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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Author Interview + Book Give-away! Welcome Jill Elizabeth Nelson

If Desiree Jacobs knows anything, it’s art. Her father, whose security company is internationally renowned, taught her everything he knew. Most of all, he taught her about honor, integrity, and faith.

Special Agent Tony Lucano knows Desiree Jacob’s father is an art thief. But what he can’t figure out is Desiree. Is she an innocent victim…or a clever accomplice?

Then her father is murdered. And along with his company, he leaves Desiree a hidden container full of stolen paintings. But she can’t put people out of jobs, and embarrass international museums that have been displaying clever forgeries. No. She must find out why her honest father would turn criminal. And she must return the priceless art to the rightful owners without their knowledge. Even if it means facing down a ring of cutthroat art thieves…or accepting help from the man she most distrusts.

Wow, if that doesn’t make you want to go out and buy this book, I don’t know what will. Let’s meet the author behind this clever story. The Reluctant Burglar is Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s first published novel.

Hi, Jill. Thanks for being here today. I’m looking forward to getting to know you today. Please tell us a little about yourself and your family, and your job as a reviewer.

JN: My first and only marriage is still
going strong after 25 years. We have four kids who’ve pretty much flown the coop. Yet, the chickadees keep coming home to roost. Puzzling phenomenon. We must not give them enough incentive to stay away.

By day, I masquerade as secretary to the CEO of a health care corporation and as housing manager for a senior apartment complex. By night I throw off my mask of conformity and turn into a wild and crazy writer who can hardly wait to jot down all the cool things my characters are telling me, so I can share them with my readers.

But before I entered the realm of published novelist, I enjoyed three great years as a book reviewer for Romantic Times magazine, a secular periodical catering to women readers. Publishers would send me their inspirational fiction several months before the books were available on the shelves, and I got to share with an international market of readers what I thought about these books. How cool is that!?

When my own book contract came along, the magazine required me to step down from my reviewer position—conflict of interest. I’m thankful for my years as a reviewer. The position put me in touch with what was happening in the inspirational fiction market and helped me position my work for a sale.

Wow, you work full time and still find time to write. Impressive. Do you have any hobbies or interests you’d like to share?

JN: Reading, writing, camping trips with my family. My version of camping is a motor home with an electrical hook-up. Not very primitive, but very relaxing to be out in nature away from the regular daily bustle. I bring my laptop and write without even the temptation of checking my email.

No temptation to check your email…you are a strong woman. LOL. Now, how long have you been writing and how long did you write before you were published?

JN: I’ve been writing since I penned—er, penciled—my first mystery novel in sixth grade. No trace of that youthful manuscript exits today, and the world is grateful. Since then, my writer’s journey has taken me in many different directions. I’ve worn the hats of journalist, columnist, essayist, poet, storyteller and book reviewer. Somewhere along the route, in my early days, I earned a BA in literature and creative writing.

The dream of becoming a published novelist was born and died several times before the fulfillment. Sometimes that’s the way it has to be because the Lord knows we’re not ready for the dream to become reality. But about six years ago, when my children started flying the nest, I began writing a novel that wouldn’t let me alone until I got it on paper. That isn’t the one that eventually sold, but working on it primed the pump, and I kept writing manuscripts until the contract happened. God’s timing, not mine.

Are you one of those writers that had to go through lots of rejections before you were published or was it a fairly simple process?

JN: I assume you mean “published” in book length. Yes, I had about four years of rejections until my first novel sold. During that time, I published many articles, essays, short stories, and book reviews. Publishing short pieces was and continues to be a part of my writing ministry, but in my pre-book contract days, it was also a way to build credits and name recognition in writing circles.

Getting to the point of receiving a book contract offer isn’t a simple process. It just isn’t. A lot of factors contribute, especially old-fashioned hard work and perseverance. I always recommend that aspiring authors join writers groups, either on-line or in person. We need the accountability and the encouragement these groups can provide. And the networking opportunities are vast, particularly in on-line groups such as American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) where the membership includes agents and editors.

Back to you. What were you doing when you found out you sold The Reluctant Burglar? How did you celebrate?

JN: In the fall of 2005, my cell phone rang during the awards banquet at the Christian Writers Group conference. (I was naughty and left it on because I was expecting to hear one way or the other.) I dashed into the hall, clutching the phone. My also naughty agent began the conversation as if she was preparing me for a let-down, and then she announced, “And they’re offering you a three-book contract!” I had an Aaaaah! Moment, then settled in to hear the details. It was a blast being able to share my news with a whole conference full of fellow writers, many of them personal friends. I feel like that was a special gift to me from the Lord. And an intriguing God-incidence stood out to everyone when my news became common knowledge—the conference theme was “Answer the Call.” Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

What kind of writing schedule are you on?

JN: My general writing goal is 1,000 words per day at least five days per week. I never do exactly that. On days when I’m a little “stuck” and need to brainstorm plot, I might only write a few hundred words. On days when everything’s clicking, I might do 1,500 or 2,000. My contract gives me six months to write each book in the series. Those months seem to slide by pretty fast.

I read that you put your writing on hold while you raised your family. I work outside the home and finding time to write without making my family sacrifice is a big struggle for me. What advice would you give women like me? (no pressure, lol)

JN: I admire women who can raise young children and write, too. It didn’t work for me. But then, I wasn’t able to be a stay-at-home mom. Working full time, then coming home to the needs of a large family left no room for writing. The dream was dormant inside me during those years anyway. I’m sure that was God’s grace.

For women who have the awesome privilege of being home with their little ones, an hour or two a day at the computer might be possible. Notice I say “might.”

Whatever your situation is in the motherhood arena, if the call to write is heavy on you as well, be happy with small but steady progress. Be consistent. Be persistent. Cut yourself lots of slack so the inevitable interruptions don’t stress you out. Enjoy the writing journey as much as you enjoy your kids. Don’t make the two roles competitive. Besides, raising kids gives women LOTS of fodder for books. Count your little blessings, and then put them to bed. LOL

Small but steady progress…my new mantra! I read that you literally dreamed up your character in RB. Tell us about that? Do you typically dream up your books?

JN: I don’t typically sleep-dream my novel scenarios. I do typically wake-dream them, often while lying in bed trying to sleep, but my brain is still going a hundred miles an hour concocting scenarios for imaginary people. Only a writer can get away with such confessions and not be considered a candidate for a white jacket.

For the Reluctant Burglar concept, I woke up one night with my whole body tense after dreaming that a woman had sneaked into a home in the wee hours of darkness to return a genuine painting that had been stolen and replaced by a clever forgery. I didn’t know much about her except that she was an expert at what she did, and if she were caught, disaster would follow for lots of people. My imagination began to play with that nugget, and Burglar was born.

Tell us a little about this book and what it meant to you to tell this story?

JN: I love stories where people risk much to do the right thing, and I hate hearing about art or antiquities desecrated or stolen. Putting these elements together into a tale of intrigue with a sassy heroine and an intense hero came pretty naturally. I’ve really enjoyed writing about Desi and Tony.

I write what I like to read. My personal style always includes some level of adventure and romance mingled with pathos and humor. This particular series lets me indulge all my preferences and put it into a package with spiritual meaning incorporated throughout. As my web site says, I write romantic suspense for people who enjoy a fast-paced adventure with more meat on its bones than just a slick plot.

The spiritual theme of Reluctant Burglar is sorting out what to do when it looks like any choice will invite disaster. It’s a story illustration about learning to trust God’s higher knowledge, not our own wisdom and understanding.

This is a part of a series. Would you like to share a little about the other books?

JN: The To Catch a Thief series has a lot of juicy elements that made it attractive to a publisher and, hopefully, to readers—a spitfire heroine righting a wrong in an outrageous way, mortal and moral danger, the unique angle of the high end art world, and a hero that even my winsomely conservative editor describes as—ahem—“hot.”

Reluctant Runaway, which is about ready to head for the typesetter, comes out in March 2007. This one delves into the world of cults and outlaw motorcycle gangs. Interwoven themes are the need for belonging, discerning the truth in a deceitful world, and generational consequences to people’s actions—for good and for evil.

In Reluctant Smuggler (releasing August 2007), our heroes are pitted against a Mexican drug lord engaged in a deadly art for drugs scheme. The theme focuses on the essential role of hope in sustaining our faith, and the disastrous consequences to society when hope is absent.

Each of the books has a specific art focus. Burglar spotlights the European masters, and Runaway exposes readers to American and Native American art. Smuggler takes readers south of the border to explore Hispanic art and culture.

What other projects are you working on?

No “other” projects right now. My plate is full with the current series assignment. I’m about at the half way point in the Reluctant Smuggler manuscript. Things are getting right interesting for my characters. . I hope my current publisher will continue the To Catch a Thief series

What has been the most fun part of publication and the least favorite part?

Writing. The process offers enough joy and despair to be a love/hate relationship in itself, especially when you actually have to meet a deadline, and you have no clue other than a miracle how that will be accomplished. God is good. He gives me grace to do what would be impossible in my own abilities.

Wow, thank you so much, Jill. I appreciate you being here and I loved this story. This is the first book in a long time that I thought, “I wish this were a movie.” It was a very well thought out book. Can’t wait to read the next one. I hope you’ll come back next year to talk about Reluctant Runaway.

Now if you’d like to win an autographed copy of The Reluctant Burglar go to and find the name of Desiree Jacob’s father. Email me the name and I’ll draw from the entries on Wednesday. Good luck!

Thanks so much, Sabrina. I'm always happy to hear from people who enjoy books, whether they've read mine or not. Drop by my web site. My contact page has my email link, and I'm
especially excited when I see I've got new newsletter subscribers.


Sabrina L. Fox said...

Maybe no comments, but I've had a few people enter. There's still time. ;)

Anonymous said...

Great interview!

Crystal said...

Jill, you sound a bit like me--book reviewer three years, family of four kids--except some of mine are still here--and three of my college age kids will live at home next year...ack.

Anyway, I'm so pleased with your book and look forward to more. Great interview, Sabrina! It's great that you highlight some of our favorite authors and new books.

Cara Putman said...

What a great interview. I loved this book! And can't wait to read the others. Thanks for the insights, Jill.

Todd said...

I'm really interested in this series Jill's started with Reluctant Burglar. Hopefully, I can win a copy here so I can begin reading it.