Learn from a Pro

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by Deborah Lynne

Today I wanted to do something a little different than my normal blog for ACFW. Don’t get me wrong; it still shares valuable insight into writing like all of the ACFW blogs posted. For my blog I had an idea and emailed one of my favorite authors of inspirational romantic suspense requesting to interview her.

Jill Eliz NelsonI am proud to say she agreed. That very special woman and writer is…Jill Elizabeth Nelson. I have been reading her books for a few years now and am a HUGE fan of hers. She not only writes in my favorite genre, but her books keep me turning those pages. Ms. Nelson has a gift for storytelling. Her pages come to life.

Hello Jill. It is so nice that you have consented to be interviewed by me so I can share one of my favorite authors with my readers. I started reading your books with the ‘To Catch a Thief’ series. I’d like to ask you a few questions that I think would help authors aspiring to write prolifically like you do, to grow in their craft.

(Special tip to you writers reading the interview – Jill Elizabeth Nelson also has a non-fiction book available to help you strengthen your novel…Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View. It’s available in paperback or through Kindle download).

1. What made you become a writer, and how did you get started?

By the time I was in the 6th grade, I was a voracious reader. My teacher that year was a kindred soul. Daily, she would perch on a stool at the head of the class and read to us for a half hour out of delightfully imaginative books like Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three or Tolkein’s The Hobbit.

Somewhere in the process of that exposure, it dawned on me that I wanted not merely to be the person who received pleasure from a good book but the one who gave that pleasure to others. That year, I wrote my first novel-a perfectly horrendous mystery, and the world is grateful that not a shred of it yet exists. 😉 However, from then on the fire was lit. At times, the blaze has dimmed to embers, but it has never gone out.

At my speaking engagements, I tell folks that the compulsion to write must be a fire in the bones-something a person cannot cease doing, at least not for any significant length of time. With a fire burning on the inside, a writer is on track to eventual publication. It is, however, the writer’s responsibility to keep stoking the flames.

The number of unfinished manuscripts moldering in desk drawers or hard drives is legion. The hobbyist, the dabbler, or the easily discouraged will not have the strength or stamina to push through the obstacles that inevitably confront the would-be published author.

2. Where do you get your ideas?

Playing “what if” in my mind. A snippet of overheard conversation, observing someone’s behavior, a news headline-any of those things might spark questions inside me, and then playing with hypothetical answers can suggest storylines. A writer’s imagination switch must be continually clicked to the “on” position.

The inspiration for the books that became the “To Catch a Thief” series came from an actual sleeping dream. The dream left me at a cliff-hanger, and when I woke up heart-pumping and adrenaline surging, my waking mind played with the scenario until Desiree Jacobs and Tony Lucano emerged vibrant onto the movie screen of my imagination. The rest is history.

3. What tip can you give my readers who are working toward writing a book worthy of being published?

First and foremost, write! Constantly! When you’re not actually writing, think about writing. For a writer, obsession with the story is a good thing. In a creative art like writing, practice may never make perfect, but it will eventually equal publication.

Next, study write-craft. Purchase and read books on writing skillfully. A few core craft books would include The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain, Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins, Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, Writing the Break-Out Novel by Donald Maass, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King.

Also, regularly sign up for and participate in writing classes on-line or actual. Writers groups, such as American Christian Fiction Writers, offer courses for free or for nominal fees. If you live close to a university, you might be able to access classes there. I teach several times a year at SavvyAuthors.com. Starting February 17, I’m offering Shaping and Sculpting: the Art of the Edit. This May, I will teach Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View (based on my book of that name), and in September, I am scheduled for GMC and MRU: the Muscles and Molecules of Storytelling.

Thirdly, don’t neglect to encourage yourself! This business can be very daunting. If you are doing the above activities-writing and studying-then you have no reason to be discouraged. You are on the right (write) path. Stay on it and tune out the nay-sayers (and there will be many-sometimes people very close to you).

Finally (though this is by no means an exhaustive list), seek out fellowship from like-minded writers. This fellowship is available on-line and in face-to face writers’ groups. Fellowship can also be found in attending conferences. If you can find a conference that includes opportunities to interact with editors and agents, so much the better.

4. Tell us about your latest novel, Frame-Up, which released the early part of this month.
(Another side-note to you readers – I just finished the book and LOVED the twists and turns. It was great!)

I had a lot of fun writing Frame Up. I say that about every book I write, but it’s always true. A writer should always fall in love with their characters and their story (though at times you might feel like you hate them when the going gets rough-but I guess that’s true in any vibrant relationship).

Being maligned and misunderstood is a common human condition-though for some, like David and Laurel in Frame Up, that ostracism is more severe than for others. Jesus, I would say, faced an ultimate degree of misinterpretation and rejection-not merely in his death, but throughout His ministry-yet he walked through it in victory. Did He at times feel discouraged or hurt by the reactions of others? Yes, I believe He did, for He took on our humanity in every respect except sin, but He found courage and encouragement in fellowship with His Father. My characters must do the same in order to survive mentally and emotionally, but also to preserve their physical lives from the machinations of a determined killer.

5. Can you tell us what you’ve got planned for future releases?

My next book, Shake Down, releases in July 2014 from Love Inspired Romantic Suspense. Shake Down features as a main character a secondary character from Frame Up, though it isn’t necessary to read Frame Up in order to understand the plot in Shake Down. Clear as mud? In Shake Down, I take a microscopic look at the impact of heinous acts on the innocent family members of the perpetrators.

Wow, Jill! This was an awesome interview. You gave us some great advice in how to grow as a writer as well as encouraged all who dream to becoming an author not to give up. Thank you, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, for taking time to share your gift as well as your time with us. I’ll anxiously await the release of Shake Down. July won’t get here fast enough for me!

You can check her books out at http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com/. There you can also sign up to receive her newsletter.

Deb LynneDeborah Lynne, an inspirational fiction author of 7 novels, writes romance, romantic mystery, & romantic suspense. She says her books are fiction, but her God is real! Her latest novel, After You’re Gone, is scheduled to release anytime. You can connect with her on her website http://www.author-deborahlynne.com.

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