Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Peek at a Published Author's Process

My good friend and fellow author Jillian Chantal is back. This time we’re talking about the process of getting a book written, edited and published with an e-press.

She has two new releases this month: 

SURF BREAK a short story, her seventh published short published under her pen name of Jillian Chantal and HOT PURSUIT her 6th full length novel.
How about walking us through your process.  

I usually get an idea for a story from the hero. I don't know why that is, but a hero comes to me with his name and a bit of back story first. I then have to struggle to find the right heroine for him. In two books in particular, I had to rename the heroine because she didn't work with the name she had and her personality came to me when I changed her name.  I find that names are very important if the story is going to flow right.

Once I know a little about the characters, I start the first paragraph. My writing process is organic and I merely roll with the flow and let my characters take the lead. I have one story (that's not been shopped around) that I started with only the man's name, his occupation, and the fact that a murder occurs on his property. Less than 30 days later, I had a 60,000 word story. 

When I first heard about this I found it fascinating, are you willing to share your process of building a music collage before you start?

It's odd how music speaks to me. I listen to Sirius radio (which I adore since I can get tons of choices) I jot down songs and who sings them and the year of production. I keep a running list of these and they may not even seem to have anything in common. When I’m ready to start work on the next book, I download the songs and burn a playlist or CD. I then immerse myself in the songs while I work the day job, in the car, in the living room, etc. After about two days of that, ideas start to come for the story. It seems as if my subconscious was already at work as the songs were chosen. 

Sometimes, it's completely weird such as for HOT PURSUIT. I had the playlist and couldn't resist adding a song by a band called Interpol. It had nothing to do with, at the time I picked it, the hero being an Interpol agent as I didn't even know what the story was. I picked the song because I wanted to have my lawyer's firm in New York City and the song is called New York. I downloaded it to the playlist. As I started writing, the story was going to be about a lawyer whose associates kept leaving to marry the clients. The story took a wild turn that consciously I wasn't aware of until it happened. I'll never forget, when the scene landed on the keyboard, how I said to the heroine (out loud, mind you) "Who are you and what are we doing?" There's a line in the song that talks about having seven faces and knowing which one to wear. CRAZY! It fit so well, it was insane.

Do you do a fast draft? About how long does that take you?

I do draft pretty quickly. It depends on the story itself as to how fast that goes. A slow one is about 35-50 days for a first draft. I have done a 60,000 word one in 21 days – that was my first NaNoWriMo novel which was Redemption for the Devil which is published by Desert Breeze Publishing. The story I'm working on right now that doesn't have a name as yet but is being called "The Venice Story" is rocking along at a fast clip. In 8 days, I've written close to 29,000 words. It's one of those that I love to write. One that seems almost to be like taking dictation from the characters. 

When you edit do you print?  Use colored markers, highlighters, a flame thrower? When do you decide it’s ready to go out?

 I usually do two rounds of edits on the computer separated by a print edit. In other words, I do a draft, print it and mark it up and then go back and add the changes, I do a final read through and then let that puppy out into the world. I've found if I keep it around much longer, I start tinkering too much and make a mess. A flame thrower is an interesting concept but I don't think I could destroy any of my babies that way, but maybe I could find some use for it. S'mores, anyone?

Publishers? Query? How do you decide? 

I have three publishers I'm currently working with. They all offer something a little different so it's easy to choose where I want to send the story. I sometimes don't know until about 10,000 words in on the longer works where I'm going to send them. That's kind of a barometer to me – a turning point if you will – to make it racier or not. Desert Breeze Publishing has a policy of allowing open-door sexual experiences but even their most intense (which is my level there) stories are milder than lots of other publishers and there are some stories that organically call for that. I've only done historical for Desert Breeze as of this date, but they have recently accepted a contemporary that will come out in 2013.

Between my other two publishers, the line is a little more blurred. Ellora's Cave and Secret (Or Sweet- they have both) Cravings Publishing allows me to use stronger language that sometimes the characters and story call for. So far, I've sent shorter stories to Cravings because they accept shorter works than Ellora's Cave. I plan to send them longer works but right now the story I'm working on is going to be sent to EC for the first right of refusal.

Can you tell us a bit about the edits you get back from your various editors and how you go about working those?

I get them back and glance through the comments first, then I do the easy stuff, like accepting the punctuation, etc changes (one at a time so I can learn). After that, I tackle the hard stuff. 

Titles?  How is that decided?  Has a title you’ve used as a working title ever been the selected title from the publisher? 

Titles are my bug-a-boo. They kick my butt every time. I've only ever had to change two- both because the editors thought they needed to sound more romantic. One of them was the Ellora's Cave one. The new name is soooo much better than the previous three it had been known by before my editor got hold of it. She actually gave me the suggestion for the name HOT PURSUIT and it is absolutely perfect. It fits the story so well, it's crazy. As soon as she said it, the light bulb went off.

And you make book trailers.  Can you tell us about that?

There's a program I use that's called Photo-Story 3. It actually came with my PC that I use for my legal work. It's simple and I'm quite proud of myself for mastering that (we'll ignore the crash that lost one last week that I had to re-do) There are two difficulties I have in doing trailers. One is finding the right pictures for the hero and heroine- ones that match my idea of the characters. The second is doing the script. You want it to be intriguing without giving too much away, so I'm thinking that crash the other day where I lost the first draft of SURF BREAK'S trailer was divine intervention since I may have given away too much there.

What’s next for you?  

My next release is October 21, 2012. It's the second story in a series. The name of it is The Gambler's Brother and it's from Desert Breeze Publishing. It's a post WWII story with a few murders, a former RAF pilot, a French Resistance Fighter and, oh yeah, a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. 

Thanks for stopping by Jillian and giving us a peek into what the writing, editing and publishing process is like for you. Good luck with your new releases and we will be looking forward to many more.

As always if you have any questions or comments feel free to post.

Visit Jillian on the web: www.Jillianchantal.com

As always if you have any questions or comments feel free to post them here.


  1. Great insight into the nuts and bolts of writing. Creativity may be the rush that keeps us writing, but editing and polishing gets us published and keeps us selling!

  2. So true Sandy, I'm always looking at new ways to work the editing process and Jillian had a couple tips, thanks for stopping by.

  3. Thanks Suzanne for letting me come by- it was a fun group of questions to answer and I hope your readers enjoy my answers (and ignore my typo)- I appreciate your friendship and love always.

    Thanks Sandy. We all write with a different process and I love to learn how others do their work as well. And yeah, creativity is a big rush for me.

    1. As always it's fun to have a successful published author to share insights and tricks on my blog. I hope I fixed up the typos now. Thanks again for stopping by Jillian.

  4. Thanks for sharing your secrets. I'm hitting all the share buttons

  5. Thanks for all t he shares, Marian, that's awesome. I hope something I said helped you!

  6. I really like these interview blogs and this one is shock full of insight to the writing process. Thanks Jillian

  7. I've got my copy of Hot Pursuit. Can't wait to read it.

  8. Thanks Lavada. Suzanne is awesome at questions. I give her all the credit.

    Thanks Darlene, for the support. Love ya.

  9. I'm over here from Deep Story. I'm always looking for ways to speed up my process. But only a couple edits? Wow!

    Congratulations on your success! Prolific you are!

    1. I agree Jean, a couple edits is what I one day strive for because as I've written here I'm an editing junkie. LOL

  10. Great interview. Names are so important -- I often fight with a character, because the name is too similar to another name in the book, and the character just won't budge.

    By the way, Suzanne, I've tapped you for "7 Things" over on my blog.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Devon. I agree names can make or break it for me. I'll hop over to your blog now.

  11. Wow, I can't imagine writing 60,000 words in a month. All mine are word replacements right now. Sigh. Somewhere over the rainbow, my book waits, LOL!

    1. I understand Sheryl. Revision are tough. I'll meet you over the rainbow. LOL.