Writer's Refuge

Author Spotlight: Jill Willis

Hello! I hope everyone has had a pleasant October! The autumn colors have seemed more vibrant in my area of Montana this year, even considering we lack the plethora of reds I enjoyed growing up in New England. 😉 But praise God, that He makes different kinds of beauty in all areas of the world for us to enjoy. 🙂

Today, I have Jill Willis with me, a fellow critique partner whose debut novel recently released with Redemption Press. Congratulations, Jill, on your book, The Demons Among Us. It has such a unique slant, touching upon the supernatural as it interacts in and with the natural. This isn’t often seen in the Christian market. Tell us about the book and what was the initial seed that generated the plot.

Jill: Thank you. And congratulations on the release of Tinsel in a Twist. Ribbons and bows! I love it! I’ve been recommending it to everyone. The Demons Among Us spotlights two teen siblings who battle inner demons. They’re so self-absorbed they don’t recognize that real demons have infiltrated their school and are recruiting their friends to worship Satan. It’s a Christian story about peer pressure, friendship, and sacrifice. I outlined the initial manuscript as a contemporary look at a typical teen day without paranormal happenings. Then I asked myself, “What if Joy and Daniel’s battles aren’t just internal, but also external?” The story quickly morphed into the supernatural, and the antagonist received a whole new layer of evil. From that point forward, the manuscript wrote itself with multiple appearances from the spiritual realm.

Your characters maneuver through some heavy issues in your book, like pill-popping, smoking joints, lying to parents and authorities, alopecia areata, and more. What spurred you on to tackle these issues?

Jill: The drug and deception issues reared their ugly heads during our kids’ teen years. Thankfully, our kids made it through that season unscathed, but one of their friends ended up in jail and another lost his life. I believe we should talk openly about issues such as these and not try to hide their existence as something that doesn’t happen to believers. It does. As for the alopecia, I wanted Joy to have something that she couldn’t control because her character likes to be one step ahead of everything.

What message do you hope readers will take away from its pages?

Jill: Readers will find a Bible verse on the page before the first chapter. It’s from 1 Peter 5:8, which says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” I hope readers take this to heart. Satan is 24/7 in his quest for our souls. We must stand firm against him. Also, I’d like readers to camp out in one of the later chapters where Joy and her friend have a solid heart-to-heart. They learn the meaning of choosing joy in their lives. This is based on Habakkuk 3:17-18, which explains how the prophet commits to trusting and praising God despite his circumstances.

Many times, hearing the backstory on how an author became published can encourage other writers still in the query trenches or logging endless hours on manuscripts. What does your own path to publication look like?

Jill: I started an outline nine years ago and completed a first draft two years later. I showed it to my Bible study friends and beta readers. They had lots of suggestions, so I tweaked the manuscript. Then my life got busy, and it sat for a few years. I joined the local chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers in 2016 and listened to the presenters speak each month on the writing craft. I soon realized that my story needed a lot of work. I revised the story again, and pitched it agents and publishers at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference (BRMCRC) in 2017. No one bit, but several generous souls offered tips. Another major revision. In 2018, I entered several writing contests and received great feedback from the judges. More revisions. I entered more contests in 2019. Lots of helpful feedback and the inevitable revisions. Then in 2020, The Demons Among Us won two contests! At the COVID-postponed BRMCRC in November 2020, I met with the publisher of Redemption Press. She loved The Demons Among Us and forwarded it to her managing editor, who gave it a thumbs up for publication. I signed a contract with Redemption Press on Christmas Eve 2020.

Now there’s a wonderful Christmas present! And what a great testimony giving credence to that age-old adage of patience and hard work paying off. 🙂 So, what does a typical writing day look like for you, and what do you find to be the greatest challenge as a writer? If you could tell your younger self any piece of writing or publishing advice, what would it be?

Jill: Because my husband works in downtown Atlanta, we get up at 5:30 a.m. so he can beat the traffic. I read a devotion and pray, then exercise. Depending on the day, I’ll walk around the neighborhood, take a Pilates class, or lift weights. After showering, I start writing. I’ve found that I’m freshest in the morning. I write until my eyes cross, usually mid-afternoon. Some days are more productive than others, but I do try to write something each day. My greatest challenge is to stick to this schedule. Life gets in the way. But I’ve found that if I treat writing as a job I’m more productive. If I could give my younger self advice, it would be to start writing at an earlier age and stick with it.

What were your favorite novels/authors growing up? What/who do you enjoy reading now as an adult?

Jill: I loved reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden novels when I was a teen. Today I read a wide variety of authors. My favorites are Frank Peretti, Creston Mapes, Ted Dekker, Laura Gallier, Karen Kingsbury, Terri Blackstock, Francine Rivers, and Stephen James. Visit me on Goodreads and view my library of read books.

Tell us something people may not know about you that they might find interesting or relatable or inspiring.

Jill: I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I love to play handbells at my church. I’m most at peace with a bell in each hand.

I’ve always found it fascinating to watch a group playing handbells. And what a beautiful sound! Do you have any other stories in the works, related or unrelated to The Demons Among Us? Are you free to tell us a little about them? 😉

Jill: I’m working on a sequel to The Demons Among Us. Joy and Daniel join their friends on a mission trip to Costa Rica over the summer. Guess what they encounter?

Time for some This or That:

  • Coffee or Tea?  Coffee, and lots of it. My favorite order at Starbuck’s is a grande skinny vanilla latte with almond milk.
  • Introvert or extrovert?  Extrovert
  • Summer or winter?  Summer
  • Lakefront or oceanfront property?  Ha! I live on a lake, but prefer the ocean.
  • Mountain or city view?  In my mid-twenties, I lived in an apartment overlooking Atlanta’s famous Peachtree Street. I loved to watch the July 4th Peachtree Road Race from my balcony. With that out of my system, I now prefer a mountain view.
  • Meat & potatoes, or veggies & tofu?  Veggies and fish
  • Paperback or ebook or audiobook?  Ebook
  • Favorite color?  Red
  • Favorite animal?  Cat. I own a fat, one-eyed orange tabby named Bella. She appears as a mischievous kitten in The Demons Among Us.
  • Ideal vacation destination?  Europe. I love to explore the old cities.
  • Ideal home décor?  Transitional. And I love to decorate for the seasons. Right now, my home is festooned with autumn arrangements, pumpkins, and cinnamon-scented candles.
  • Favorite hobby(ies)?  Photography and cooking. I love to experiment with both.
  • Favorite movie?  “Gone with the Wind”
  • Favorite Saturday attire?  Sweats that sport the Georgia Bulldogs logo
  • Favorite Christmas or birthday present to date?  My son, a former U.S. Marine, making it home for Christmas one year when he was deployed.

Thanks for chatting with me, Jill! It was fun getting to know a little more about you and your book. Readers, click here if you would like to buy a copy of The Demons Among Us. And if you would like to learn even more about Jill or follow her on social media, you will find her through the following:

A teen at heart, Jill K Willis’s day job is loving on her family. Her part-time job is freelance writing and editing. But Jill’s passion is writing fiction. She grew up in Atlanta and, after graduating from the University of Georgia, worked at a newspaper, a magazine publisher, and a large telecommunications company. After that, she ran a public relations agency. Six years ago, she sold the business and began writing fiction in earnest. She teaches Sunday School to teens and volunteers at the Atlanta Airport’s USO. Jill lives by a lake with her husband and a one-eyed cat. Her two adult children proof her manuscripts when they get bored.

3 thoughts on “Author Spotlight: Jill Willis

  1. Laurie, Thanks for sharing – I’ll likely purchase her book, since I find the concept similar to Frank Peretti, whose books I enjoyed. Pops

    Like

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