For a long time I kept the fact that I read romance novels a secret. It wasn't something that was considered appropriate reading material in my peer group. The popularity of books like Bridget Jones's Diary helped make chick-lit more acceptable but full out romance? It was still frowned upon. Right about the time I decided I didn't give a hoot what anyone thought of my reading material, I found the romance book blogosphere. It was through blogs like Dear Author and Smart Bitches that I was introduced to more contemporary romance authors than the ones I was stealing from my mother's romance collection -- authors like Jill Shalvis.
I picked up my first Jill Shalvis novel because blogs had mentioned her but I kept reading her books and devouring her backlist because of her writing. Jill writes strong characters and the women in her novels are every bit as strong as the men. She's not afraid to bring some humor to her books and she writes a darned fine sex scene.
I'm clearly not the only one that's a big fan of Jill's books. She is a New York Times bestselling author and the first book in her Lucky Harbor series, Simply Irresistible, snagged her the coveted 2011 RITA Award for Contemporary Single Title Romance. Two more things to love about Jill? She regularly updates her blog and is part of the BlogHer community. I caught up with her via email recently and she kindly agreed to answer my questions.
Karen:I remember reading about your first sale on Dear Author a few years ago. Since that first call you've gone on to publish many, many more books. What's the most biggest thing you've learned about the publishing process since that first sale?
Jill: That the only thing you can control is the quality of the book. I can't control much else in this business, but I can control my own characters. Well, most of the time... :)
Karen: You recently blogged about what you think makes a book a romance novel. One of your criteria is a strong heroine. What makes a character a strong heroine?
Jill: Actually, I think if we're talking romance, it mostly centers around the hero. But the heroine has to be worthy. She can be short, tall, educated, not educated, funny, serious ... anything. But she has to have heart and a strength that matches the hero.
Karen: Many of the heroes in your books are, to steal the term that you use for your husband, alpha men. They are firefighters (though you've written about female firefighters too!), policemen and members of the military. Does a man have to be an alpha in order to be a romantic hero?
Jill: Absolutely not. Beta guys can be sexy too. Or a combination. I actually think it's the combination that does the trick in a romance novel. Tough and steady, and yet able to access his heart.
Karen: You often blog about the I Love Lucy kind of adventures you get into in your daily life. That humor is in your books and I love it. How important is humor to you? Is being funny sexy?
Jill: I do believe that being funny is sexy. I like to find the humor in everything, that's for sure. And if I make people laugh, then I'm thrilled.
I enjoyed reading the first three Lucky Harbor series and I was thrilled when I found out there would be additional three books in the series. I was amazed when I saw the publishing schedule. Lucky in Love came out in May, At Last came out in June and Forever and a Day will be coming out the end of July. I have to imagine that had to be a rather intense writing and editing period. What does a writing day look like for you?
Jill: I wrote those three books over the course of a year, so the writing schedule didn't change much for me. I get up, kick my people out of the house, and write all day until they come home looking for me. If I'm behind, I bribe a teenager to go get dinner. They're handy now that they can drive.
Karen: I know that having a supply of cookies at the ready is important to your writing process. What kind of cookie do you reach for when you hit a sticky bit of writing or are on a tight deadline?
Jill: Any kind. I am not a cookie snob. However, I do have a fondness for Mint Milanos and anything with chocolate chips in them.
Karen: One of the great things about blogs is that we get to watch people's children grow up and your three daughters have grown up a lot in the years I've read your blog. (I'm personally in denial that your oldest daughter has graduated from college.) I've always wondered what they thought about watching their mother write romance novels. Do they read your books?
Jill: Ha. No, they don't read my books. They're proud of me, but in a peripheral way. They don't want to know details. And recently my oldest daughter had to unfollow me on Pinterest because all the naked men embarrassed her. :)
The Lucky Harbor novels are just one set of books. What's coming up next?
JIll: I'm still writing the Animal Magnetism series, and Adam gets his book in November with Rescue My Heart. I will also be doing more Lucky Harbors. But now, this summer, it's the Chocoholics Trilogy with Lucky in Love, At Last, and Forever and a Day.
Karen: Yay for three more Lucky Harbor novels! Thank you Jill!
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