. When I first began writing, I drew much of my inspiration from the Harry Potter books. Even now, I still write large casts of characters, elements of mystery, and detailed storyworlds in my books, so I suppose J. K. Rowling is still inspiring me all these years later.
Q. What is a day in the life of a writer like? Do you set a certain quota to complete each day? Do you have any specific rituals or patterns that aid your work?
Jill: My days are dictated by my deadlines—whether they be self-imposed or from my publisher. I always count up the number of workdays before my deadline, then divide them by my word count. That lets me know how many words a day I must write or rewrite. I try to get through my words first thing each day and to stay away from email and social media. If I go online first, I get distracted and behind schedule. However, focusing only on my writing can allow the emails to pile up. Then it’s hard to get caught up on email. I do the best I can, always trying to make the actual writing a priority.
Q. As an author of Christian speculative fiction, specifically, what are the biggest difficulties you have? How has God helped you overcome these difficulties?
Jill: The only real difficulty is dealing with my own pride. The Christian speculative fiction market is a narrow slice of all readers. It can be difficult to justify writing forty hours a week when you don’t make a fair wage for your time. If I think about it too much, I can become discouraged. God continually reminds me that my worth doesn’t come from the success or failure of my books and that he will always provide for our family, no matter what.
Q. Since you also run a blog for teen writers, can you tell us a little about that?
Jill: www.GoTeenWriters.com was founded in 2010 by YA novelist Stephanie Morrill as a place to encourage teenage writers. I had a similar heart for teens and joined forces with Stephanie in 2012 where we blog weekly on all topics related to writing fiction and answer comments and emails from teenagers. In 2013, we collaborated again and wrote a nonfiction book titled Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book. In 2014, author Shannon Dittemore joined our ranks.
Q. Do you have any future projects in the works? Can you tell us a little about them?
Jill: I have two. First is a children’s chapter book series I wrote with my son called RoboTales. These are fractured fairytales for boys. The first book is called Tinker, which is based on the Cinderella story. Tinker is a mechanic who works at his uncle’s robot shop. He gets the chance to enter a rebuilt vehicle in the Recycle Race and win a scholarship to the Invention Institute, but his cousins want to stop him. You can learn more about Tinker here: http://jillwilliamson.com/books/robotales/
And for grownups (and teens), I’m working on The Kinsman Chronicles, a new epic fantasy series I’m writing for Bethany House Publishers. The ebooks will be serialized, so that readers don’t have to wait a year between books. Part one of book one comes out December 2015. Here’s a description:
Darkness Reigns: Kinsman Chronicles Episode 1
The god of the soil is furious. Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, earthquakes—everything points to his unhappiness. At least this is what the people of Armania in the Five Realms believe.
Amidst the unsettling state of the world around them, the princes of Armania live their lives focused more on who will claim the throne after their sickly father, King Echad, dies. That is until Prince Wilek’s concubine turns up dead—beside her, a bloodied message that seems to have come from the mother realms.
Q. Because Geeks Under Graceis a Christ-centered website that focuses on all things geek, we have to ask: Do you have any favorite videogames, movies, novels or other geeky media?
Jill: I have no time for videogames. If and when I do play, I prefer the games of my childhood, specifically Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart, and Tetris. I love movies and TV shows. Star Wars, LOTR, Jane Austen movies, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Star Trek, Firefly, most anything Disney, etc. I could go on and on. Brandon Sanderson is currently my favorite author. Nobody creates magic like Brandon does.
Geeks Under Grace would like to thank Jill Williamson for participating in this interview. To learn more about Jill, her novels, and keep up with his latest works check out the links below:
Victoria Grace Howell is an artist and aspiring speculative fiction writer. She received Teen Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Florida Christian Writers Conference , a conference she attended since 2010, and the Believers Trust Award in 2015. When she's not writing her books or articles, she enjoys drawing her characters, playing the piano and practicing Kung Fu.
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