Author Interview: Jill Sooley

Today we are welcoming Jill Sooley to First Line blog. Jill’s first novel, The Widows of Paradise Bay, is published by Breakwater Books. Click here to read a description.

Welcome Jill!

1. What is your favourite word?

You are probably not allowed to print any of my favourite words! Actually my word du jour now is yeggman. I play Boggle on my iphone and it told me I missed the word yeggman, among others. I had to look it up since I'd never heard of it. It's actually one who cracks safes. My husband and I are trying now to incorporate yeggman into our conversations, but it's not easy!

2. What was the best advice you received as a writer?

That it's normal -- in fact encouraged -- to become emotionally invested in your characters. I was feeling everything I put them through. I'd think about them when I wasn't writing, and whatever I was thinking at the time would invoke a flood of emotions that went along with that particular character and circumstance. Knowing that a lot of successful authors go through the same process was a relief, and most helpful.

3. What book do you think every writer should read?

Oh The Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss. When my daughter graduated Kindergarten, she got a copy. Any aspiring writer ought to revisit it.

4. If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be?

I've had different careers, most recently as a public relations executive in Manhattan. But I don't think I'd want to go back into that again. The good thing about being a stay-at-home Mom -- in addition to the obvious -- is that you get to re-evaluate your career path. If not writing, I would do something food related, maybe a chef or a food writer. I think Guy Fieri has the best gig in the world.

5. Describe your work habits. When do you write? Where?

I write during the day, after I drop the kids off at school. I sit in my living room chair with my laptop and my coffee and ignore the toys on the floor and the breakfast dishes on the table and focus on getting a few solid hours in of writing. I need to be alone with no distractions, which is why I write best during the day. I still think about the story and the characters throughout the afternoon and evening and when something pops up, I'll make a note and jot it down to go back and add later. I try to get finished with the outline first before going back and adding those details, otherwise I don't think I'd ever complete a manuscript.

6. This is your first novel. What was the journey from writing it to getting it published like?

It is a first novel so I wasn't entirely dedicated to it in the beginning. It started out more or less as a little bit of a hobby. Maybe I should write a book. I went through periods where I was very focused and days when the writing was flowing. And that might be followed by long stretches of time where I stopped for a while because I had other things going on, or the holidays were coming, etc. Eventually, I pushed myself to finish since I had so much completed already and I didn't want to think, "What if...?" Getting it published is a different animal altogether. I wasn't part of a writing community so I didn't have any connections and I think that's an important aspect to getting published. I was floundering a little bit, doing research on the internet and getting frustrated. Eventually, I found an independent publisher based in the province where my novel took place. It turned out to be a perfect fit and it's enabled me to make the connections that every aspiring writer ought to have.

7. What inspires you?

My family. I come from a long line of very quirky relatives, and a wonderful collection of extended family and friends. Most of us do, I suppose. The fact is there is so much drama and laughter and sadness that are around us every day. I like to tap into all of that, borrow little pieces of people's lives and merge them with other elements until you have a story with characters that are relatable.

8. If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

There are so many, but I think I would go with Judy Blume. As someone who grew up in the 1970's, I devoured her books because she made interesting characters who dealt with subjects that nobody else talked about even though it was going on all around us. She broke ground in a turbulent decade by writing for young people about things like divorce and menstruation and sex, and so on. And she did it with completely relatable characters. Ms. Blume made an indelible mark on my generation.

9. Do you have any other creative talents? Do you paint? Play a musical instrument?

Sadly, my 6-year-old is a better artist than I am. My musical talent consists of downloading songs from itunes. My only other creative outlet has to be food. I love to eat so I love to cook. I love merging flavours and textures and creating new dishes. I can definitely go to the market and get inspired, based on what looks good that day. And I can make it look pretty on a plate.

10. What are you working on now?

I am working on a novel about a stepfamily. It's a subject that's not often captured in a realistic sense despite its prevalence in our culture. The story is told from the viewpoints of the two stepsisters, who are now grown as they end up in predicaments they never thought they would. The third voice is the mother/stepmother, who reveals parts of the story from various points in the past, which helps us understand what's happening in the present.

Thanks Jill!

Jill Sooley grew up in Mt. Pearl, Newfoundland, Canada. She enjoyed a successful career in public relations first with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and later, at a boutique public relations firm in midtown Manhattan. She currently resides in Long Island with her husband and children. The Widows of Paradise Bay is her first novel. Learn more about Jill Sooley at her website:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting choice of favorite word. Mine is 'twirl'. There is a site called where you can add your favorite words and find people sharing the same words with you.