There are so many fascinating authors and bloggers out there, and I feel lucky to be meeting many of them through Twitter and blogs. This is the latest entry in my series of conversations with other romance authors, who join us to share about their creative process, their habits, their inspiration, and more. Our guest today is Jillian Chantel, an author of over a dozen contemporary romances and describes herself as the “nom de plume of a lawyer moonlighting as a writer of romantic fiction”.
- What drew you to reading and writing romance?
I grew up reading Victoria Holt and fell utterly in love with the Gothic romance trope of the innocent young woman and the older man who saves her from a life of poverty or being a governess. I still own every single one of her books (as well as a few of copies of some). Eventually, I graduated to reading the Kathleen Woodiwiss books which I also loved. It seems that I only read historical romance as a young person and I just realized that as I am answering these questions. How funny is that?
I moved away from reading romance for a long time as I went to college, law school and started my practice. Kids came along and there were a lot of distractions in life. I still read just not a lot of romance.
Writing stories is something I’ve always done but I completely stepped away from that while raising my kids except for the periodic short story to go along with gifts. As an example, I once bought a friend a pretty little bag and made it into a first aid kit for her and wrote a story about the nurse who used to own it who served with Florence Nightingale.
When I went through a rough time with my law partner and we were breaking up our joint practice, to escape from the stressors of that, I returned to my first love. Romance novels. Then I decided to try my hand at writing one myself. It was easier to relax at the end of the day when I got home when I wasn’t focused on the breakup. My mind being otherwise occupied, I could forget his nastiness at the day job.
- What is your writing routine like?
I write sometimes on my lunch hour as well as most evenings. I actually get a lot accomplished by trying to write some every day. Weekends are wonderful. My kids are grown and have their own interests and my husband is a 4th degree black belt and spends a lot of time at the karate school teaching and judging so I get a lot done with my writing on the weekends.
- What advice would you give to writers who are just starting out?
Join a writer’s group. You learn so much. When I think back to those first three books I wrote all on my own and my crazy arrogance in thinking they were ready to submit to publishers, I cringe. You absolutely, positively need feedback in a safe environment and people who have already followed the path to publication to help you learn. I adore the ladies who helped in my early journey and encouraged me to do better and to use contractions. LOL. Being a lawyer and used to formal writing, I had a really hard time adjusting to contractions. My characters all sounded rigid and boring. I still have to do a search in my manuscripts to be sure I haven’t lapsed. One friend said, “Contractions, woman, contractions,” until it went in and I still hear her to this day in my head.
- Have you ever written yourself or someone you know into one of your novels? How do you feel that the people or places around you affect your stories?
I think every writer uses what they have been exposed to so although I haven’t written a character who is totally someone I know, I have mined the experiences with certain people and used characteristics of them or the hurt they caused me to channel a character’s personality. I have used certain things that have happened in some of my stories such as when I was eating cheesecake with my cousin at Junior’s in New York City, we joked about the slice being as big as our heads. I later had a character in a story say that same thing. My cousin now warns people that I could use any conversation in a book. The everyday world is full of things that go in my books. I once heard this line on tv: “My sister was the first to die”- I wrote a whole novel around that sentence.
- You are involved in a few different Romance Author groups. Why do you think that it’s important to connect with other writers in the genre?
As I said in #3 above, other writers can be very generous in sharing knowledge and helping the newbie along. Once I was published, I wanted to give back and as a strong believer in helping others, I try to stay involved to aid newer writers as well as continue to learn myself. Writer’s groups are like-minded people sharing information. Being able to brainstorm with someone who understands plot and storytelling is vital. To me, to be around people who “get” it and that can relate is awesome. And the fellowship of the amazing people, both male and female, who I’ve met along the way is a wonderful thing. I have made a lot of lasting friendships in this business and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Special thanks to Jillian Chantel for participating in this series! Visit her website at http://www.jillianchantel.com, or talk to her on Twitter (@JillianChantel) or Facebook. Her books are available online for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more.
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This post was written by Julie Andresen