I am very excited to welcome the talented and amazing Jennifer Hillier to my blog today! Jennifer's debut novel, Creep, a psychological thriller (one that will keep you up all night turning pages and checking the locks on your doors) was released last year. In fact, Creep was just recently released in paperback so if you haven't read it, go get it! Yesterday her second novel, the sequel to Creep was released. It's called Freak and here is the blurb, which I've borrowed from Freak's Amazon listing:
Sitting alone in a maximum-security prison cell, Abby Maddox is a celebrity.
Her claim to fame is the envy of every freak on the outside: she’s the former
lover of Ethan Wolfe, the killer who left more than a dozen dead women in his
wake and nearly added Puget Sound State professor Sheila Tao to the tally. Now
Abby, serving a nine-year sentence for slashing a police officer’s throat in a
moment of rage, has little human contact—save for the letters that pour in from
demented fans, lunatics, and creeps. But a new wave of murders has given Abby a
possible chance for a plea bargain—because this killer has been sending her love
letters, and carving a message on the bodies of the victims: Free Abby
Jerry Isaac will never forget the attack—or his attacker. The hideous
scarring and tortured speech are daily reminders that the one-time Seattle PD
officer, now a private investigator, is just lucky to be alive. Abby Maddox
deserves to rot in jail—forever, as far as Jerry’s concerned. But she alone may
possess crucial evidence—letters from this newest killer—that could crack open
the disturbing case. With the help of Professor Sheila Tao, seasoned police
detective Mike Torrance, and intuitive criminology student Danny Mercy, Jerry
must coax the shattering truth from isolated, dangerous Abby Maddox. Can he put
the pieces together before Abby’s number one fan takes another life in the name
of a killer’s perverted idea of justice?
I must say that this could not be more up my alley! It's no surprise to me that Freak has already gotten some rave reviews. You will not want to miss this one!
If you haven't seen Jennifer around the blogosphere, here is her bio, which I have taken directly from her website:
JENNIFER HILLIER writes thrillers. She writes about dark, twisted people who do dark, twisted things. She will not apologize for this.
Born and raised in Toronto, she moved to Seattle in 2007, where she spent her first few months on American soil bemoaning her existence and writing her first novel. Now back in the Toronto area, she's working on her third book and missing the rain of the Pacific Northwest.
A member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and the International Association of Crime Writers, Jennifer has always been drawn to dark fiction, even though she's scared of all things that go bump in the night.
And now for the good stuff . . the interview!
1. Freak is your second novel and obviously you already had a publisher when you started it. Had you always had the idea for this novel or was it something that came about after you'd sold Creep?
As soon as I typed “The End”on CREEP’s first draft (and yes, I totally did type that, and it made me all giddy!) I knew there was going to be a second book. Mind you, I had no idea if I’d even sell CREEP, but I felt really compelled to find out what happened to certain characters, even if nobody ever read it.
2. What was the biggest difference in your writing process between Freak and your first novel, Creep?
Writing CREEP was almost an idyllic experience. Because I wasn’t agented or contracted by a publisher, the only pressure I felt to finish it was from myself. I had a lot of time to write it, and I took all the time I needed to make it the best it could be. I didn’t even write my query letter until I’d finished the sixth draft. What a luxury!
But with FREAK, I had a deadline and a production schedule. I knew that if I didn’t get the book in on time, it would mess everything up for everyone involved, because the entire publishing team (editor, copy editor, typesetter, cover artist, marketing staff, sales reps, etc.) all have strict schedules. It was a very different experience writing the second book, and really stressful in comparison to the first, especially since I had half the time. With CREEP, it took me 14 months to get the book ready for querying. With FREAK, I had 7 months to get it to my editor once my proposal was accepted.
But of course, the benefit of having a contract in place for the second book is the certainty that it will be published, and that’s definitely a good thing.
3. Who would you say are your biggest writing influences?
Stephen King and Chuck Palahniuk. I loved King’s book ON WRITING, because it was the first time I’d ever read anything about a writer’s process. To this day I still follow his “six week break” rule in between writing the first and second drafts. And I’ve learned so much about the importance of characterization and setting just from reading (and re-reading) his novels. As for Palahniuk, I admire his prose the most. He’s a sparse writer, but his words are always so impactful. FIGHT CLUB is one of my favorite books ever.
4. You're living the dream! What was the most unexpected event or change in your life once you were a successful, published author?
That a writer’s life is not as dreamy as it looks from the outside! Ha! Okay, I’m being funny, but I’m also kind of serious, too. Before I was published, I would read blogs by authors who were “living the dream”, and follow them on Twitter, and it really did seem like the writer’s life was just so amazing. And in a lot of ways it is, because we get make up stories for a living, and there’s nothing cooler than that.
But what you don’t always read about is that it’s also a ton of work, and being a successful author these days means you have to do a lot more than just write. Gone are the days when new writers could be mysterious and reclusive. Marketing is hugely important, and trying to balance all of the necessary promotional stuff with the writing stuff can sometimes be overwhelming. It’s really not something I expected or was prepared for, and I definitely do the best I can. But if all I had to do to continue getting published was just hole up and write? That would be truly blissful!
5. What advice would you give writers who are just starting out on their journey to publication?
Write the best book you can, then ask for feedback from people whose opinions you trust. I highly recommend workshopping and critique partners to start. Fellow aspiring authors will have your book’s best interest at heart, and the exchange of ideas will be creative yet professional. I then recommend having a couple of non-writers read your manuscript, because it’s actually non-writers who’ll make up the majority of your readership, so their opinions can be invaluable.
And when you’re ready to try and get published, do your due diligence. Research as much as you can about agents and publishers, and learn everything you can about querying. And don’t give up! The dream only dies when you let it.
Thank you, Jennifer for joining me today!