Friday, April 23, 2010

J L Wilson, today's Friday Friend

J L Wilson began writing in 2003 and had her first book published in 2007. She has at least three books published every year, alternating between mystery, romantic suspense, time travel/paranormal and a new ‘other planet’ series.

JL, thank you for being here today!

HWH: Three books a year is an impressive number to write, sell, and promote. You must have a good strategy to keep up this pace. Can you explain how you do it?

I have 3 rules for being so prolific:

1. Discipline: I write every day, no matter what happens, even if it’s just to jot down a note or two for my current work in progress (WIP). If I don’t write every day, I find that I lose touch with my characters or my plots. I just have to keep it all current in my mind.

2. Write cleanly: By this I mean that I taught myself early on what my bad habits were and I make sure to try to avoid those when I write. That way I can write a very clean first draft that requires little effort on my part to whip into shape to send off to my editor. There’s always editing to do -- but once I mastered some of the fundamentals, it makes my second round of editing much easier.

3. One of the methods I use to ‘write cleanly’ is what I call The Chapter Method. I write a book not as one big file, but as individual chapters. For example, I know my mysteries are normally between 16-19 chapters long. Each chapter will be about 14-16 pages long. That means that I need to have my action take place within that chapter, within that particular spot in the book. I know that by chapter 13 or 14 I should be wrapping up the mystery and have had my Big Black Moment. I know that by page 5 of any chapter I should have been firmly into the reason for the chapter and the action.

This helps me keep each chapter on track and thus keep the book on track.

HWH: An aspiring author (like me) works hard to develop storytelling skills, master techniques of craft, and develop a voice. Yet sometimes the biggest hurdle seems to be finding reliable, honest feedback for our WIP’s. In your opinion, what makes for a good critique partner relationship?

I think you need to determine what your partner can give to you -- what her strengths are and where she excels. For example, my CP reads for what we call ‘speed bumps’ -- anything in the book that slows down her reading, whether it be repetitive words or a plot quirk or an unclear description. She doesn’t try to evaluate my writing technique or grammar or punctuation -- she’s looking at my book as any reader would, to make sure the words flow.

When I review her work, I focus more on craft issues because that’s where I’m strongest. I’ll point out how she can rework a scene to be stronger, or how to avoid passive voice, or how to stick in one POV.

No one partner will give you all the feedback you need, but I think it’s a mistake to have a lot of people review your work. Find one or two people you can count on then use contests to hone your work. I’ve always said that you don’t know what a real review is like until a total stranger has read your work. A contest can really help you find your strong and weak points.

HWH: Homicides, Hostages, and Hot Rod Restorations is your January release from Wild Rose Press. Your heroine is a few weeks shy of age 50. Her ex-husband left her for a younger woman. She is educated, independent, principled, and generous—in short, a modern, mature woman. Tell us why you choose this type of heroine for your mystery/suspense novels.

Let’s face it -- I write what I know! When I started reading romance novels (just a few years ago) I didn’t find many, if any, that featured older heroes and heroines. I just can’t relate to big-city career women or 30-somethings who want home & family. I wanted to read about women facing mid-life changes. So that’s why I wrote those heroines.

I model most of my heroines on aspects of myself and on other women I know -- many of my ‘ladies’ are in the high tech field (I am), many are single (I was divorced and remarried late in life), many are just entering the romance world again (some of my friends are in that boat). I think at this stage of my life, I find those kinds of people more interesting!

HWH: Homicides, Hostages, and Hot Rod Restorations is set squarely in the Minneapolis metro area. Have you found that being so specific about setting details helps sell your novels to a nationwide (worldwide?) audience? What feedback have you had about it, if any?

That’s an interesting question -- I’ve never really gotten feedback about my settings except for once, when a reviewer questioned whether there could really be a high speed police chase in Iowa -- she apparently had an image of the Midwest as a bucolic, crime-free rural zone and she just couldn’t believe in an urban chase scene. I had to laugh when I read that because the Midwest has long had that kind of image.

I try to use Iowa and Minnesota as my settings because I know the area well. I grew up in Iowa and still go there to visit family, and although I’ve lived around the country and overseas, I ended up back in Minnesota to be closer to family. So like my heroines, I write what I know and I know the Midwest!

HWH: I am fascinated by your Time Travel/Reincarnation novels. Tell me more about this series—how it came to be, how you set it up, how you approached writing three novels (so far).

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of time travel and it seemed natural to combine it with my feelings about reincarnation. My History Patrol series combines both. The books in that series all feature a hero and a heroine, one of whom is a Guide for the Patrol and one of whom is a Companion. The Guide is always human and the Companion is a telepathic shape-shifting human. Only the Companions know the full truth about the Patrol. The Companion and Guide are reincarnations of two lovers, one of whom betrayed the other. The Companion can’t be in human form until forgiveness happens -- until they can forgive the one who betrayed them or until they are freely forgiven for their betrayal.

Complicated? Yep. The Guides don’t know about this connection. They think they’re being sent back in time to rescue tourists who got lost during a time travel jaunt.

It’s tricky to combine the love story with the history involved, to make sure that I get all the historical facts correct while inserting the personalities of my main characters into the mix. Three books are currently available (and one of them -- Endurance -- recently one a national award!). More are planned, too.

HWH: You have a great website with lots of information. What other forms of promotion do you use? Which nets the best return for you?

Promotion is a big unknown for me -- unknown in the sense that I have no idea what really works. I try to do one ‘bit’ of promotion a day, whether it be guest blogging (like this), or posting an excerpt on a loop, or tweeting about a book. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a MySpace account and I try to keep those current every day. I also send promotional items to conferences and I participate in panels at conferences.

I think the best thing I can do is produce a consistent product (a good book) and hope that fans will like what they read and make me an ‘auto-buy’ -- and tell their friends about my books, too. Word of mouth is really the best way to sell a book!

HWH: You have another release in April. Tell us about that.

My April book (releasing TODAY!!!!) features my quirkiest heroine yet. Jane Renard is a college professor -- and a best-selling author of erotic romances. She wrote an erotic book on a bet from a friend and was shocked when it sold like crazy. Since then she’s had several books out, each one more wildly successful than the last.

Now she’s up for a promotion in her “real job” and she’s afraid word might leak out about her other life. To further complicate matters, her estranged husband was murdered in front of a thousand Z.Z. Top fans at the Minnesota State Fair -- while Jane sat in the crowd. Marcus Sloan, a security guard, is her alibi and is soon her ally when she’s briefly suspected of murder. Plus her best friend is being threatened by a vengeful ex, Jane’s getting disturbing fan mail to her alter ego and a guy keeps calling and talking dirty on the phone.

Jane’s biggest problem, though, is her inexperience with men. Marcus might be the man to help her add some interesting firsthand facts to her novels. Maybe she can also discover if happily ever after only happens in books.

I had a lot of fun writing this book because Jane is very unique -- she speaks five languages (including Pig Latin, which figures very big in the plot), her family has a Rom heritage (Gypsies) and gets involved in just about everything she does, she’s a klutzy matchmaker, and her cats (William Dean Howls and Ezra PoundCat) end up saving the day at the end.

I think I can guarantee you that PhDs, Pornography and Premeditated Murder will be a fast and fun read!

For information about that book and my other books, see my web site ( where I have links to purchase information, excerpts, and links to the promotional items used for each book.

Thanks for letting me chat here today -- I love talking about writing and about my books, and love to share any information I can with others. I hope people will contact me if they have any questions --

Thanks again!


  1. Wow! Three books in a year! That's amazing. Lately I've been trying to juggle promotion for one, edits for another, and a's difficult. Unfortunately the WIP is suffering.

    Congrats on your release today! It sounds fabulous...I love the title!!

  2. Congrats on the new release today!

    Do you come up with your titles or are they changed when you sign the contract?

  3. J L writes:
    First of all: apologies that I can't post directly!

    Debra: I have 5 books this year, actually, and yes, it gets crazy with promo and my day job and my works in progress and my edits. I'm very well organized, which helps, and I've found that if I do just a little bit of promo every day, that seems to be better for me than a bunch of promo all at once. I hope it pays off over time 8) I've also trained myself to write very quickly and with a minimum amount of edits, so that helps.

    Toni: I come up with my titles -- I like to keep the 3-phrase titles for my mysteries, a single word for Time Travel, and a song for my romantic suspense. I hope readers will recognize that as my 'signature' and if they liked a previous book, they'll be tempted to pick up a new one.

  4. That's an original system for titling, JL.
    Some authors write genres under different pen names. You've thought of something different. I wonder if you get genre-crossers that way.