Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the industrial North West of England, but this did nothing to influence my writing, in fact, it stifled it. My writing only took off once I left the area and fled north of the border into Scotland, onto Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire.
When did you first start writing?
I have been writing since I was about five years old, always the precocious scribbler in my class. I won an essay competition at school, and always got top marks for creative writing in English classes. My writing tailed off during college, ceasing altogether during my career, except for a few pieces for the workplace magazine, and during my time raising my children. It started up again with a vengeance almost the second I moved to my Scottish home 9 years ago.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest (published) book is a horror set on a decommissioned oil rig in the North Sea. Being close to Aberdeen, the oil capital of Europe, I have friends and acquaintances who work in the oil industry and they sparked the interest with their tales, so I just ran with the stories and built them into a tale of horror. Nine people are isolated on the rig, with no communication with the outside world, being stalked by...well that would be a spoiler. There is plenty of action, tension (sexual and personal) and it is ripe with scenes of gore and terror. Not for the faint hearted, or anyone going offshore any time soon.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Control over my own work - my words, my way. My writing is my writing, it tells the story I want to tell, in the way I want to tell it. I don't want it chopped and changed by someone else just to suit a market. I hate cookie cutter writing, manipulated to fit a 'popular' mould, drained of individualism and imagination. I know it sounds rather selfish, but I write the kind of stories I would want to read. And I have the satisfaction of knowing it is all my own work and not been changed too much by an editor to suit a particular readership.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords' pretty liberal rule book and style guide, when followed correctly, has allowed me to do practically whatever I want with my books. It allowed me to upload my own covers, make my own descriptions, categorise as I see fit and contentwise I'm allowed to keep the language I want (swearing, sexual, Doric etc) The best bit is though, once a book is accepted into the premium catalogue and distributed, the outlet spread is pretty wide covering a fair number of sites which an indie author could find difficult to access on their own.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Becoming involved in the characters' lives. I live utterly vicariously through my characters - they feel what I would like to feel, say what I would like to say, do things I would never do in my own life. They live, love, laugh, cry for me and I'm quite happy to let them do that for me. I absolutely love being involved in the creative process, being lost for hours at a time in other people's lives, falling in love over and over again. It's the best job in the world, despite long hours and the rubbish pay, I couldn't consider doing anything else.
What do your fans mean to you?
I don't have 'fans', they are for pop stars and boy bands. My readers however mean the world to me, which is why I strive to always to the best I can with what I have. Unfortunately I have learned the hard way that you can't please all of the people all of the time, and it's a waste of time and sanity trying, but they are as entitled to their opinion as anyone else. It's when the displeased turn nasty that things get a little unpleasant. Provided they don't get personal or unreasonable, I am willing to listen to criticism and comment if it will make my work better for the next reader who comes along.
What are you working on next?
My current works in progress, I have two on the go at the moment, are as different as chalk and cheese. The first, Junction 13 is a horror set on a motorway. There is an accident which brings traffic to a halt, and in the jam there are 8 people who have very good reason not to be there. I tell each of their stories. The second, In The Garden of Stones, is a paranormal romance involving a young woman with a history of mental illness who undergoes a new therapy during which she comes into contact with a disabled soldier with severe PTSD. but all is not what it seems. Both are each other's 'imaginary friend'. When the soldier's physical condition takes a turn for the worse, the young woman must find him, in real life, in order to save his life.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love classic authors, Anthony Trollope, Daphne duMaurier, Margaret Gaskell, but my uber favourite author is crime writer Stuart MacBride and his Logan McRae detective books. Dark and gritty crime novels with a gallows humour like no other. Set in Aberdeen too. Brilliant stuff.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The dog needs to be let out, the other half needs feeding and I need to get my lad off to school.Otherwise every day could be a pyjama day.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, i'm thinking about writing so I'm never totally away from it. I do the housework, walk the dog, listen to the radio, or read. Whatever I'm doing, I'm never without a pad and pencil handy...just in case.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
They are often posted up on my Facebook newsfeed, or pop up on my Twitter feed. There is a lot to be said for personal recommendation.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. A primary school essay; A Day in the Life of a Penny. I got a gold star
What is your writing process?
I don't have a plan if that's what you mean. What I tend to do is write out key scenes as they occur to me. Often they are all randomly jumbled in the story, then I sort them out, line them up, and construct some connecting passages between. Eventually, like links in a chain, they are all joined together to make a complete story. I then go through and divide the whole into chapters. And then the real work begins - the editing.
How do you approach cover design?
My major bugbear. I do my own covers but I am rubbish at it. I try and find a picture that relates to some part of the story and build on that, playing with fonts and layouts. I can't afford a professional designer, so I do my best with my own very limited skills.
What do you read for pleasure?
As detailed before - Stuart MacBride crime books mostly but when I'm finished and waiting for the next one, I read anything and everything that takes my fancy, usually recommendations from fellow authors.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a basic Kindle. That's all I can afford at the moment.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Not much yet. I've tried KDP, without much success; I've tried free coupon giveaways - ditto. I just have to rely on a few Tweets here and there and the odd promo on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google + etc. Not too many though, or people get fed up and turn off. Marketing is, unfortunately, a huge strain and a drain on quality writing time.
Do you write under any other names?
Yes. My alter ego is Lucy Pepperdine. She also has two books here on Smashwords - Anima Mea - a paranormal romance, and Offshore, a horror set on a decommissioned oil rig in the North Sea.
Where can readers find out more about your works?
I have a website at www.bluequillbooks.com where you can find details of all my current and future publications as well as a glimpse at some of the works in various stages of progress. You can also find me on Facebook, on twitter at @jillywrites, over on LinkedIn (as Jillian Ward).
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.