A new grandbaby, horrific winters with nine-plus feet of snow, and BOOKS! Recorded in late 2019, Jill Shalvis and I talk about new titles that were about to come out – which are totally out now, so you can grab whatever sounds like your reading catnip.
We also talk about her career, beginning with writing category romances, writing single title and now women’s fiction – and how to define the combined elements of a genre. I almost titled this episode “Family is Where You Make It,” because we talk about that, too.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello there, and welcome to episode number 387 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell. With me today: Jill Shalvis! We’re going to talk about her new grandbaby, we’re going to talk about nine feet of snow, and of course we’re going to talk about books. We recorded this in late 2019, so some of the books that are about to come out when we talk about them are already out, so you can go and buy them and read them right now. No waiting at all. I almost titled this episode “Family Is Where You Make It,” because we talk a lot about that too.
Now, if you want to talk to me or you have ideas for guests or you want to make a suggestion, you should email me at email@example.com, because I love hearing from you, and you also email me terrible jokes, which, of course, I will end the episode with, because that’s how I do things!
Speaking of jokes, which aren’t a joke, but sort of a joke, I had a look at our Apple Podcast reviews recently? Thank you so much! Several of you mentioned how much you enjoy the jokes. I’m really glad, because I really enjoy them too! [Laughs] So thank you so much for leaving a review. That makes the show much easier for other people to find, and it means a lot! Thank you so much for that!
This podcast is brought to you in part by Lola, a modern approach to feminine care. Lola is a female-founded company offering a line of organic cotton tampons, pads, liners, and all-natural cleansing wipes. It makes your month a little easier. You get boxes in the mail on a schedule that works for you, and it includes exactly the mix of products you choose in the absorbency levels that you need. It’s marvelous! The products are one hundred percent organic cotton with no added chemicals, no fragrances, no synthetics, and no dyes. I was so, so happy with the quality of the pads. They were very thin, they were very well designed, they did not move, and I barely knew they were there. I’m usually not impressed with anything having to do with cycles, and this was a surprise. I was very impressed. For thirty percent off of your first month’s subscription, visit mylola.com and enter SMARTPOD when you subscribe.
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I will have information at the end of the show about what is coming up on Smart Bitches; I will, as promised, have a really bad joke; and of course I will have links to all of the books and things that we talk about in this episode. There are a number of books, which I know makes you all very happy.
But for now, let’s get started with this episode. On with my conversation about comfort food romantic comedy, with Jill Shalvis.
Sarah: I’m so excited to talk to you! Thank you so much –
Jill Shalvis: I know!
Sarah: – for doing this.
Jill: It’s been so long.
Sarah: It has been a really long time since we’ve talked. This is the, the lone awkward part: would you please introduce yourself –
Sarah: – and tell the folks who will be listening who you are and how many New York Times bestsellers you have. I’m kidding on that second part; you don’t actually have to count.
Jill: Oh, that’s good, because I don’t know. My name is Jill Shal- –
Jill: My name is Jill Shalvis, and I write contemporary romance and some women’s fiction now too, and I honestly don’t know how many I’ve had hit the list. It’s been a nice number, which I’m very grateful for.
Sarah: So most importantly, congratulations on your new grandbaby!
Jill: Oh, thank you, yes! Let’s see; I had my daughter when I was twelve, and then she had hers when she was twelve –
Jill: – so we’re all very young. But no, it’s so cute. It’s a lot of fun.
Sarah: How is everyone doing? Is everyone okay?
Jill: Everyone’s doing okay, and it’s very distracting to have a cute little bean in the house, I can tell you that much.
Sarah: Oh yeah, you don’t get anything done.
Jill: No, nothing. Don’t tell my editor.
Sarah: Does that mean all of you? Are all of you are not sleeping?
Jill: No! Thank – I, I have, I get to do the fun part. I get to come in and hold, hold her till she cries or wants the milk truck, and then I hand her over, so it’s really been quite easy for me.
Sarah: Yeah, the second time, when you’re a grandparent, is like a completely different experience, I’ve been told.
Jill: Totally! Yes. I did my time – [laughs] – in the trenches.
Sarah: You know, it’s so funny. My kids are now fourteen, almost –
Jill: Oh my gosh, we’re so old.
Sarah: – and twelve.
Jill: I, I remember when you were pregnant.
Sarah: I remember when I was pregnant!
Sarah: My next-door neighbor has, I think she’s eighteen months, almost two, and I keep thinking, oh gosh, I just, I wish I could go back –
Sarah: – to just a few of the baby days. I miss being, I miss them being portable and interactive and –
Sarah: You know, a fourteen-year-old does not talk to you very often, and –
Jill: Yeah. Those are tough years. You miss the sweet cute.
Sarah: Yes! And the part where they smell like that wonderful –
Sarah: – baby smell – the good baby smell –
Sarah: – not the other baby smell.
Sarah: And, and I’m like, you know, maybe this is why there’s grandparenting: because you get to do –
Sarah: – all of the baby stuff when you remember and appreciate it, and you’re not hormonally on some terrible rollercoaster, and you’re not exhausted!
Jill: Exactly! I mean, I had three kids under the age of five, which, for the record, I don’t recommend for anyone to do.
Sarah: If you want to be a writer, we do not recommend this.
Jill: Not at all! So, yeah, those years are like the deep, dark years of hell, like, when I look back at them, and so this is nice, because it’s not hell! [Laughs] I don’t have to do anything!
Sarah: I want my kids to enjoy as much of their childhood as they can, but I’m kind of looking forward to that part too. [Laughs]
Jill: Yes. Well, you have a way to go.
Sarah: I do; I do have a ways to go.
Jill: You have to survive the teen years first, which, for the record, I also barely did.
Sarah: It’s, it’s boys, so there’s a lot of quietness, video games, grunting, and eating.
Jill: Mm, yes.
Sarah: It’s a lot of eating.
Jill: Yes, I – food is a big thing for teenagers.
Sarah: Oh my God, I go to, I go to Costco so often.
Jill: Oh yeah. That’s all, we still do that. We’re still in the habit of doing that. Well, we do still feed the masses, because they come back! They don’t ever really go away.
Sarah: Well, yes, ‘cause your house is so nice! And also they’re snowed in, right?
Jill: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: Like, aren’t you snowed in all the time?
Jill: Yeah. I’m not looking forward to that this year. Last year we had – I live near Tahoe. I live closer to Donner Lake, actually, which is the Donner party. Being on the East Coast, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Donner party, but that’s what happened in the mid 1800s when people were coming west: they got stuck here on the summit, and they all died, and some of them ate each other. That’s what happened. So that’s what the Donner party is, and we live like two minutes from there. And last year we had a winter that was bigger than that winter. It was bigger than any winter on, in written history, and we felt like the Donner party. Like –
Jill: – we were constantly snowed in. It was so, so long. Very drastically long. So I’m not looking forward to this winter for the first time.
Sarah: I mean, do you still have some snow? That’s a lot of snow!
Jill: You know, it’s funny. Squaw Valley, which held the Olympics in 1960s, is one of the resorts that’s right here where I live, and they could, you could have, you could still be skiing there. They finally closed in August, but they could have stayed open all year long.
Sarah: That’s astonishing!
Jill: Astonishing, I know.
Sarah: Has that ever happened in your memory?
Jill: We’ve had a couple of really heavy years. I’ve been here twenty years, and maybe four of, or five of them have been incredibly heavy, but nothing like last year. Nothing.
Jill: I mean, I, if you go to my Instagram and you scroll back to last winter, you will see pictures that are unbelievable. There’s a picture of me in the Safeway parking lot with a wall of snow a hundred feet tall behind me.
Sarah: Like, at that point, is there even equipment that you can use to manage that much fricking snow?
Jill: Yes, we’re hardy here. We’re crazy here.
Jill: I mean, we’re hardy! You have to have like five feet of snow for school to be closed.
Jill: It’s, we’re hardy people. [Laughs]
Sarah: So I live outside DC, and –
Jill: Oh yeah, you guys close down for an inch. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh! And it’s weird, because, you know, I moved here almost four years ago from northern Jersey, which can be a little, oh! Oh, that’s some inches!
Sarah: Oh, that’s dangerous! Well, okay, I get it. You know, there’s road treatment concerns; I understand. Here, an inch and people flip out.
Jill: [Laughs] I know! It cracks me up. I went to DC a couple year ago; I did a signing at the Nora Roberts bookstore, which is not far from where you are, a couple hours maybe, and –
Jill: – they had a half an inch of snow. We were snow-, we were snowed in for two days, we couldn’t get home, and we were laughing the whole time. Like, I can’t, I can’t believe that we can’t get home – [laughs] – in two inches, less than two inches of snow.
Sarah: Yeah. That, that’ll happen. People, people do get a little freaked out. [Laughs]
Jill: I mean, I drive a four-, you know, we have, like, four-wheel drive, and I have studded snow tires. I could literally drive anywhere. If you’re a mom, like, why don’t you have all-wheel drive so your kids can get out of your house and to school? I don’t understand why that wouldn’t be a thing.
Sarah: Okay. So you, ma’am –
Sarah: You have a lot of books out now –
Jill: I –
Sarah: – which is pretty amazing.
Jill: – I do. Yeah.
Sarah: I have known you for so long!
Jill: I know! Since the beginning of time?
Sarah: I remember when you were almost entirely, was it Harlequin Blaze was where you lived mostly?
Jill: Yeah, yeah! I mean, that was in the days before I was doing single title. I was writing category romance, which, if people don’t know, it’s like a little genre. I loved writing those; those were my bread and butter for a long time, and in those days I was writing Harlequin Blaze, Harlequin Temptation. I, I did Loveswepts. I did all – so that’s kind of where I got my training, I guess to say.
Sarah: Mm-hmm. I know Nora Roberts calls it dancing Swan Lake in a phone booth.
Jill: Yes! [Laughs] Yes!
Sarah: You need to get a lot done in a very small space.
Jill: Yeah, that’s a brilliant description. Yes. That’s what I did, and it is, and it’s hardcore training. I mean, readers have their expectations for those books, and it was, it was great. I, I really loved writing them, but now I’ve moved on to bigger stories, which I’m really loving now too.
Sarah: Yeah! You, you got a lot of books! You moved to single title –
Sarah: – and now you’re moving to women’s fiction and sort of family – I don’t want to call them family sagas, ‘cause that sounds like they’re historical –
Jill: You know, it’s funny –
Sarah: – but they’re family stories.
Jill: – because there’s labels for everything now. You’re either rom-com –
Jill: – or you’re women’s fiction or you’re romance, and the truth is, the honest truth is I’m not writing any of those singularly. I’m writing romance, rom-com, and women’s fiction all in one book –
Jill: – and so sometimes it’s hard to know how to put a cover on one of my books or how to market me, but it’s all those things. They’re warm, they’re funny, they’re sexy, and often it’s not just about the romance. It’s, it’s about sisters or brothers or coworkers or friends. It’s about – I, I, my jollies come from writing a small community –
Jill: – of people that are intertwined, and in that –
Jill: – group there’s romance, or there’s family, or there’s workers. You know, whatever it is, whatever the connection is.
Sarah: Found family is definitely a common theme –
Jill: I love that, yes.
Sarah: – yes, in your, in your books.
Jill: And second chances.
Sarah: Yes, absolutely! So tell me about your latest book. You have a new book.
Jill: Well – I do: Wrapped Up in You, which is in the Heartbreaker Bay series, which takes place in San Francisco, specifically in the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco, one, one of my favorite places in the world, and what happened was, is I had been writing small towns mostly up until that point, and then I decided to branch out. Mostly, two of my daughters have moved to San Francisco, and I had fallen in love with the city, so I wanted to set a, a series in the City, but while still keeping the small town feel?
Jill: So I concocted this building in Cow Hollow and gave it, the bottom floor was, like, retail, bars, a bar, a shop, a coffee shop, a dress shop, a, you know, a bunch of stuff like that, and then on the second floor was more resident-, was residential all the way up to the sixth floor, so it was this mix of people, and so by using that building in this big city, I was able to give it a small town feel.
Sarah: And, and so many places in cities function like small communities.
Jill: Yeah! New York especially, or Jersey where we’re both from. It’s, you know, you think of these places as just big cities where you can get lost, but the truth is, is there’s little pockets of communities throughout the whole thing.
Sarah: Absolutely, and you, you, you gather family around you if you want to.
Jill: Yes! And so the theme of Heartbreaker Bay is really family is where you make it.
Jill: It doesn’t have to be blood.
Jill: And so Wrapped Up in You is like the eighth book in that series, but I wrote each of these books as a complete standalone for people who don’t want to read series, so you can – and, and Wrapped Up in You, more than any of the other books in the series, is a true standalone, so you can jump right into that one. And basically it’s a, the heroine is Ivy Snow, and she runs a taco truck right outside this building that I talked, told you about –
Jill: – and the hero is Kel and interesting, he is interesting to me because people have been asking for him, his story for so long. He came from the Animal Magnetism series, a series I wrote many years ago in, in Idaho, set around a veterinarian clinic. I mean, hot guys and cute animals were a win for me, and he was just one of the guys in that series that never got his story told.
Jill: He’s a, he’s a cowboy and a sheriff, an Idaho sheriff, and he comes to the City, so basically, Wrapped Up in You is a cowboy and the taco truck chick, so that’s it in a nutshell.
Sarah: That could be the title! The Cowboy and the Taco Truck –
Jill: Yes, it could! The – [laughs] – see, that’s what I thought! My editor didn’t think so.
Sarah: Oh, come on! I mean, Wrapped Up in You is a great title?
Jill: Yes, she came up with that, yes.
Sarah: It’s a really good one, but I would also be amenable to The Cowboy –
Jill: I know!
Sarah: – and the Taco Truck Chick.
Jill: That – me too! And, you know, that’s, so that’s how I’ve been pushing it when people ask me about it.
Sarah: Well, I mean, heck yeah! Why not?
Jill: [Laughs] Probably my one and only cowboy, so if you’re into cowboys, get that one.
Sarah: So you have Wrapped Up in You, and then you have a book –
Sarah: – with 1001 Dark Nights coming out in November, right?
Jill: Yes, a novella. A novella set in the same world with, with characters that we haven’t yet seen.
Jill: So that’s, that’s a novella; it’s called Twist of Fate, and that comes out next Tuesday.
Sarah: You’re only a little busy.
Jill: Just a little busy, yeah. It’s funny, though, because I feel like I’m writing less books. Like, I used to have four and five releases every year, but this year there was, well, there was three, but next, and next, and next year there’s going to just, there’s going to be – ah, I guess there’s three. There’s two big stories and then one novella.
Sarah: That’s positively glacial for you.
Jill: Yeah, but the bigger stories are taking me longer to write. There’s more to them; there’s a lot more pa-, word count.
Jill: So it’s more like writing a couple of books in one. So I guess it makes sense that I’m only writing two full-length the next year, and then the novella.
Sarah: Yeah. That’s actually something I wanted to ask you about, because with the – you should have seen my face when you were describing, I write women’s fiction, romance, and –
Sarah: – what was the – rom-coms, and I’m thinking –
Jill: Rom-com, yes.
Sarah: – all right, so, what, what, rom-com wofic? I’m like, I’m trying to come up with a word – you should see my face –
Jill: [Laughs] Please do!
Sarah: – I looked utterly baffled, because, you know, it’s, I’ve been saying this for a, for a while: even the title contemporary romance doesn’t adequately communicate what the thing is –
Sarah: – ‘cause you could be talking about Debbie Macomber, and I could be talking about –
Sarah: – Kristen Ashley. Not the same thing. No!
Jill: Completely opposite on the spectrum, and I love them both. I’m, I really do read them both, and –
Sarah: Yeah, me too!
Jill: – you know, Kristen Ashley, she writes the stream of consciousness in a way I’ve never seen anyone else do –
Jill: – and she just has a way of bringing you immediately into the page with her characters, and she writes very sexy and sometimes very dark, and I dig that so much. But then there’s, there’s Debbie Macomber and, like, RaeAnne Thayne also, who write incredible characters, incredible depth, and are very sweet romances.
Jill: They’re totally at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Sarah: And yet they would –
Jill: And –
Sarah: – both be housed as –
Jill: Yes, as cont- – if it comes right down to it, if a guy was to describe it, they would probably just say it’s a romance, and those books, all those books couldn’t be further from the tru-, from each other.
Jill: And I guess, as far as the spectrum of heat goes, I’m in the middle. I’m definitely not a closed door, but I’m not as spicy as, as Kristen Ashley, either.
Sarah: Yeah. And it, it, it’s interesting to watch readers come up with terms that better communicate –
Sarah: Yeah! Like, well, what is this book? Oh, it’s, it – it’s like watching tags take off in popularity on fanfic sites. Like, oh, that’s what we’re calling this! That is the perfect name. So I’m going to attempt to come up with a good name. I’m terrible at naming things, so you –
Jill: Please do, because it would be so funny, because people do have a hard time – now the problem is, is people don’t know how to figure out what they want to read. Like, if they know what they want to read, they don’t know how to find it. That’s the hard part.
Sarah: Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s my job. I have to come up with a way to commit, connect the people –
Jill: Yeah, I’m going to look forward to that.
Sarah: – with the books they want to read. [Laughs]
Jill: If you could do that for me, that would be fantastic.
Sarah: So what do you like about widening the focus of your story? ‘Cause you know, you started with, like, series, which was very tight focus –
Sarah: – super close up –
Jill: So close, yes.
Sarah: – and your lenses have gotten wider and wider. Now you have multiple protagonists and intermixed families of different places and different people and different communities, and then you have, like, multiple siblings and family members in these stories that include multiple protagonists! What have you liked about sort of zooming out with your books?
Jill: Well, right now I’m writing, I’m in the middle of two series. So I’m in the middle of writing Heartbreaker Bay, which is a series and has connecting characters –
Jill: – and then I’m also writing Wildstone, which is a, a series that isn’t connected by characters at all. For people who want their whole story contained in one book, that’s the series they should write, read of mine, Wildstone.
And so I kind of, as an ADHD person, unmedicated, I find great comfort in the fact that I have, I feel like I have the best of both worlds: I can write whatever I want and fit it into one of these two series. It’s comfort food for me. It still will have, both series will still have romance, and they still have the same level of heat, the same level of humor –
Jill: – but the Wildstone series are bigger and have more scope. They’re, they can be darker; they can take on different, deeper issues.
Sarah: And you also have the ability to focus on different relationships. So it’s not just the romantic relationship; there’s familial relationships –
Sarah: – and –
Jill: Exactly, and that fascinates me. I love a good bromance. I am fascinated by men, by the way they talk, by the way they deal with each other, by their relationships, and so I, that, I can have, in these bigger stories, in the Wildstone series, I can have a romance; I can have two romances. I can have a, a, a bromance. I can have, you know, like I’m doing in January, I can have a male/male romance. I can do whatever I want, and that’s a, that’s wonderful for me.
Sarah: Now I’m wondering if comfort food romantic comedy is a better way to describe what you write.
Jill: Maybe. It’s definitely comfort food. I also love mac and cheese, so kind of, it kind of makes sense for me.
Sarah: [Laughs] And it lets you focus on whatever you want to be focusing on –
Jill: It does!
Sarah: – with the people that you’re writing about.
Jill: Mm-hmm. And broadening, and broadening the focus to other people that maybe you wouldn’t normally see in a, in a romance.
Sarah: Yes. And you often write characters who are confronting difficult things about themselves, but invariably – or difficult things that have happened to them.
Jill: Mm-hmm, definitely.
Sarah: Like, I’m thinking of Lucky Harbor and how all of those characters were starting over in –
Sarah: – in one way or another, and they had to sort of reboot and, and figure out what to do.
Jill: Well, here’s the thing with, with romance, or with contemporary storytelling: you don’t have a ghost, you don’t have guns, you don’t have a zombie apocalypse, you don’t have a – you don’t have, you can’t, there’s not built-in conflicts.
Jill: So you have to find it in the character of the people, and –
Jill: – and it’s difficult to do in today’s day and age and make it believable why two people don’t just fall in love right away. There’s got to be reasons.
Sarah: Yes. And those reasons can be situational or emotional or –
Jill: Yes, but situational, even if you do a situational, you still – in my book – you still need an emotional, internal conflict.
Jill: Because to me it’s not good enough if, oh, he lives in New York and she lives in California, but they love each other. Like, that, that’s an external conflict that can be overcome. With a conversation!
Jill: But an emotional conflict can’t be co- – it’s important to me that these books can’t be solved on page two, only they had had a conversation.
Jill: So there has to be a growth; there has to be a character arc.
Sarah: And they have to figure something out, or –
Jill: Yeah! They have to work for it. [Laughs]
Sarah: – need to identify something.
Sarah: Like, as I have told you way too many times, I, my, my favorite comfort read remains Instant Attraction? I flipping love that book. I love so many things about it, but I think, the part that I think really resonates, one of the things that resonates, is how in awe Katie and the, the three brothers are of where they live?
Sarah: And you set that very close to where you live.
Jill: Yes! Yes, I did.
Sarah: So there’s this sort of sense of, this area is incredibly beautiful and can also kill me if I’m stupid.
Jill: You know, I’m, I wrote that book within a few years of moving here, and I was a city girl. I was born in Jersey; I was raised in LA. Didn’t know snow, didn’t know mountains, didn’t know bears, didn’t know anything about this kind of living –
Jill: – and it was a culture shock like no other, and I wrote that series, the Instant Attraction series, shortly after moving here, so I think some of that awe was –
Jill: – was very, very real for me.
Sarah: So how have readers responded to the changing focus and scope of your books? How have your readers responded to the different things you’ve been writing?
Jill: Well, thankfully, they’ve followed me. I’m so grateful for these, for these readers of mine. They seem to follow, to like – I think they respond to the, the level of – [sighs] – what am I trying to say? – the closeness of the characters. I think they respond to that, which is why, which keeps my series alive, because –
Jill: – you want to keep reading to read who you know about.
Jill: But, and so I was worried when I started the Wildstone series, ‘cause these books are, there’s four of them now, and they all take place in the same small town, which I based on a wild, wild west town that, one of my favorite places in California, in the middle of the state on the coast, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the green, rolling hills of wine, wine country and ranch towns, and so it’s got a little bit of everything, but it’s a very small community, and this town is re-, has re-, reinvented itself since the gold, since it was a wild, wild west town, since the gold rush –
Jill: – over and over and over again, and so I kind of wanted to mimic that and the people who live there, but each of the stories set in wild town, it’s all, it’s a bigger book, so you get a lot more pages, but each story is finished at the end of it, and then we move on to some-, somebody else in that town –
Jill: – and the characters don’t cross over. So I feel like by writing both of these series, I’m kind of giving readers a choice: like, you can read this series over here with the Heartbreaker Bay if you want, or you can read standalone stories, and so hopefully readers are satisfied with that, with having a choice.
Sarah: Well, it seems like they are!
Jill: Yeah, so far. It’s, I’ve been lucky. I feel very, very grateful to still have, to still have books on the shelves when you walk into Walmart and Target.
Sarah: Does that ever get old?
Jill: It never, it never gets old!
Sarah: Considering how far away it is to the Target?
Jill: Seriously, yeah. I have to, yeah, you know, it’s like a forty-five-minute drive to Reno over the state line.
Sarah: To, to visit yourself.
Jill: To visit myself, yes.
Jill: And, and mostly I don’t do it. I’m, I, you know, I have the kids do it and then send me pictures or – I’m not a shopper; let’s put it that way. I don’t like to go shopping, but I do like to see myself on the shelf, ‘cause that will never get old.
Sarah: It also is, is so interesting when you see, like, people you know, and their books are on the shelf next to yours?
Jill: I know! I love that! Some of my, some of my great, bestest friends, we’re on the shelves together. It’s really great. I was recently in Salt Lake City doing a reader event with RaeAnne Thayne, and we had to run to Target because we had to decorate our table or something, and we were short something. We had to run over to Target, and we were supposed to be in and out in five minutes. We had, like, a thing that we had to be at, and so we thought, just real quick, we’re going to run down the shop. We ended up doing a photo shoot in the shelves ‘cause we found three of my books and three of her books, and we were just having a ball!
Jill: And she’s like, wait! We have to be somewhere! [Laughs]
Sarah: Like, oh crap! We have to stop visiting with ourselves now.
Sarah: We must go! [Laughs]
Jill: Put ourselves back on the shelf.
Sarah: It is, it is so nice, though, ‘cause I remember seeing those pictures and thinking, you’re still so excited and delighted!
Jill: Yes! I think because –
Sarah: -to see your books
Jill: – at heart I’m a reader. I’m still a reader; I still think of myself as a reader, and so it’s a thrill to me, ‘cause all those years when I was still just dreaming about writing, I would go to stare at the books on the shelves. I would study who the publishers were. I would read everything voraciously and thought I, I could never get so lucky as to have one of my stories on the shelf. Somehow I did get that lucky.
Sarah: And now you’re taking up heck-, hecking amounts of real estate in Target.
Jill: Thank God. Yes, very grateful for Target and Walmart.
Jill: I mean, we don’t have a lot of choices anymore, face it! Like –
Jill: – Borders is gone and, you know, Wal-, Waldenbooks. I miss those days.
Sarah: I, I miss having a local –
Sarah: – small bookstore. One just opened downtown that I did not know about, and I was just, I was so excited, and they have a romance section.
Jill: They do? That’s what I was going to ask you, ‘cause oftentimes indies don’t.
Sarah: Ah, they do not. This one is run by somebody who loves romance.
Jill: Ah, that’s awesome.
Sarah: And I did an event at the – there’s two branches of Loyalty Bookstore, one in Silver Spring and then one in DC, and I did an event at the DC one with Sherry Thomas last week, and –
Jill: Oh, how exciting!
Sarah: It was so fun. It’s attached to a restaurant with a bar and a speakeasy –
Sarah: – in the back, and they did a –
Sarah: – custom cocktail menu of her book, based, with the cocktails based on lines from the book. It was really –
Jill: Wow! How cool is that?
Sarah: But you know, all these people are coming in, and it’s people I know, and I’m, you know, hosting the event, so I’m saying hello, and I kept getting distracted by the romance section!
Sarah: I’m like, I’m sorry, I should be talking to people, but I just want to look at all these books!
Jill: You see? I know! That’s right, it’s awesome.
Sarah: Never gets old.
Jill: Never gets old.
Sarah: So you have, you have been writing for quite a while.
Jill: Yes. I think my first book was –
Sarah: This is a terrible –
Jill: Well, and you’re going to ask me how long. I’m trying to remember. I, I don’t have –
Sarah: No, I would never ask that, actually. No.
Jill: I think my first book hit the shelves in 1998. Again, I was twelve.
Sarah: But you know, since then, a few things have changed –
Jill: A bunch have changed.
Sarah: – in romance.
Jill: So much has changed.
Sarah: And in, in publishing.
Jill: I’m actually not, I’m actually a little embarrassed about some of my older books, and I know that’s not a nice thing to say about myself, but the times were different. Men were different, women were different, and I don’t think that romances, my romances from that time necessarily hold up.
Sarah: Wow! That’s quite a statement to make. I know how –
Sarah: – how much you love your, your, your work and seeing it, but it –
Jill: I love seeing it. I, I, I sometimes have a hard time reading myself. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to read myself back? I don’t know. But I just think those books from the ‘80s that were, like, some of them were office stories and, you know, bosses and secretaries and that kind of thing, and I just, that’s not the same era that we live in now.
Sarah: No, and that’s not what is being packaged as romantic.
Sarah: Yeah, that’s –
Jill: So I guess that’s what I mean: the situations are different –
Jill: – and I would never write those stories now.
Sarah: So how has your writing changed in addition to the situations?
Jill: I’ve, I have changed. I don’t – so because I have changed, my writing has changed. So it’s very important to me now, and I almost make a game of it in my writing, that everyone gets consent, and I make it playful and sexy, but it’s very clear that you have, not, you have verbal consent. I also don’t put anybody in a situation where, like, the man has more power than the woman, as for instance some of those old ‘80s romances where you were dealing with, like, a boss and a secretary. I don’t, I don’t find, I wouldn’t find pleasure in writing that story now.
Sarah: And it’s, it’s not necessarily what readers would be looking for!
Jill: Right! You have to change with the times. And I changed for me, and then my writing changed, and thankfully, readers came along.
Sarah: And it’s interesting to look at how your readers have followed as you’ve included more characters and created more found and assembled families of characters. They want more of these people; they want more people to read about.
Jill: Yeah! I, I’m grateful for that!
Sarah: So I’m trying to think, back in, like, 19-, early ‘90s –
Sarah: – and then moving into the2000s, that was, like, the mid 2000s were hecking paranormal.
Sarah: So much paranormal, and I remember –
Jill: I wrote one. I did, and it’s, I’m not even going to tell you the title, ‘cause it’s, I don’t want people to go look for it.
Jill: I would love to write paranormal. I still have, like, I have a witches series in my head that it’s been there for a long time, and a ghost series, and I, the first Wildstone book, called Lost and Found Sisters, has, if you squint, a paranormal edge to it. A very slight squint-and-you’ll-miss-it edge to it. There’s almost is there or isn’t there a ghost in that book.
Jill: And I waited for anybody to make a big deal about it, and no one ever did. That’s why – and I’m curious about, you know, the January book, where I have a, the secondary romance is male/male. I’m curious about that as well. Will people think any – will they say anything about it, or can they just read it and accept it as this is the world now?
Sarah: I would like to hope for the latter.
Jill: Yeah! Me too.
Sarah: Tell me about these witches? Because I think that sounds amazing. Like –
Jill: Well –
Sarah: – you would write the perfect pastiche of Charmed and –
Sarah: – Hocus Pocus –
Sarah: – and, like, found family witches?
Sarah: I –
Sarah: I’m listening; just, you could just start with chapter one, and I will just –
Sarah: – sit quietly and listen.
Jill: [Laughs] Well, I’ll save it for when I actually get to write it, ‘cause I will someday write it, but it will be sister witches. And not –
Jill: – not all, like, blood related. Like, they – lost and found sisters is a theme for me, so that’s what will happen.
Sarah: Ohhh, I love this idea.
Jill: Me too.
Sarah: Please, someone make this happen!
Jill: We just need paranormal to make a real return.
Sarah: You know, I think it is sort of making a return, but it’s very female-centered.
Jill: It is, and that’s what I –
Sarah: Like, I don’t –
Jill: – intend it to be.
Sarah: Exactly! I don’t, I don’t see a lot of broody dude –
Sarah: – creatures stumbling into waif-y, innocent, clueless heroines who are like, what do I do with this poor –
Jill: [Laughs] It’ll be nothing like that! Nothing like that.
Sarah: No, it’s like the women are superpowered and –
Sarah: – have superpowers. I am here for that!
Sarah: I love it!
Jill: Me, me and dear friend HelenKay Dimon have talked about writing witches for –
Sarah: Yes, please!
Jill: – at least ten years we’ve talked about it.
Sarah: Do I need to kidnap you both?
Sarah: Put you in a cabin?
Jill: No, what you need to do is make people want to buy paranormal so that we can get a publisher on board! [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah, that’s the thing. Got to catch up to that.
Sarah: Ugh! I love, I love witch stories; I love women in power stories.
Jill: Me too.
Sarah: I love all of, like, the, the Shelly Laurenston stories with all of these powerful women who have –
Jill: Yes. Yeah.
Sarah: – the ability to do incredible things, and the guys are like, yep, that works! ‘Kay, good!
Jill: Yep, yep, yep, and there’ll definitely be sexy, hot guys. I just don’t know that they’ll be in charge or in power.
Sarah: And that’s fine.
Sarah: That seems really good.
Jill: So someday.
Sarah: My fingers are so crossed. I, I can’t even describe how much I would love this whole thing. If you –
Jill: I just need people to keep reading. It just seems like people aren’t reading as much as they used to anymore, and I get it. I mean, I’m the first one to say that I am marathoning TV most of the time instead of picking up a book, and it’s shameful. And I’m not the only one.
Sarah: Mm, listen: can I, can I be really presumptuous –
Sarah: – and, and give you advice?
Sarah: One of the things that I read earlier this year was a part of a Mary Oliver poem:
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
If your brain can’t do – like, if my brain can’t do the full workout of constructing the world as I read it in text and it would like me to play a video game, where I construct part of the story and the visuals are done for me, or mainline Letterkenny or Brooklyn Nine-Nine or something that has a fundamental core of found family and romance in it, because my brain is tired, life is tiring right now, and that’s okay.
Sarah: Don’t be mean to yourself. Stories that you’re consuming still create joy!
Jill: For me, they’re fuel for my tank.
Jill: And, and I say this all the time. Like, after a long day writing, sometimes I just need to marathon a show for, like –
Jill: – four hours, and it’s truly, I look at it as fuel for my tank – creative fuel.
Sarah: So what shows have you been mainlining that you would recommend? Because –
Jill: Well –
Sarah: – I think romance readers give the best entertainment recommendations generally? So tell me, tell me.
Jill: Well, right now I’m watching – oh my God, there’s a very long list. This might be a little embarrassing. I watch this, the whole spectrum from reality TV to dark and gore. So I mean, I’m loving Schitt’s Creek; I’m loving The Boys on Prime. Have you seen that one? Superheroes –
Sarah: No, I haven’t!
Jill: Oh, it’s so good. Superheroes are a business is kind of the theme of that one, and sometimes they’re bad business, so it’s kind of about, it’s kind of about a – I don’t know. You’ve got to go watch that one. It’s, it’s dark.
Sarah: I’m on it.
Jill: It’s a little, it’s a little dark and a little gory, but really good. I found Impostors on Netflix; have you ever seen that one?
Sarah: No, I haven’t it!
Jill: Oh gosh. That’s so good. It’s about these three people who don’t know each other and are from different walks of life, are screwed over by a con artist, and so they team up to go after the con artist, and they become con, con artists themselves. It’s fascinating. It’s a fascinating, fun look at character.
I’m watching SEAL Team and Jack Ryan. I also watch The Voice! I watch U, the UK Love Island. I mean –
Jill: – I’ll watch, I love, I love MacGyver; I love Charmed – we talked about that. I love two new shoes. I don’t know if you’ve seen Good Omens?
Sarah: I haven’t, but you are not the first person to recommend it to me.
Jill: Incredible. That’s also on Prime. I’m also loving Emergence, which is a new show, just started. I think it’s ABC. I’m watching it on Hulu, and it’s about this female sheriff, and she, there’s a plane crash one night, and there’s a survivor, and it’s a little girl who survived this plane crash that nobody could have survived, or should have survived. And so it’s a – I’ll just say this – it’s a paranormal.
Jill: So you need to watch that one. I’m also really enjoying Stumptown, which is a female PI. She was Army intelligence special forces? She has PTSD, and she’s trying to run a business and keep taking care of her brother, and it’s a fa-, that’s another fascinating story, fascinating characters. Love it.
Sarah: Can I make a recommendation?
Sarah: Have you seen Letterkenny?
Jill: No. Where’s that?
Sarah: Letterkenny is on Hulu.
Sarah: It is possibly the most Canadian show you have ever seen. It is a very small town comedy. Basically, there are, the, the, the premise is that there are five thousand people in Letterkenny, and they are traditionally often at, at odds, but when, there’s a fundamental core rule, a set of rules to the community: that when a friend needs help, you help them; if something needs, if somebody, something needs done, you just step and do it; and there are some characters that are so funny, it is so absurd and so goofy, but it has such charm and so much heart, I freaking love it.
Jill: Oh, it’s going on my list. So that’s on Hulu?
Sarah: You – yes –
Sarah: – it’s on Hulu. The new season just came out. I think there are now seven seasons. It’s so crass and so funny, and I love it so much. Like, I can’t stop talking about it. If you watch it, I hope you will let me know what you think.
Jill: Oh, I absolutely will, but it sounds a little – there’s some characters who sound the same as in Schitt’s Creek. Have you seen that one?
Sarah: Yes! Yes, exactly like that.
Jill: I love that show. I will definitely watch your show.
Sarah: I think, I think they have, like, a, like, a DNA in common. Like, I don’t think there’s a person that they have in common –
Sarah: – but that the, the, the core of the, the construction of the world has some very common elements, because the people who I know who love Letterkenny also love Schitt’s Creek.
Jill: Oh, awesome. Oh, I’m putting it on my list. I actually keep a list – this is how forgetful I am lately: I have, you know, the Notes app on your phone; I have a list of my shows, so I’m putting it on there right now. [Laughs]
Sarah: I have a, I have a list, okay, so I have a list of books that I want to read –
Sarah: – that I haven’t, like, scheduled yet, ‘cause I have my scheduled reading and my unscheduled reading. I have shows that I want to watch, movies that I want to watch. If I hear about something and I think I’m interested in it, if I don’t write it down, it, I will never remember.
Jill: You forget it, I know.
Sarah: Forget it! My brain is busy doing really weird things, like remembering Britney Spears lyrics from –
Jill: [Laughs] Of course! Why is that –
Jill: – that we can remember that stuff? Oh, there’s two other shows I forgot to tell you about. Better Things. Have –
Sarah: Tell me!
Jill: – have you seen Better Things? It’s on Prime?
Jill: It’s a mom, a single mom and three kids, and it’s just a real, almost brutal look at motherhood, but the things that they all go through are so real. So that’s a show that –
Jill: – there’s not a lot of comedy in that one, even though she’s a comic, the pers-, Patty, I forget her, Alderaan or something like that. It, it’s a good show. And then –
Jill: – the other one I’m watching is A Discovery of Witches, which is actually, was from a book that I –
Sarah: Oh, that’s the Harkness book, the Harkness adaptation!
Jill: Yes! And I believe I found that book from reading your site. I think you guys had a review up on it, and the review said, there was a bottom line, something like, for, for, it’s a grown-up Harry Potter, and that sold me. So I inhaled the books, and I’m also watching it on TV.
Sarah: ‘Cause that’s an intense relationship.
Jill: Very intense, yes. And that’s not for everybody.
Jill: And that’s another paranormal, so.
Sarah: Seriously, I feel like the stars are aligning for you and HelenKay to write – I’m sure right now she’s, like, looking around like, why are my ears burning?
Jill: [Laughs] Probably!
Sarah: Why am I thinking about witches? What’s going on?
So one thing that I do love – you mentioned your Instagram –
Sarah: – is that you write outside!
Jill: I do. I –
Sarah: Even when it’s like –
Sarah: – negative bazillion degrees –
Jill: I know.
Sarah: – you write outside –
Jill: I’m weird.
Sarah: – and it’s – no, I think it’s fabulous! It’s cold and gorgeous, but really, really cold. Where are your favorite places to write, and what are you wearing –
Jill: Well –
Sarah: – to keep yourself warm? I’m starting to wonder if you actually plug into heated, like, you have a little extension cord and, like, your hands and feet have heaters in them and you just –
Jill: I mean, there are some, there are some magic tricks. First of all, I can’t write – we have a lovely office. My husband is a woodworker. He even, he’s a, he built me this beautiful desk, and we have this beautiful house that he built, and I can’t sit at the desk in this beautiful house. I can’t do it! [Laughs] I have to be free! And so I write on a laptop, and I migrate. So, so, you know, when I first wake up it’s way too cold. I woke up this morning and it was five degrees, so I write in bed for a little while.
Jill: I get up, I get shower, then I dress, and I, all of my clothes would suggest that I’m some sort of amazing ski athlete or somebody who has to be outside all the time?
Jill: That is so the opposite of who I really am, but their clothes work. Like, there are clothes out there that work for that kind of weather.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Jill: You’ve just got to have them. So I have all the clothes. I have the boots, like, that go down to negative twenty-five. I have the, the, probably the most expensive jackets that you could buy anywhere, and truly, when I dress properly I’m not cold at all.
Sarah: I notice that when I’m snowboarding. The –
Jill: Yes, exactly!
Sarah: Like, when I’m in Vermont and I’m snowboarding in March or late February –
Jill: And if you have your gear, right, you know –
Jill: – you’re good, but sometimes –
Sarah: The high today is negative nineteen! Okay!
Jill: So you know what you’ve got to do.
Sarah: That’s five tops and four bottoms –
Sarah: – and, yeah.
Jill: But if you do it wrong, you’re too hot, so you’ve got to do it right.
Sarah: Yes. And if you do it wrong – or if you do it right and then you go inside, you’re like, I’m, I’m –
Together: – dying.
Sarah: I need to go outside. [Laughs]
Jill: So I do, I write outside. We have a lovely deck that looks off into the woods, and our yard, we’re kind of like the last house before, I don’t know, seventy-five thousand acres of forest land, and we live about three hundred feet from a cliff that leads down to the river. So I can walk through my yard, sit on the rocks on the cliff and see the river, so I migrate. I can, I can go work down by the river; I can go work by the lake; I, you know, there’s a million places that I migrate. As long as I’m outside. Because another thing is, my house is busy. There’s a lot of people here, and I have ADHD.
Sarah: And a baby!
Jill: And a baby, and it’s hard for me, ‘cause I don’t have, I have attention deficit, so I really have to plug in.
Jill: So if I’m not outside, then I’m inside with headphones on listening to forest sounds or ocean sounds.
Sarah: Right. And when you go outside, you don’t have any internet.
Jill: None. So that’s another good thing. [Laughs] I can’t get distracted. And so I have rules for myself, because being ADHD, you have to set rules or you’ll never do anything. So my rule is, is that I can’t watch a show or –
Jill: – check my email until I have a certain amount of words. And you know, I have a daily goal count. A daily, I have to get to this point before I’m free.
Jill: And sometimes I can be free as early as one or two in the afternoon, if I’m on task, and then some days when I’m especially not on task – [laughs] – and having a real problem concentrating, it could take me till after dinnertime, and I don’t like those days as much. ‘Cause I like to have a life too.
Sarah: Yeah. Do you, when you, when you approach your word count, do you have specific scenes that you’re, that you have in mind to write?
Sarah: Do you plan a little bit ahead?
Jill: I have to.
Sarah: Do you make an outline that you’re filling in?
Jill: Yes. So I, before I write, I do a very deep plotting, and then I, I completely outline my book, because one thing I’ve discovered with my – and this is really individual; there’s no right way or wrong way to write, and everyone has their own process –
Sarah: Of course.
Jill: – and I have yet to meet anybody who has this, the weird process that I do – but I have to trick my mind into concentrating, and the way to do that for me is to have a roadmap, so I cannot start for my day if I didn’t have an outline, if I didn’t know exactly where I was. And so my daily count is two thousand words. It’s very doable. It’s more doable for someone who doesn’t have ADHD. Most people I know probably write double what I write in a day, but that’s what I can get out of myself. So at two thousand words I get to stop, and if that’s in the middle of a sentence, that’s in the middle of a sentence. I get to stop, and I love that. The next – I almost always try to stop right in the middle of a scene, because then the next day I’m not like, ugh, I don’t want to start the scene; I don’t know how to start the scene. I’m right in the middle of one already! It’s awesome.
Sarah: You have left yourself a cliffhanger.
Jill: And that’s, that’s, that’s what motivates me. That, otherwise I’d be really much, much slower.
Sarah: Right. And that, that makes a lot of sense! So you, you have an outline that you’re sort of filling in.
Sarah: Does that ever cause your brain to be like, oh, I already know this story! I’m bored!
Jill: No. But that’s why most people can’t write this way, ‘cause almost every author I tell this to, that, what my process is, they’re like, oh, I can only tell myself the story once. And –
Jill: – to me, the comfort in writing is knowing the story. I’m the type of person who, I have to read the last page of a book to make sure it ends the way I want it to?
Jill: I have, that, so I, so this process works for me. It’s how I watch TV; it’s – I need to know the ending if I, if there’s, if it’s scary, I need to know who survives. I need to know, so –
Sarah: And you need to know where you’re going!
Jill: Yes! And so for me it’s a very natural way to write, to know exactly where I’m going.
Sarah: So you create this map for yourself –
Sarah: – you fill it in –
Sarah: – with your daily word count, and then –
Jill: And for me, the not knowing is, is stressful and anxious. When I’m plotting, that’s, that’s hardest part of the whole process for me, the not knowing. So I don’t know how people –
Jill: – I don’t know how people do that on a day-to-day basis. It would kill me!
Sarah: Wow, that, that’s really interesting. I always find different people’s processes to unlocking their own creativity really fascinating.
Jill: Well, how do you do it? You’re a writer too.
Sarah: Well, I don’t write fiction very often. If, if I – I’m, I’m actually trying to write now, and it is very difficult, because those are my weakest brain muscles?
Sarah: And like you, I want to write the story that I want to read?
Sarah: Like, my, like, I can, I can go back and read my writing because my catnip works on me, and I’m very forgetful, so I don’t always recognize my own writing.
Jill: Mm. I still remember a story of yours I read –
Sarah: You know, I know the story –
Jill: – I don’t know if you ever published it or not. The, the camp story. The, the, and they were Jewish characters. It was so different and so fascinating and so good.
Sarah: Oh, the, the Hanukkah novella.
Jill: Yes! Did you, did it –
Sarah: Yeah, I self-published that in –
Jill: Nice. Long time ago.
Sarah: – two thousand four- – I don’t remember time, but yes, I did, I ended up self-publishing it!
Jill: Oh, that’s awesome!
Sarah: Thank you! But yeah, it’s, it, it works for me to know the end –
Sarah: – like, where I’m going?
Jill: Yep. So plotting would work for you.
Sarah: And then I – yeah! It, it would work up to a point. If I lay out too much details, my brain would be like, oh, well you already wrote it! You see all those details –
Sarah: – you did it. You know, let’s move on to the next thing.
Jill: I, I love that! Like, when I’m reading my outline and Past Jill has left me a whole theme with dialogue, I love Past Jill so much.
Sarah: Past Jill doing Future Jill lots of favors?
Sarah: [Laughs] So what else do you do to look after your creative self, in addition to leaving, in addition to Past Jill leaving Present Jill lots of pieces of dialogue? What do you do –
Jill: Well –
Sarah: – and look, and writing outside? What do you do to look after yourself?
Jill: Well, I get a lot of pleasure from TV, as we’ve already discussed. I probably watch way more than I should. I love to hike. I have dogs, big dogs, and so that, to me –
Sarah: You need to walk them.
Jill: Mm-hmm, and that, we take hikes every day, and that’s another way for me to fuel, fill my tank is getting outside, getting out of your own head. It is really hard to be anxious or depressed when you’re on a walk with your dog, who is just happy to be. You know what I mean? Like, they’re just trotting along, having a great time –
Jill: – ears up, tongue hanging out, like, happy to see a butterfly.
Sarah: This –
Jill: Like, how do you –
Sarah: This is the greatest day!
Jill: Exactly! Like, I am so happy right this minute! And they’re always so happy just right this minute. It’s really hard to maintain – although I have managed – you know, depression or anxiety –
Jill: – under those circumstances. So that, I make sure I do that every single day.
Sarah: It’s really funny you say that, ‘cause I also have dogs – not as large scale as yours; mine are small and medium scale – and I do walk them every day, at least for, you know, forty-five minutes –
Sarah: – and – but one of my dogs, the, the mid-size one, he has such anxiety.
Sarah: He is scared of everything! And he loves his walk, until he encounters another dog. There are other dogs in the universe –
Jill: Of course, yes.
Sarah: – and my dog would really prefer that not be the case.
Sarah: So we have lots of coping strategies, and we, you know, he, he’s, he’s fine. He’s not a danger to me or to his brother or to anyone else, but we just, like, oh, there’s another dog; let’s turn around –
Sarah: – and go the other way. It has made me so much more patient with my own anxiety, because I don’t understand why he’s like this; he’s a rescue! Any number of reasons could contribute –
Sarah: – to this, but I will buy funky pheromone collars –
Jill: Of course.
Sarah: – and I will get him prescription meds, and I will do anything to help him feel better, and part of walking him helps him, you know –
Jill: Isn’t that funny? Because –
Sarah: – it makes him feel better –
Jill: You –
Sarah: – makes me feel better too!
Jill: Yes! But isn’t that funny that – I didn’t know that you share my anxiety and sometimes depression, but what happens is, you take care of everyone – if someone else was anxious or depressed –
Jill: – you take care of everyone but yourself.
Jill: And so sometimes, you know –
Sarah: Absolutely the case.
Jill: – we need to remember that.
Sarah: Oh, absolutely I deal with anxiety and depression. Like, why do they go together? That’s such –
Jill: I don’t know.
Sarah: – it’s so annoying. But with –
Jill: It’s really annoying.
Sarah: – with, with Buzz, my dog, I’m like, wow, I am so generous and, and –
Jill: Exactly, and patient?
Sarah: – utterly accepting of this dog’s completely annoying set of behaviors, and I work with them, and I, I can’t argue them out of him. I can’t rationalize with him –
Sarah: – he’s a dog!
Sarah: I don’t have to do that to myself either! [Laughs]
Jill: Yes, exactly. We should just accept –
Sarah: I could be accepting of my own brain! [Laughs]
Jill: I know, but it’s hard to, it’s hard. It’s hard to accept!
Sarah: Yep, and this is why there’s dogs.
Jill: This is why there’s dogs, and my dogs are for sure anti-anxiety pills.
Sarah: Oh yeah. So what are you working on right now?
Jill: Well, we talked about Almost Just Friends. I’ve just put some finishing touches on that one. I just, the book after that’s called – what is it called? – The Summer Deal, and it comes out in June.
Jill: Still in copyedit stage of that one, and I just got the cover, so I’ll be revealing that next week.
Jill: Yay, yeah! So, so I just write, I’m starting, getting ready to start my next book, and I’m not quite there with it yet. You know, that, that sense of I’ve got kind of the plot in my head. I need to get it out; I need to write that roadmap that we’re talking about.
Jill: And this is the hardest part for me, feeling everyone’s conflicts and their internal and external desires and their goals and their dreams and making them – the hardest part for me sometimes is probably the simplest part for other people, which is the romance. Like, what makes these perf-, these people perfect for each other, and what keeps them apart? What makes them not right for each other too, so I can sustain a whole book? And that’s where I’m at.
Sarah: No, that is definitely the hard part.
Jill: So that’s where I’m at today. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oof. So when you start developing a new book, do you start with characters and then figure out the plot, or do you sometimes start with the plot, or does it vary book to book?
Jill: You know, for some reason, the characters always come to me first. So for Almost Just Friends, which is the January book, I knew I had, I had a woman, a young woman who had spent her entire life living for other people. Her parents died when she was young, she had to raise her two siblings, so her whole, from a very young age, all she’s ever done is been responsible for some other people than herself. And her siblings, her brother and her sister, the book opens when they finally have gone off to live their own lives, and she’s finally free to live her own life, and everything comes tumbling back down on her. Those conflicts came very naturally for me. I don’t know what it is about siblings that I love to write the dynamics of. For some reason, that does it for me. And then a mysterious stranger comes into their lives that kind of ties them all together in ways that they – and there’s a bunch of secrets, and things come out, and it’s just a big old drama.
Sarah: Have you thought about adding witches?
Sarah: Just add witches!
Jill: I’m going to tell my editor you said I have to write witches.
Sarah: Just add witches. I think this is –
Sarah: – really good advice. [Laughs]
Jill: Like, you know one whole person’s going to buy them! [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah, you have a guaranteed readership of – me!
Jill: One. [Laughs]
Sarah: I promise, and I mean, that’s clearly going to sustain a, a long-term –
Jill: She’ll be so thrilled!
Sarah: Yeah! ‘Cause I’m really excited to have that one person requesting this. I’d be like, piss off!
Jill: She’s well, she’s well aware that I want to write paranormal.
Jill: She has stories for me. Like, I’ve given her story ideas, and so it will happen.
Sarah: Ugh. Just add witches. [Laughs]
Jill: It’s coming your way soon.
Sarah: All right, good.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. I want to thank Jill Shalvis for hanging out with me. Congratulations again on the new baby. If you would like to find her, I will have links to all of the places, but the best place to start is jillshalvis.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter and find her on social media, and find out which of the 19,876 books you want to read. I would suggest Instant Attraction, just ‘cause it’s my favorite.
This episode’s transcript is being brought to you by our Patreon community. Thank you, Patreon community. You are ineffably fabulous. Each pledge helps make the show more accessible. If you’d like to join, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
Coming up on Smart Bitches this week, Whatcha Reading? Tomorrow we’re going to tell you what we’re reading, and you’re going to tell us what you’re reading, and then we’re all going to buy more books, and we do this twice a month, and it happens every time without fail. I buy like nine books every time. We also have a post on upcoming romance book clubs and gatherings that might be near you. I’m trying to collect as many real-life, in-person romance club gatherings as I can to let folks know where they can find other romance readers in their areas. We’re also going to have Cover Snark, a Bachelor recap, Books on Sale, Help a Bitch Out, and – get ready. Get ready, get ready! Are you ready? Like, right now? Okay:
The 31st of January is the fifteenth anniversary of Smart Bitches. It’s time to party! I always celebrate with a giveaway. I have a lot of fun figuring out what to do, and this year I have designed some wine glasses that I am extremely proud of! I hope you’ll come and see what’s going on on the 31st, when we celebrate fifteen years of Smart Bitches. Wow! Next year, in some states – wait, in some states the website would be able to drive! Not in the one I’m in, but wow! [Deep breath] It’s a teenager. [Sniffs] Oh my gosh.
I will have links to the books we talked about. I will have links to the Instagram pictures of what nine feet of snow looks like – it’s really impressive.
But of course, I will not forget, I cannot forget the bad joke, right? Okay, here we go. [Clears throat] Are you ready? This is pretty crap. I’m really excited about this.
Did you hear about the guy who is now an Instagram influencer by taking pictures of salmon dressed in human clothes?
Yeah, totally true.
It’s like shooting fish in apparel.
[Laughs] I find this so charming because I could totally see an Instagram influencer shooting fish in apparel, because, like, why not, right? [Laughs more] Ah, I love it so much! That was from porichoygupto on Reddit, which is the source of many of my terrible jokes, when they’re not being emailed to me by you because you’re fabulous.
On behalf of Jill Shalvis and everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a great weekend. We’ll see you back here next week!
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This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.