This blog welcomes our first author interview thanks to friend and multi-published author Jillian Chantal - by day mild-manner lawyer, by night passion-enflamed writer of numerous novels, novellas and short stories.
Jillian’s first novel Solo Honeymoon was publish by Siren Bookstrand in November 2010. Since then she has continued to delight readers with more. Surfer Bride published in February 2011, Redemption for the Devil published in July 2011 by Desert Breeze Publishing and Sebastian’s Salvation just released February 7th, 2012.
But besides these amazing novels, Jillian has recently published two novellas Sophie’s Snow Day in the Snow Bound anthology, and Coroner’s Delight in Valentine’s Delights both offered by Still Moments Publishing and she has still more coming out this year.
So today, I invited Jillian here to share with us her writing history, process, and secrets of writing shorter fiction.
Tell us a little of your writing history. Which came first novels or shorts?
Jillian: The first three romance "books" I wrote all the way to the words THE END were about 35,000 words each which is considered novella length. After that, I wrote a few stories under 2,500 words for fun and to work on various aspects of the craft. These short stories were not romances. I then found a cool website that puts out calls for short stories and submitted some of mine. They were accepted and I initially had all my work published under my real name.
Jillian Chantal is your pseudonym. How did that come to be?
Jillian: When I decided to try to publish the romances, I happened to be sitting in a room with a bunch of Federal court lawyers, mostly male, and I decided then and there that I better come up with a pseudonym if I didn't want the incessant buzz of these guys wondering if I was thinking of them when I wrote my love scenes- and believe me, they would. They'd get great enjoyment out of teasing me about it. You said above that I'm mild mannered but I'm really not when I'm in lawyer mode. I wasn't ready to risk my street cred by chatting about romance to the old boys club. LOL!
How do you decide on your stories’ length?
Jillian: I always believe the story determines the length. I'm a person who starts to write with a basic idea and just goes with the flow. If the story seems to grow organically into something longer, I keep going with it. I DO believe that writing short is helpful in learning how to write tight. I once had a friend tell me that I write like a man. I was a bit insulted until she said the man she meant was Hemingway. LOL! I like tight sentence structure and plotting. I believe being versatile in writing both long and short makes for better prose.
Do you personally prefer novella, novel, or shorter length?
Jillian: I like novellas both for reading and writing. I tend to write shorter even on my novels because I don't like repetition. When I was in law school, I would be assigned a twenty page paper and get it done in fifteen. This carries over into my fiction work. Get in, tell the story and get out. That's my philosophy. Now, that being said, I've had one reviewer say about one of my shorter stories that she wished it was a novel and I had one short story rejected by a publisher who said it needed to be a novel.
What about POV in a novella? One? Two? More?
In a romance, I like to do POV scenes from both the hero and heroine's eyes. I think it makes for a better story. In my other shorts, I usually stay with one POV. Again, I think it would be driven by the story. In Redemption for the Devil, I have the hero and heroine's POV but I also have a scene with the villain's POV. As well, in my book to be released in April, called The Gambler, I have a scene in the heroine's sister's POV as the information needed to be out there but the hero and heroine couldn't know it at the time.
What about time frame in a novella?
Jillian: It must be a tighter time frame for sure. In novels, you can skip weeks between chapters but that doesn't work so well in a novella.
How about setting? And how does it differ from a novel?
Jillian: In a novel of 80,000 words or more, a writer can travel the world and insert numerous settings, but in a novella of around 40,000 words, it's hard to get more than a few places in there and do a good job of it. In a 8,000 word story, it's even harder. I think you have to do enough description to ground your reader to time and place.
What is the most difficult part of writing a novella for you?
Jillian: One thing I have a problem with is trying to be sure I stay away from certain what I call "crutch" words. I tend to overuse one to two words in each story- usually not the same one. That habit becomes more of an issue in the novella or short story as opposed to the novel. Since there are less words overall, the over-used ones become more noticeable.
I love how you named your character in Surfer Bride, two road signs on the Highway 10 drive to Tallahassee FL. Quincy Holt - amazing. Good use of time on that dreary drive.
Any differences with how you plan, or invent characters for novellas as compared to novels?
Jillian: Not really. I'm not much on planning. I usually start with the hero's name and a little bit of an idea of where it's going. I wrote a 70,000 word mystery with the only idea being that the protagonist is Jewish, owns a book store and hosts a murder mystery gathering. That's it.
I also do some of my best plotting, such as it is, on trips, like that drive to Tallahassee. I've had whole short stories come to me on those drives as well as scenes in the novels I'm currently working on and then I itch to get home and get it down.
Have you ever worked Flash Fiction?
Jillian: I have. I love writing super short. I've never had any published but they are fun to do. Getting a whole plot in 750-1000 words is a challenge but I love it- I think it flexes the brain muscle.
What are you working on now?
Jillian: I'm polishing book three of my series coming soon from Desert Breeze Publishing- It's called The Gambler's Daughter. I'm also working on a short story that I plan to submit to Still Moments Publishing, one of my other publishers- it's set on the beach. I like to write a few short stories between novels to keep myself busy as I usually like to let a novel sit for a month or so before I start to polish it. I try to write every day and recommend that as a good habit to develop. I don't always succeed in doing it, but I sure try.
Any other advice for writers wanting to work on shorter fiction?
Jillian: Keep studying the writers you like and the way they do things. Reading is the best teacher. See what you like about certain stories and what you don't. Try to avoid the things that drive you crazy in others' writings. Look on-line to see what calls are out there for short stories and start sending some in. Most have themes and word counts. Practice using those themes as prompts and staying in the word count. That will teach you to write tight and get rid of unneeded words. I like this site:
They send an email each week with tons of places looking for stories. I find a lot of my places to submit there.
Great resource Jillian. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your view of writer short lengths. And good luck with your current and next releases. You can check out Jillian’s website for more information about her books, blog and upcoming releases.
Feel free to add your comments for Jillian or anything on writing short.