Posted on June 20, 2018 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Accepting the twists and turns of life has been the theme of Jill G. Hall’s writing journey.
Hall spent twenty years working at inner-city public schools, and when she retired, she expected to scratch her itch to write by creating children’s books or a memoir about education.
Instead, The Black Velvet Coat, a historical novel that tells the tale of two women connected by the titular coat, came out, followed by another historical novel, The Silver Shoes.
Hall took some time before her publicity swing for The Silver Shoes (released, coincidentally, on the same day we compiled her interview for publication) to tell us about her career.
SADYE: What was your background in writing like, before you became a novelist?
JILL: I’ve always been passionate about the arts. In my younger days I studied dance and voice and performed in theater productions.
Later I became a mosaic artist using found objects including chipped and broken dishes. I put them in a paper bag and broke them with a hammer.
After I left the school district, I was drawn to writing as a quieter, more restive type of creative expression. I had done some journal writing and written some plays with my students, but besides that I didn’t have any writing experience or training.
SADYE: How do you get your ideas for your books?
JILL: I’m an intuitive artist, and I write without an outline. At first I attended a weekly drop-in writing group and learned to put pen to page and just keep going.
When I write characters and settings, they seem to appear on the page out of nowhere. It’s so enticing that I have to keep writing to find out what happens next.
When I first started writing my first novel, The Black Velvet Coat, I had two women from different eras, a present-day artist and an early 1960s young heiress. I thought I was writing two different books.
They kept showing up week after week, time and again as if they were haunting me to tell their stories. I saw them everywhere, including in my dreams.
After I found a coat at a yard sale, through my writing, I realized both women had owned it and that I was in the midst of writing one book not two.
After writing a scene, I might realize that a character had been inspired by someone I had known in real life. And the noir scenes in The Black Velvet Coat, I realized later, had come from watching Alfred Hitchcock movies.
I also have remembered many things that ended up on the page had happened to me long ago in real life. I had been in a desert flash flood, fished on a lake and hiked up San Francisco’s California Street.
Some of the scenes described in my new novel, The Silver Shoes, were based on memories of my own theater experiences such as backstage shenanigans, trying to overcome stage fright, and how it feels to do the times step in a spotlight. ...
When I have completed a full draft, I start to do real research. I need to determine if the things I had written about could have really happened in a specific era.
Then I delve into a specific city and/or era by doing research. Often times I use photos and create collages to go deeper into the themes and settings.
SADYE: What has been the most rewarding or proudest moment you’ve had since becoming published?
JILL: It was such an honor to have been chosen as an author of the month by Friends of San Diego Central Library.
We have a gorgeous new downtown site, and it was thrilling to do a speaking engagement there.
SADYE: What is the most challenging part of writing, for you?
JILL: The most challenging part of writing for me is to throw obstacles in my characters’ paths and to keep going when something scary comes up.
I love my characters and just want to save them right away, but it’s my job as an author to keep the suspense running.
SADYE: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
JILL: I suggest aspiring authors write with their hearts and not their heads, develop a daily writing practice routine, and find a community of other writers.
If someone has a publishing goal, they should make sure their work is the best it can be by joining a read-and-critique group and hiring an editor.
It’s also important to stay positive and consider all their options. There are so many choices now.
Keeping a balanced life is imperative too. At eight o’clock at night, I turn off my technology and don’t turn it on again until after I’ve done my morning writing practice. I schedule time for walks, yoga, and tap dance lessons. I also make sure to spend time with loved ones.
SADYE: Do you sell the artwork you create that's linked to your writing?
JILL: Most of the pieces I’ve made inspired by my writing is process work and not for sale. I do have them displayed on my website so that people can enjoy them.
However, I do have some cards that are available. If someone is interested they can send me an email through my website.
* * *
Know an author you'd like to see featured? Email us with a recommendation!
Categories: Author Interview