You've read my reviews of her previous novels...and hopefully liked them! Now, here's an opportunity to get the know the woman behind the series...and maybe even win some books!
Jill loves to give away books, so read through the interview, and then respond with the answer to the trivia question posted at the end for a chance to win your choice of the To Catch a Thief series. If you also sign up for Jill’s newsletter on her web site, http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com, you will be eligible to win ALL THREE books in the series.
1) I'm always looking for a unique concept in mysteries. Yours is by far the most creative I've found yet. What prompted you to delve into the world of antiquities and art with your series?
The catalyst was a literal sleeping dream. I woke up in the wee hours one night all tense from a dream where a woman in black sneaked into an estate. She took a painting off the wall and replaced it with an identical-looking painting. Straight up theft, right? Wrongo! I was aware as I watched this scene unfold that the woman was stealing the forgery and returning the original. What a bizarre thing for a thief to do! I was also aware that if she didn’t get away with her act of reverse larceny that disaster would follow for many innocents, not just her.
After I woke up, my waking mind played with this odd scenario. I had to decide what sort of career the woman could have that would give her cat burglar skills without making her a thief. Museum security expert fit the bill. I also asked myself what dire set of circumstances would force her to take such outrageous action. The answer to that question became the plot for Reluctant Burglar.
The sequels to Burglar, Reluctant Runaway and Reluctant Smuggler, were birthed in my quirky imagination as natural progressions when you throw a strong-willed, impetuous museum security expert into drastic situations with a skilled and intense FBI agent. Smuggler contains the culmination of many character and relationship issues introduced in the first book. Maybe that’s why it’s my personal favorite.
I believe the reason this series sold to a publisher, even though I have other manuscripts, is the uniqueness of the art and antiquities theft angle. A few things along this line have been done in secular movies—think The Thomas Crown Affair or Entrapment—but it hadn’t been done in Christian fiction.
2) Desiree has gone through a few changes since your first novel, "Reluctant Burglar", developing more confidence and a more solid faith. What changes have YOU gone through as her creator?
Working with my characters and exploring the various themes in my novels has refreshed my understanding in key areas. Here’s an example of what I mean from the Reader Letter at the back of Reluctant Runaway, book two in the series, which dealt with pseudo-Christian cults. “I understood afresh the unique claim of Christianity: that God Himself became a man, the Christ. Not simply a good person or a wise teacher or a miracle-working prophet, as some belief systems claim, but fully human and fully God. Then He willingly paid the ultimate price to purchase mankind out of slavery to sin and Satan. Without the understanding that Jesus is the Christ, there is no salvation. Christianity is that simple and that mind-boggling, and there is no alternate method to approach God, except through His own redeeming sacrifice.”
Book one, Reluctant Burglar, deepened my awareness of the vital need to accurately hear and immediately obey the voice of the Lord, particularly in crisis situations. Book three and my current release, Reluctant Smuggler, opened my eyes to the fundamental importance of hope to the health of the human spirit and to society as a whole. A sense of hopelessness and helplessness is at the root of many of the horrible atrocities committed by man against man. Those without hope cease to care what they do or who they do it to. Thank the Lord, in Jesus Christ we have the ultimate hope to offer anyone.
3) I absolutely adore Max! Any resemblance to you, or to anyone you know, or is she entirely fictional?
All of my characters are composites of people I know or have observed. None of them are exact replicas of anyone. I adore Max too. I’ve put her through some heartrending situations. In fact, she is still living through one in book three, but she just keeps rising up strong in that fighting Texas spirit. She’s a survivor and a rock-solid faithful woman on many levels. I think that may be why readers admire her. Plus, she’s a complete hoot, as well as brilliant!
4) Your recent book, "Reluctant Smuggler", has more twists and turns in it. Was it very challenging to write, or did you know your characters so well it flowed smoothly?
Every book is challenging to write. There are always times I paint myself into a plot corner, and I have to hit my knees until inspiration comes on a plausible way to get my characters out of the fix they’re in. Those are very much growth times for me. On the other hand, I did know my characters intimately by this time, so could do some more innovative things with them that added twists and turns.
One of the secondary characters I’ve particularly enjoyed working with is Steve Crane. That man has come a long way, baby! Steve is one of my FBI agent hero’s “sandpaper people” that hone and refine him. It’s a fun process for the reader, not so fun for the characters. Mwa-ha-ha-ha!
5) I read in a recent article that you learned the difference between "showing emotion" and "telling emotion". Could you give my readers an example?
Sure. Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View is one of my favorite courses to teach writers. In fact, I’m scheduled to present the class on-line for American Christian Fiction Writers during the month of June. The course is free to ACFW members. I like to use “before editing” and “after editing” snippets from Reluctant Burglar to illustrate my points. Here’s one:
Tony closed his phone, frustration and fury surging through him.
So what’s wrong with this? Surging is a lovely strong verb, isn’t it? Yes and no. Any “ing” version of a verb waters down its power, but I’ve compounded the issue by “telling” the reader how Tony feels, rather than “showing” it in Deep POV.
After (the published version):
Tony slapped his phone shut. If steam could escape out his pores, he’d be a toxic cloud.
Shazam! We’re right there inside him. No need to name the emotions. We feel that frustration and fury in our pores, too!
6) Will we see more of Desi and Tony in the future, or does this wrap up the "To Catch A Thief" series for you?
As far as I’m concerned, I could write Desi and Tony indefinitely. It does wrap up my current contract for Multnomah. I hope one day to be able to return with more To Catch a Thief. At the moment, I’m deep into the first of two romantic suspense novels for Steeple Hill.
7) Any new projects on the horizon you'd like to give us a peek at?
You bet! I love talking about what’s in the works. Evidence of Murder releases from Steeple Hill in February of 2009. Here’s a teaser: When a new business owner discovers on her property photos of a decade-old multiple murder, she and the surviving son of the massacre become targets of a desperate and powerful killer. Anyone want to read that? I hope so, because I’m jazzed about the story.
8) What helps set your mood to write: a location, a special CD or beverage...put us where you are when you write your best.
I have a rather shabby office in the basement of my house. Temporarily, it’s too cluttered with a grown child’s furniture to use effectively. The mess will clear up when she gets a new apartment. So I’m back at my post in my easy chair in the living room with my laptop perched on my lap (Duh! Where else is a laptop supposed to go?).
My beverages of choice are water or herbal tea, and Celtic worship music puts me in the mood to create. A teacher in our church researched the affect of music on the human mind and heart, and one of the findings was woodwind music, which is prominent in Celtic compositions, stimulates creativity. I could be the poster child for the study!
Thanks for dropping by and reading the interview. Now, here’s the trivia question to answer in your response. (Please remember to include contact information so we can let you know if you win!) Question: What secondary character is a “sandpaper person” to Tony Lucano, the series’ FBI agent hero?
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P.S. There are SO MANY WAYS to win a copy of "Reluctant Smuggler", it's just down right ridiculous! Check out Jill's trivia question, sign up for her amazing newsletter, or come back by tomorrow and leave a comment at my review, which I will post on Tuesday (I'm a third of the way through this one, and it is the best by far!)