Help me welcome Jill Eileen Smith. She is the bestselling author of the Wives of King David series, the Wives of the Patriarchs series, and The Desert Princess, first in the Loves of King Solomon series. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan.
A J: What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
Jill: Spending more time with my husband, traveling, seeing sites or doing things we haven’t yet experienced together.
A J: So much to see and so little time. God gave us a beautiful and fascinating world to explore. What are you currently reading? What is your favorite genre for personal reading pleasure?
Jill: I’m in the middle of several books right now. I’m reading a book for research on my next story, a non-fiction for my personal growth, several devotionals to encourage me in my walk with the Lord, and just began a novel by Julie Klassen. I have several favorite genres – historical, contemporary political thrillers, Christian romance, and once in a while fantasy.
A J: Your reading preferences are similar to mine. I’ve never known an author who wasn’t also a reader. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Jill: I have several books on my computer that have not yet been published. One is a contemporary women’s fiction, two are set in the 1920-30’s era, and one is about a third finished–an historical western. I’m partial to the 1920’s and 30’s and would like to pursue that someday as it was the era of my grandparents.
A J: Good to know that there are many more books by Jill Eileen Smith to come. How do you organize your writing day? So many hours per day writing? Use a word count to determine when to stop? Just write until you drop?
Jill: Currently, I am contracted to write one full-length novel and one novella a year – two different series. In order to meet those deadlines, I decide when I want to finish the first draft, divide how many months I have into word count per day, and go from there. I typically aim for 1000-1500 words per day/5 days per week. If I can do more, great. I usually aim to finish a first draft five or six months before it is due because I do three to six rewrites during the remaining months until deadline.
A J: Oh, to be so organized. You encourage me be more systematic in organizing my writing time. How do you do the research for your books? How does the research differ between historical or contemporary?
Jill: I start by reading the story in Scripture and any related accounts involving the characters. Then I read commentaries and books related to the life and times of the era. I have lists of my resources for some of my series on my website if anyone is interested. (The lists are on the book pages for each of the Wives of King David series under Bonus Features.)
Historical study requires a little more research, I think, than contemporary because you have to step into a different time and place where few people have visited except students of ancient history. Contemporary research can be difficult though because it requires keeping up with current day, with ever-changing culture and technology. Historical fiction writers don’t have to worry about their stories becoming dated. They are already dated. Contemporary writers can have their stories seem like historical tales too soon after they are in print.
A J: I agree that historical fiction writing has a slight advantage. In some says I find contemporary fiction more difficult. It is easy to use modern props that soon become outdated rather building a solid story. What facet of the writing craft comes easiest to you?
Jill: Editing. The first draft is the hardest for me. I enjoy editing and fixing the things I got wrong the first time around.
A J: I must admit to the opposite. I can write the first draft fairly easily, but the editing drives me nuts. Do you outline your books or let the story go where it wishes?
Jill: I cast my characters with actual pictures so that I can see who they are. Then I write very long paragraph summaries of the story – kind of a lengthy outline. But I don’t always follow that outline when I start writing. Once I get to know my characters, they tend to take the story where it wants to go—within the guidelines of Scripture.
A J: Before I began to write I thought writers very odd to say that their characters could take over the story, but now … well, now I guess I have to admit to being as odd as my characters also can drive the direction of the story seemingly on their own. What are you working on right now? Do you work on more than one book at a time?
Jill: I am working on a novella – Solomon’s Egyptian wife – due March 1, 2015. At the same time, I am beginning to research Ruth’s story, which is the next full-length story that is due in December.
A J: Solomon’s Egyptian wife, now that’s a Biblical character I’ve never thought about. Please plan to come back when that novella is published to tell us more. What lessons have you learned as a published writer?
Jill: Tough question. I guess the biggest lesson has been to trust God with the story. I had a lot more time to craft a story when I had no deadlines. Now, when a book is due by the end of the year, I don’t have the luxury to spend years in research or writing at my leisure. I have to keep to some kind of schedule and get the word count down despite life’s interruptions. Some books are a huge challenge, and several times I have wondered if I could write the story. I prayed through every scene of Rebekah, and was fairly sure I would never finish Deborah’s story. But each time God saw me through it all. I just wish I could trust Him enough to avoid the angst along the way!
A J: When I have asked my non-writer friends to pray that I can convey God’s Scriptural truth through my fiction writing they often seem surprised. But more than writing a good novel, I also want to honor my God through my writing. What is the hardest part after the book is published?
Jill: I have been blessed with a very kind readership. But not every review is encouraging. So I have learned, in order to guard my heart, to avoid reading most reviews. If they are unkind, it can hurt more than it should. If they are too glowing, it can boost my ego. Neither is a wise use of my mental and emotional energy.
A J: That is a wise attitude toward reviews. I know that they can be helpful for people in deciding to purchase and read a certain book. But as you say, I’m not sure they are that useful for the author. What is it about your lead character that will make your readers care about him/her?
Jill: I hope my readers will come away with a better understanding of Rahab’s culture and realize the courage it took for her to trust two male spies, when she may have considered most men untrustworthy. I also hope that readers will see the spiritual struggles that both Rahab and Salmon faced and come away with a sense of God’s great grace. The trials they faced may seem different from ours when we see them from a distance, but when we look at the human character, we can see a lot of similarities. Betrayal, loss, fear, faith are all familiar feelings. I hope we can learn from their stories.
A J: Tell us about the story of The Crimson Cord.
Jill: The Crimson Cord, Rahab’s Story, tells the story of the prostitute Rahab as recorded in the biblical book of Joshua. Rahab is involved with the fall of Jericho and through an act of courageous faith saves herself and her family. The story takes us back to how she became a prostitute in the first place and her journey from the depths of despair to a relationship with the God who loved her from the start.
A J: Please give us the backcover of the book.
Jill: “Rahab’s story is one of the most moving redemption accounts in Scripture. The Crimson Cord perfectly captures all the drama of the original, fleshing out the characters with care and thought. Jill’s storytelling skills kept me reading late into the night. A beautiful tale, beautifully told!”–Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night
Wife to a gambler who took one too many risks, Rahab finds herself sold as a slave to cover her husband’s debt. Forced into prostitution, she despairs of ever regaining her freedom and her self-respect. But when Israelite spies enter Jericho and come to lodge at her house, Rahab sees a glimmer of hope and the opportunity of a lifetime.
In one risky moment, she takes a leap of faith, puts her trust in a God she does not know, and vows to protect the spies from the authorities. When the armies of Israel arrive weeks later, Rahab hopes they will keep their promise, but she has no idea what kind of challenges await her outside Jericho’s walls–or if she will ever know the meaning of love.
Under Jill Eileen Smith’s talented hand, the familiar story of Rahab bursts forth in high definition. Immerse yourself in a world of dark and dusty streets, clandestine meetings, and daring escapes as a mysterious biblical figure claims her full humanity–and a permanent place in your heart.
A J: What’s next after The Crimson Cord?
Jill: I just turned in the manuscript for Deborah’s story, book 2 in the Daughters of the Promised Land series. I am beginning research on Ruth’s story – book 3 in that same series. At the same time, I recently finished edits on e-book 2 in the Loves of Solomon series (The Shepherdess) and am finishing the 3rd novella in that series, which is due March 1st.
A J: WHERE TO FIND YOU ON THE WEB
Web site http://www.jilleileensmith.com
Thanks, Jill, for sharing this book with us.
If you want to have a possibility to receive a copy of Jill Eileen Nelson’s noval The Crimson Cord, leave a comment. Giveaway closes Sunday, February 22, 2015 at midnight (CST).