Jill Shalvis is an award winning and best-selling contemporary romance writer. Her novels combine intense romantic heat with her signature quirky and laugh-out-loud humor. She has penned more than fifty novels including her beloved and acclaimed, Lucky Harbor Series. Her latest novel in the Cedar Ridge Series, Nobody But You, releases March 28th.
MW: Can you tell me a little bit about your journey and how you first came to writing romance?
JS: I first started writing back in the ice age, during a time I fondly refer to as the deep, dark years of hell. I had three kids under the age of five (don't worry, we finally figured out what caused that problem :), I'd just lost my accounting job, and my husband had just officially burnt out on his job as a paramedic on the mean streets of downtown Los Angeles.
It was not a great time for either of to begin a new career. So of course we both did. I dove into writing with the same joy that reading romances had been giving me for years. I had no idea what I was doing; it was sheer reader instinct back then. In between diapers and bottles and baby naps (God bless the nap), I wrote what I thought was a suspense. When I finished, I bought the Literary Guide to Publishers and started sending out chapters randomly.
I was on my second book when I got a call. The woman identified herself as an editor from Bantam and I about passed out. I was standing in the kitchen with a baby in one arm, a kindergartener playing house with the Tupperware all over the floor, and me trying to shush them so I could hear. "I'm sorry," said breathlessly. "I missed your name."She repeated it just as my middle daughter, a toddler, yelled from the other room, "Mom, I'm done, wipe me!" Hand to heaven.
"I want to ask you a question," the editor whose name I still didn't know, said. "Would you consider adding some sexual tension to your story so that we could sell it as a Loveswept?"
Huh? What was a Loveswept? I know, I know, but though I'd been a bookworm since third grade, and reading romances since seventh grade, I had never heard of a category romance. "You want . . . sexual tension?""Yes, please. And a love scene would be fantastic. If you're okay with that, I'd like to buy your book."
Holy smokes. "I-'""Mom, WIPE ME!!!
Thunk. Which, by the way, was the sound of my head hitting the cabinets. "Consider it sold," I said, trying to remain cool, calm and collected when I wanted to do the happy dance.
And then I hung up.On the editor.
My husband walked in the door and I shoved babies at him. "I sold a book."
"Cool. To who?""I have no idea . . ."Thank God she called me back. I went on to write seven Loveswepts before that line closed. These days I write both single titles and still the occasional category, and hardly ever hang up on editors anymore.
MW: What is a Loveswept? I've never heard the term before. Is that the name of the imprint or does it refer to a specific kind of romance?
JS: A Loveswept is a category romance, and I had never heard of them either. It's an imprint, a shorter genre book. I've since moved on to mainstream contemporary romance, longer and more complicated stories. And no, I didn't set out to write romance but I can't imagine doing anything else now, I love my job. Where else can I wear bunny slippers and sweats and work on my deck?
MW: When you write in categories do you get any direction from your publishers or do you have complete creative control?
JS: I have complete creative control these days and I am really loving that. I come up with a series idea, some individual story ideas and run it by my editor but honestly, she really lets me go with what I want to do. Which is good for the creative spirit! In another life I was an accountant (after going to journalism school) and so I've spent time in the business world. It wasn't a good fit for me. Making stuff up for a living is a good fit. And I can now happily report, I'm really uniquely suited for nothing else.
MW: Since you went to school for journalism, how do you use those skills when you're creating fiction? Do you ever look at real news or personal interest stories to help you formulate plot ideas?
JS: I was a journalism major, but like I said, nonfiction wasn't exactly my thing as it turns out! I'm not sure I actually ever had any solid journalism skills. But I do have some traits from that time. An insane nosiness. A dogged determination. And also I'm uniquely suited for nothing else except writing.
I read everything, I watch everything, and all of that fuels the creative pot, I think for helping plot ideas.
MW: How many books have you written total? Do you have favorites?
JS: Do you know, I'm not even sure how many I've written, lol. I don't keep track. I do have favorites, for certain. Nobody But You, Forever and a Day, and the upcoming Sweet Little Lies. I don't know why I don't keep track. Maybe because there aren't enough hours in the day. Writing with kids. . .well, we both know parenting is more an exercise in crisis management than anything else.
MW: Do you treat writing like a 9-5 desk job or do you work according to when creativity strikes? In other words do you spend all-nighters cracking away when the story is speaking to you or do you have a start and quitting time and try to keep the muse on a regular schedule?
JS: I do treat writing like a job but definitely not a desk job. I don't have a desk. I write on a laptop and because I'm ADHD, I move around a lot. I write at the lake, at the river, at the cliff, on my deck in my sweats and bunny slippers, on my couch in front of a roaring fire with a dog on each foot. . . As for being strict about the times I write, well that isn't easy. I write at home with a full house, chaos all around me. I use earbuds and a sound app so that I can drown out the sounds of the family with the more soothing sounds of waves crashing on a beach. I tell them to interrupt only if they must, and only if there's blood. And by blood, I mean arterial blood. They do their best.
MW: What's your favorite genre to read in when you're not reading romance? Who are some of your favorite writers and or books?
JS: My favorite genre to read is romance but I'll read anything and everything including the back of a cereal box.
MW: What advice do you have for aspiring romance writers or aspiring writers in general?
JS: The biggest advice I have for aspiring writers is to write, write, write. There's just absolutely no other way to hone the talent.
For the win. . .
MW: Who or what inspires you?
JS: As for what inspires me, it's everything. I read books. I read magazines. I watch TV. I watch movies. And I inhale all of it. Also living life. I think you can't really write about life unless you're out there living it.
MW: What are the things that people automatically assume about you because you write romance?
JS: Things people assume about me because I write romance ... if we're talking about people who DON'T read the genre, then the biggest misconception is that I am familiar with the 50 Shades trilogy because I too must write erotica.
MW: Dogs or Cats?
JS: Dogs. But only because I don't have to kiss up to my dog to get him to love me. I definitely have to kiss up to my cat to get any love.
MW: Mascara or lipstick?
JS: Neither for 90% of the time. If I'm out there at a conference, probably maybe some mascara and that's about it.
MW: Cake or ice cream?
JS: COOKIES. Always cookies.
MW: Sea or sky?
JS: Gah... do you really want to make me pick? Sky. Sea. Dammit. It's a tie.
MW: Favorite family tradition?
JS: Any of the activities we've done together. Skiing. Four-wheeling. Eating. Watching movies. Living, loving, even fighting.
MW: Biggest fear?
JS: Spiders. Without a doubt.
Jill's next book, Nobody But You:a Cedar Ridge Novel, releases on March 28th. You can read more about Jill Shalvis and her work at http://jillshalvis.com