Interview with An Author: Jill Shalvis, Specializing in Clueless Alpha Heroes.
Author Jill Shalvis is a USA TODAY best-selling, award-winning author of over three dozen novels. She's been on the Waldenbooks Bestsellers list, the Barnes and Noble Top 100, the Amazon bestsellers list, and also Ingram's. She's a Rita Award nominee, a three-time National Reader's Choice Award winner, and has been nominated for Romantic Times's Career Achievement Award in Romantic Comedy, Best Duets and Best Temptation. I’ve read four of her books so far and I love her categories. They feature smart women and the clueless alpha heroes that love them. So what does this multi award winning author have to say? Read on. Make it to the end, and we’ll give you a book. Okay, only a couple of you.
Jane: What did you do before before writing and what made you start writing?
Jill Shalvis: I was always a writer, at least in my head. Or at least a story teller. Can tell you how often that got me in hot water. When I grew up and went to college, I majored in journalism while working in accounting to pay the bills (I know, opposite sides of the brain, and yes it hurt). It took me a few years to realize I was meant for fiction, not nonfiction, but once I got there, I never looked back.
Jane: Jayne, my blogging partner, found a fascinating article about what some authors do to jump start their creative juices. Do you do anything special?
Shalvis: I love this article! My favorite part was the eating chocolate as writer medicine. I'm going to start doing this, every day. And when I need bigger sweatpants, I'll just shrug and say it's all the price I pay for my art.
Jane: Any tips you care to share?
Shalvis: Writing tips? Sit your butt in the chair every day and just do it. Don't get hung up on what's going in the industry, or in your writer group or who just got a big contract ahead of you. Write. Write. Write. Oh, and don't ever give up. That's the biggest tip I can give. Here's what I tell my kids. You can do anything you want to do, you just have to want it bad enough to make it happen.
Jane: You often write the sweet alpha hero. By that I mean the guy who would do anything to get his girl and oftentimes that means subliminating his natural aggressive tendencies. Any reason for this?
Shalvis: Huh. Sweet? Really? Because sometimes I think I write them awfully cranky in all their clueless alphaness, lol.
Jane: As a follow up, how would you characterize your writing?
Shalvis: I like to write sexy adventurous funny romances. That's my favorite. Sometimes I add a dead body, or a stalker, or something scary but I always find myself coming back to funny.
Jane: Have you ever written an unsympathetic character? If so, what particular challenges do you face when writing someone that your readers may not initially like? Do you think the rules are different for a male character v. a female character?
Shalvis: I like to do this in secondary characters sometimes. In Aussie Rules, I wrote Dimi, a real tough girl who regularly sabotaged her own happiness. I had fun turning her around, and running the story parallel to the main heroine and her own struggles. I did it again in Smart And Sexy, with a grumpy secondary character, Brody, who is now getting his own story. As for the rules being different for a male vs a female, I guess they are. With Dimi I felt free to make her as nasty as I wanted, knowing I'd turn her around eventually. But with Brody, I found I couldn't make him a complete ass because he was the guy, damn it, and a part of me wanted him to still be sexy and desirable to the reader. Huh. I must be a little biased and didn't even know it . . .
Jane: Do you think that there is a stigma against writing category romances? Or is there an advantage because you are already published and therefore have a proven audience?
Shalvis: Both. How's that for an answer. There's definitely a stigma going from category to single title, at least in the single title world. You really have to prove you can write that elusive thing called a "bigger–? book. But on the other hand, there's that benefit to being already published, as long as your numbers are good. The dreaded numbers … It's all about the dreaded numbers.
Jane Do you want to move out of category writing eventually or will you always write categories along with your "bigger–? novels such as your RITA nominated book, Aussie Rules?
Shalvis: I love writing both, and hope to continue to do so.
Jane: What does it mean to you, having been nominated for a RITA? How many times had you entered before? Do you think that there is stigma against Blaze’s when it comes to RITA judging?
Shalvis: I've been nominated for a Rita three times. Twice in the single title category (with Blue Flame and this year with Aussie Rules), and once in the short contemporary category with a Temptation. As for the stigma, there seems to be lots of different ones within the contest, which is a shame. It's all very subjective, of course, and people somehow end up judging for categories they don't like to read, and I think that's where a lot of the problems come in. I go into that contest knowing it's a crap shoot and hope for the best. I've gotten lucky, that's all.
Jane: If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be?
Shalvis: I'd make enough money not to have to worry about filling out that application to go work at Target or Taco Bell.
Jane: Is there a secret to publishing you can share?
Shalvis: There's no magic handshake to getting published. I wish there was. But I really feel the secret is what I said above in the tip section: Sit your butt in the chair every day and just do it. Don't get hung up on what's going in the industry, or in your writer group or who just got a big contract ahead of you. Write. Write. Write. Oh, and don't ever give up. That's the biggest tip (secret) I can give. Here's what I tell my kids. You can do anything you want to do, you just have to want it bad enough to make it happen.
Jane: If you had one marketing secret, what would that be?
Shalvis: Ha! I wish I had a marketing secret. As it is, I feel like I'm a secret, lol.
Jane: What are the three romance books you read in the last month? and why?
Shalvis: I just read INNOCENT IN DEATH, because I love J.D. Robb and will read that series for as long as Nora writes it. I also just read CRAZY SWEET because I love Tara Janzen's writing and wish she'd write faster. And just yesterday I finished SHOPAHOLIC AND SISTER, which isn't technically a romance but I still think the lead character and her husband are adorable and I think of it as a romance.