Me: How would you characterize the current Christian speculative fiction market from where you’re sitting?
JW: Well, I like it a lot better now than I did when I first tried to get published. It seems that publishers are more flexible than they were. Willing to push the envelope a bit with subject matter. I still wish they’d take more chances, but it makes sense that they have to do smart business. Christians are so diverse. I find atheist readers more forgiving. And I think that’s what publishers face. They have to publish books that will offend the least amount of people. But then a book like The Shack comes along and does great, even when it offends all kinds of people. It’s weird. I don’t know if anyone knows what they want until they read it.
Me: What themes do you think can be best explored by speculative fiction? What can speculative fiction do that other genres can’t?
JW: Spec fiction can explore any theme. Nothing is off limits. For example, the AIDS epidemic weighs heavily on my heart. I’ve toyed around with a contemporary story for years, but it never felt right. But when I started trying to put that in a fantasy world—and drew a map, of course—things started to work. I can deal with the topic in a more tactful way. When you create a different world, people are willing to explore topics they might not read about in a contemporary story.
Me: What can those of us who enjoy speculative Christian fiction do to help the genre?
JW: Tell people about the books you love. Give your favorite books as gifts. Blog about them. Email a spec fiction author and tell them why you liked their book. Post a review on Amazon.com.
I had no idea how important online book reviews were until this past year. Books fail without them. And a book can never have too many reviews. Online reviews don’t have to be written in any special way, either. Just be honest.
Also, buy Christian spec fiction novels new when you can. I used to shop exclusively off www.half.com for books. I could get any book for a few dollars. Then I became a writer and learned how hard it is to be a writer! So, if you have a favorite author, buy their books new to support them. Authors don’t make anything off a used book. If authors aren’t making anything, neither is the publisher. If the publisher isn’t making anything, they aren’t going to want to publish more books from that author.
Me: What advice can you give to hopeful Christian speculative fiction authors?
JW: Write, write, write. Finish your first draft. Don’t agonize over perfection until you’ve got a finished draft to agonize over. Besides, the beginning of the story might change once you know the end, so don’t waste time poring over every sentence until later. Save that for the rewrite stage. But don’t get stuck there either. Finish that book, send it out, then write a different book.
And try not to be impatient. Work on making each book the best it can be. When you finish a book, send it out. While you’re waiting to hear back, write another one! I wrote six novels before my first book was published. I’ve heard the same from many authors. So, try to have fun. I know it’s discouraging to wonder why you aren’t getting published. But God is in control. Randy Ingermanson once said it takes about a million words to get published. That was almost spot on for me. A million words is ten 100,000-word novels! Or ten full rewrites. I think the ten-novel way is a lot more fun.
Me: Of course the big news is that you were nominated for a 2010 Christy Award in the Visionary category. How did you find out you were a nominee? What were your initial thoughts? Did you expect the nomination at all?
JW: I was trying not to think about it. I'm such a dreamer, I tend to let my imagination run away with me and then I get really crushed when things don't pan out the way they did in my head. I certainally didn't expect to be nominated. But I really, really hoped I'd be.
I found out from an email from Jeff [Gerke, the publisher of Marcher Lord Press]. I remember seeing the email in my inbox. I'll sometimes get get 10 emails from Jeff in a day, but this one said, "Don't Freak," in the subject line. Naturally, my heart stopped, a chill flashed over me, and I slowly moved the cursor to click on the mystery note.
Now, you have to understand this about me. My husband is a youth pastor. His superhero identity is Sarcasmo. For the past 13 years, I have been falling for his jokes time and again. So, while Jeff's email looked mysterious, and my body was reacting as if it were somthing important, my head way saying, "It's probably nothing."
Jeff had forwarded me the email he recieved from the Christy Award people telling him, "Congratulation on the following nominee for the 2010 Christy Awards! By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson."
So I cried. The thing is, I wrote for years trying to get published, wondering if I stank at writing or if I was writing the wrong thing or if I should go back to making wedding gowns. Then By Darkness Hid got published. But the insecurities didn't go away. They morphed into different insecurities, which were possibly worse. There was so much pressure to do well with my first book. And maybe it was only pressure I'd given myself, I don't know. But to see my name on the Christy Award website...I'm very proud and thankful. It was a good cry.
Later that day I jumped up and down and giggled and tried to explain to my husband that this was a big deal.
Me: What’s coming up for Jill Williamson?
JW: Well, I’ve got book three to finish. From Darkness Won should release April 2011. After that, who knows? I’ve got several other YA novels finished that I would like to show publishers. I have a few more speculative YA ideas rolling around in my brain. And I might have to start on that AIDS-inspired fantasy novel. Now that I have the map drawn, I’m kind of excited.
And there is one big thing on the horizon for Jill. When the nominees for the 2010 Christy Awards came out, Jill was one of the nominees for the Visionary category. No offense to Karen Hancock or Tom Pawlik, but I know who I'm rooting for.
And Jill . . . I'm waiting for book three. Don't cause another gamma radiation surge. My poor house can't take it.
Go and see what the rest of the tourists have to say:
R. L. Copple
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
Rachel Starr Thomson