Guest Post #1: Author Q &A w/ Jill Elaine Hughes
Why do you write?
Honestly, because I have to. If I don’t, I’ll go nuts!
Who has helped you the most in your career as an author?
I have to say it was my high school English teacher, Mrs. Stevens. She was the toughest writing teacher I ever had, and I credit her with giving me the tools I needed to be a professional writer---both a journalist and an author. She was so tough on her students that most of them hated her (I did too, at the time), but I learned to appreciate what she instilled in me later on, especially when I got to college and then out on my first professional writing jobs.
When you write, what things do you want close at hand? (Coffee, water, chocolate... pictures of gorgeous hunks for inspiration...?)
Diet Coke, tea, and granola bars.
What other jobs have you held besides writing?
I’ve actually been a professional writer for my entire career, either as a journalist, corporate-communications writer, or as a novelist. Though I have also worked odd jobs as a waitress, as a temp worker in offices, and as a custom art framer back when I was in high school.
Which of your books was the hardest to write and why?
I think it was probably my current New Adult paranormal release, ZOMBIE, INCORPORATED. The heroine of that book is 18 years old and it’s told in the first person, plus she is a very different kind of person than I am. Stepping into her shoes every day to write her story was tough. Plus, this is not your typical zombie book. It’s more psychological. Instead of the zombies being in-your-face, blood-guts-and-gore, it’s all very shadowy and uncertain. You don’t know for sure who are zombies and who aren’t---which just makes it that much more dangerous! I had to spent a lot of time planting clues and subtext, and building a plot that resembles a psychological thriller (think old-school Hitchcock) more than straight horror.
If you could time travel what era would be your first stop?
Do you believe in luck?
I think you can make your own luck.
Do you play any musical instruments?
No, but I’m a classically trained singer.
Who are your greatest paranormal fiction influences?
I’m very into old-school, classical paranormal mysteries that was very language- and subtlety-driven. I love Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Daphne DuMaurier. I also love early Stephen King (not crazy about his new stuff, though), Jane Yolen, and Neil Gaiman.
Guest Post #2: Getting To Know Jill Elaine Hughes
1. I love pizza with black olives and sausage.
2. I'm always ready for a new episode of Breaking Bad.
3. When I'm alone, I read.
4. You'd never be able to tell, but I have a tattoo in a secret spot.
5. If I had a halo it would be orange.
6. If I could speak Swahili I'd move to Africa.
7. I can never be a beekeeper because I’m allergic to bee stings. (They can kill me!)
8. I wrote and illustrated my first horror story when I was in fifth grade.
2 Things you do to relax:
Watch British TV shows like CALL THE MIDWIFE and DOWNTOWN ABBEY on PBS.
Favorite sport to watch:
Figure Skating. Followed closely by track and field.
Place you’ve always wanted to go, but haven’t:
Favorite season ~ why:
Autumn, for the crisp clean air and bright colors.
What are your hobbies /past times (besides writing):
Exercise (especially running and yoga), reading books, painting/drawing, Zen meditation.
Jill Elaine Hughes’ favorites:
Mode of travel –
Sloe gin fizz.
Place you’ve never been and have always wanted to go –
India and Africa.
Guest Post #3: How ZOMBIE, INCORPORATED Came to Be
by Jill Elaine Hughes
The book started out as a short story. My now-former literary agent was putting together a Zombie Romance anthology to shop with major publishers. Zombie Romance in itself is weird---when was the last time you wanted to make out with a zombie? I thought hard about the concept and wrote a short piece that eventually became ZOMBIE, INCORPORATED’s final chapter. But the short story didn’t fit with the ones from other authors so it didn’t make the anthology cut, even though the anthology sold to St. Martin’s Press. I still wanted to do more work in the world I created though. After I parted ways with the former literary agent who asked me to write it, my new agent encouraged me to expand the idea into three chapters and a book proposal, so I did. That book proposal also went nowhere, since the setting for the story involved an 18-year-old girl who was embarking on her first job in the adult world---not the norm for the zombie genre, but it is the norm for the emerging New Adult genre. But I just couldn’t let the idea go, so I wrote what is now the first installment in a planned three-book series.
I completed the manuscript and my literary representation still showed little to no interest in a New Adult zombie series. But I know readers are demanding New Adult paranormal books even if publishers aren’t putting them out, so I just went the self-publishing route instead of waiting for publishers to catch up with readers. The worldbuilding and character development for this series is substantial, and Book One ends on a cliffhanger as the heroine’s zombie romantic interest finally makes his first appearance.
It’s ironic---I couldn’t get editors or my own literary agents to read the book because it was so outside the zombie norm (it’s a New Adult psychological thriller!), but reader response has been fantastic. Readers love the book and are demanding more, more, more! My agent is now very interested, and has even asked a New York Times bestselling author (I’ll announce who it is later) to do a cover blurb for me. Goes to show that a good book will always find an audience, no matter how different it is!