Thursday, April 14, 2011

TBG Author Interview: Jill Hathaway

Hi everyone!

Today I'm thrilled to present an interview with Jill Hathaway, the author of SLIDE, coming to a bookstore near you from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in Winter 2012! Here's SLIDE's summary from Jill's website:

Sylvia Bell doesn't have narcolepsy. Her secret, that she can slide into other people's heads and see through their eyes, has haunted her for years. When Vee finds herself in the head of a killer, standing over a cheerleader's dead body, she's beyond freaked. Only Vee knows the girl didn't kill herself. And when another cheerleader turns up dead, Vee realizes someone is picking off her sister's friends and making it look like suicide. Suddenly everyone is a suspect, and Sylvia is terrified her sister might be next. Struggling to understand and control her bizarre and lonely illness (or gift?), Vee finds herself enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger. As she struggles to work out the real meaning of love and courage, she must face the fact she can trust no one--not even the family and friends she thought she knew.

Sounds totally awesome and creepy, no? :) Anywho, onto the interview! Welcome, Jill!

1) Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Writing was always kind of “my thing” in school. My teachers always told my parents I was a good writer. I kept diaries from about the time I was in second grade (“Today we had pizza for lunch!”). In high school, I wrote a lot of terrible poetry and produced a zine which was distributed by local businesses. I took Creative Writing courses in high school and college. BUT I knew it would be difficult to make my living by writing alone, so I took the safe route and got my teaching degree. Only recently (in the past five years) have I really gotten serious about writing.

2) How did you come up with the idea for SLIDE? Did it just come to you, or was it more of a gradual progression?

I teach Creative Writing, and I always do NaNoWriMo with my students. I remember brainstorming with my colleague, trying to come up with a cool concept to write about. The seed idea was: What if you found yourself in the head of a killer, standing over a dead body? The rest of the story evolved from there.

3) Where do you draw your inspiration from while you are writing? For example, do you listen to music while you write or sit outside?

Music is huge. I have an hour commute every day, so I usually listen to music while I drive home. Many times, scenes just come to me while I’m driving. I have to rush home to write my ideas down. I don’t listen to music while I’m writing, though. I find it distracting. But it’s great for getting in the mood to write a certain kind of scene. For instance, to prepare myself to write the final scenes of SLIDE, I listened to “To Forgive” by Smashing Pumpkins.

4) How do you stay motivated to write? Even though you are almost a published author, have you ever wanted to give up? And if so, how did you pull yourself back from the "edge"?

Well, it’s a lot easier to stay motivated now that I have a deal. I don’t want to let my agent or editor down, so I set deadlines for myself. There have certainly been times I wanted to give up. I queried around 100 agents with my first project. I pulled myself back from the edge by starting something new and working hard to improve my craft.

5) Tell us about your writing habits: where you write, when you write, how much you write, etc.

During the school year, I do most of my writing during the weekends. My husband gives me a morning/day off, and I go to Panera and spend 4-8 hours working. During the summer, I’m freer to write whenever I feel like it, and I usually put in a few hours a day. When I’m knocking out a rough draft, I usually shoot for 2,000 words a day. Sometimes I do a little more, sometimes a little less.

6) How do you deal with constructive (or not) criticism? And if it's negative, how do you deal with it?

If it’s from my critique partner, agent, or editor, I’ll usually put it aside for a while to think it over. At first, it stings a bit, but then I get over it and try to think about how to fix the problem. The longer I work at this, the less personally I take criticism. I haven’t had to deal with reviews yet, though, and I have no idea how I’ll handle them. Maybe I’ll try not to read them, but I don’t see that happening.

7) How many stories did you start writing before you found a "winner" and how did you know you'd found a keeper?

SLIDE is my second completed novel. I guess I knew it was a winner when I started querying and getting positive responses from agents.

8) Do you have any new writing projects in the works? Can you tell us about them?

I have a ghost story I wrote over the summer that I’m playing with. I’m not really comfortable giving details about it, though. It might change a lot as I revise.

9) What were the most difficult and best parts of writing SLIDE?

The most difficult AND best part of writing SLIDE has been revision. I’ve done several complete rewrites, and I believe it gets better with each one. It’s like exercise—the fun part is when you’re finished and basking in the glow of your hard work.

10) What did you do to celebrate when you found out that you were getting signed by your agent and when you found out SLIDE was going to be published?

When I signed with my agent, my husband and I went out for a nice steak dinner. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a babysitter, so we spent most of that dinner picking up little bits of spit-out roll off the floor. When we found out about the book deal, we took champagne and pizza over to my in-laws’ house and spent the evening playing Catan and dreaming about how our lives would change (though our lives really haven’t changed much, as of now—haha).

11) What did your friends and family think when you told them you were writing SLIDE?

My friends and family are super supportive. My mom and sister were my first beta readers.

12) Now that you're almost a published author and a more experienced writer, what advice would you give to your unpublished self?

SPEND MORE TIME polishing and revising your work before sending it out. There’s no hurry. You want to put your best foot forward.

13) How long did it take you to write SLIDE from concept to outlining to completion to sending if off to agents?

Only a month or two—but I must emphasize that I sent SLIDE out way too soon. I’d only gone through one revision, and that was mainly to check for spelling/grammar. If I could go back, I’d spend a LOT more time preparing for submission.

14) Can you briefly detail your journey to publication after finishing SLIDE (Finding an agent, an editor, promoting the book, etc.)?

April—Wrote SLIDE (We were doing a spring NaNo.)
May—Submitted to agents
June—Signed with Sarah Davies
July-August—Revised SLIDE
September—Submitted to editors
October—Got book deal
November-December—Revised SLIDE again

15) What kind of atmosphere do you prefer to write in, calm or chaos?

Definitely calm. Although I find Panera oddly soothing. I put in earplugs and sit in a chair in the corner. That’s my favorite place to write.

16) What is your writing process like?

I’m definitely a pantser. I usually have the ending figured out and a few key points, but I figure out the middle as I go. The coolest scenes come from nowhere.

17) Any tips on writing a first draft (and living to tell the tale)?

Do it quick and dirty. I love NaNoWriMo. I usually crank out my first drafts in a month or so. But then revision takes for-freaking-ever!

18) Do you have any odd and unusual habits which help you in regards to writing?

Diet Pepsi. Chocolate. Fuzzy pants.

To find out more about Jill and her book, visit her website.

Thanks so much, Jill! I had a blast! :)


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Jill Hathaway said...

Thanks for having me! :)