How timely is it that I asked Jilly Wood, one of our Eight Ladies, if I could interview her about her current WIP, her writing, and her life? Jilly is newly published in the anthology Stories for Homes, available on Amazon and other outlets. She wrote about her experience with Stories in her post this past Sunday. Today, she’ll tackle the first ten of my 20 tough (haha) questions. Hopefully, they inspire you and make you laugh, as they did me. And be sure to check back next week for Part 2 of 20 Questions!
1. Thank you for taking the time to chat, Jilly! So, to start off, what (or who) inspired you to write your first book? What was the impetus to start?
Ian and his family have been lurking in my head for a long time, but the impetus to put them on paper came from a friend, Lea. I critiqued a rom-com script she’d written, and she told me I should stop critiquing her stories and start writing my own. As soon as she said it I knew she was right.
2. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
In my teens I discovered Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and fell in love with smart, witty romances. As an adult Jenny Crusie’s Manhunting and Crazy For You introduced me to a whole new world of American romance writers. Titles were often hard to find in the UK so I’d go on holiday and fill my suitcase with books. The advent of Amazon, and later e-books, made me a very happy woman.
3. Give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline.
My book is a contemporary romance called Rent and Cornflakes. Struggling artist Rose makes an unorthodox deal with opportunistic entrepreneur Ian. Their unexpectedly successful partnership enrages ambitious billionairess Sasha, who has other plans for Ian. Battle royal ensues.
4. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it all imagination?
Everything in my book comes from lashings of imagination applied to a pinch of real life. For example, Ian’s beautiful light-filled house on the loch only exists in my mind (I couldn’t even find an approximation of it for my collage). It’s the Highland version of a house on an ocean spit I once saw on Vancouver Island, mixed with elements of a palace-turned-hotel on the Portuguese Atlantic coast I stayed at years ago. Ian’s home in Marylebone, London, is based on an empty commercial building I could see from my office when I had a desk job. I always thought it would make a spectacular apartment so I created one, though in real life I’m not sure you’d get planning permission. 🙂
5. What does your protagonist think about you? Would she want to hang out with you, the author, her creator? Why or why not?
Rose wants to make beautiful things, spend her life with people she loves, and keep herself in rent and cornflakes. She doesn’t want a career and has no interest in business. She’s much younger than me, she’s visual and craft-y while I’m the total opposite, and she hangs out in boho parts of Camden that I don’t often visit, so we’d never be best buddies. The good news is that we’re both creatives, working on things we love passionately, and for that alone she’d probably share a glass of something cheap and cheerful at the pub with me. She’d run a mile from me in my former incarnation as a CFO.
6. Which character speaks the loudest, to you? Do any of them clamor to be heard over the others?
All my characters are made of strong stuff, and they all clamor to be heard over the others. I don’t know how to do shy, retiring types. The one that speaks loudest is the one whose head I’m in at the time, though even then the others are yelling for their turn.
7. Do your characters try to make ever more convoluted plots for you? Or do you have to coax it out of your characters?
A character is defined by the choices they make under pressure, so I have to make my characters suffer and struggle. I know who they are and I know how they would and would not behave, but figuring out exactly how to torture them is hard. It’s the thing I struggle most with, but I keep going till I hit on a decent idea. Those a-ha! moments are worth striving for.
8. List the three biggest challenges you’re having in your current WIP and your tentative plans to overcome them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the climactic scene, the big smack-down between Rose and Sasha. I have a number of problems to resolve and if I can figure them out now it will make the rest of my re-write so much easier.
First: what do I do with Ian while Rose and Sasha are going head-to-head? Rose has to fight her own battle, but Sasha’s a vicious piece of work and Ian’s future is at stake too, so he’d never let Rose face that on her own.
Second: the scene has to be a big show-down with big issues at stake. It has to be a clash of opposing world-views, not a cat-fight over a man. Trading desperate, powerful blows, no hair-pulling, scratching or biting.
Third: I know the outcome I want. I think it works brilliantly for my characters, but I haven’t figured out how to get there so that it’s not telegraphed to the reader, but when it’s disclosed seems inevitable, satisfying and convincing.
Tentative thoughts so far: I don’t want Rose to go behind Ian’s back; I think that kind of behavior would bode very badly for their future life together. So I have to decide – either Ian and Rose face Sasha as a team, or they have to split up to deal with separate aspects of the final challenge (maybe Ian’s family is involved, that’s something he’d have to do) or Sasha engineers it so that she faces Rose alone (better). I think I have to do more work on Ian and Rose’s response to the preceding, All Is Lost, scene. I know what Sasha threatens (it is suitably catastrophic), but I don’t know in detail what Rose and Ian do when Sasha issues her ultimatum. If I can fill in those blanks, I think that will help me figure out how they make their last stand.
9. What qualities about your antagonist do you like? Do you think your audience will like?
I love Sasha, and she’s a lot of fun to write because she’s so over the top. She’s brilliant and powerful, and she has no notion of a measured response – she goes straight to the nuclear option every time. I think (hope) people will love to hate her. She appears to be rather a caricature, with her heels and fashions and dietary requirements, but it’s an image that she’s deliberately created. I hope readers will see beneath the glittering carapace to the damaged woman beneath.
10. Okay, now to the most important question: what sort of Starbuck’s drink would your main characters order? Simple coffee, or a complicated soy-non-fat-double-espresso-concoction?
Rose drinks cheap instant coffee at home. She’d be appalled at the price of Starbucks.
Ian would order simple coffee, black and strong. He’d pick the biggest branch of Starbucks he could find and shamelessly work the room, charming everyone.
Sasha wouldn’t be seen dead in Starbucks. She has her own chef, drinks melted glacier water and fresh herbal infusions, and rejects those if they’re not perfectly to her liking.
Ask your questions for Jilly in the comments below. You can also follow her on Twitter (@jillywords) or visit her website. Be sure to check back next week for Part 2 of 20 Questions with Author Jilly Wood.