Jill Kemerer writes “sweet, emotional, sparkling romance novels.” Her seven completed manuscripts include contemporary category romance as well as romantic suspense.
Jill grew up in the Midwest and fell in love with romance novels when she was thirteen. She attended Saginaw Valley State University where she graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. After working as a Control Systems Engineer for a few years, Jill realized that wasn’t for her and resigned in order to raise her children and pursue her dream of writing.
A self-professed hopeless romantic, Jill married her high school sweetheart. She and her family live in southeastern Michigan along with a guinea pig and a gigantic, fluffy, spoiled Himalayan cat named Cookie.
When Jill isn’t busy mothering her two young children or putting her characters in peril, she likes to read, take walks, crochet and indulge in Jamocha Almond Fudge ice cream.
Join me as we learn more about Jill and her writing journey.
Jill Embarks on Her Journey
•You wanted to write since you were twenty and discovered Harlequin romances. You quit your job several years ago to raise your children. When they started school, you were finally able to pursue your dream of writing. What thoughts went through your mind? Did you experience any doubts or simply sheer delight?
I’ve had many doubts over the years. Writing books as a career seemed as foreign to me as acting in movies. However, once I got the notion in my head, it wouldn’t go away.
And yes, sheer delight overwhelmed me from the second I started writing my first romance, which I decided would have no conflict and the hero and heroine would only experience good things. The book ended at page twenty. Needless to say, I had a lot to learn!
•You’ve been writing for three years now and have produced seven novel-length manuscripts as well as several short stories. Where did the idea for the first book originate? Was it a story dancing in your head for a long time, or did it come together once the demands of the job were behind you?
The idea for my first completed novel came to me after I read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. The only character I could relate to was a minor character, a downtrodden niece of a mean famous man. I thought, that girl needs a vacation, but she’ll never take one. My book, The Millionaire’s Island Captive, featured a hunky hero who kidnaps the niece of a mean old man. The hero whisks her away to his private island where they fall in love.
On your excellent blog where you offer “motivation and encouragement from one writer to another,” you shared that you’re a plotter. Since you’re an engineer, the fact that you’re organized and detail-oriented makes perfect sense to me. I’m sure your character charts, GMC lists, outlines, one- and four-page synopses, and scene charts are wonders to behold and would make other plotters smile and pantsers shake their heads.
•How much time do you spend plotting and creating your worksheets prior to starting a story?
I spend roughly one to two weeks researching my characters, plotting, and creating my worksheets. And, I can’t take credit for the concept. I adapted another writer’s Excel spreadsheet to accommodate portions of Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake plotting method, and I added my own character and scene charts to keep everything in one file.
•The idea of keeping scene charts intrigues me. What do you include in them? How much time does it take to maintain them?
The scene chart has virtually eliminated my problem with saggy middles and plodding pace. And when I take a few days off of writing, I don’t waste time getting back into my story or wondering what my characters are going to do next because the story is all laid out. The scene chart works well for me because it’s simple yet complete.
My scene chart has the following categories: Scene number, POV, Location, Scene Question, Scene Conflict, Plot Points, Chap/Scene.
The first section helps me keep track of how many scenes are in the book.
The point of view section helps me maintain a balance when I write in more than one POV.
Under Location, I list the initials of the characters, the day and time, and where the scene takes place.
The scene question can be tricky. Basically, what does the viewpoint character want in this scene?
The Scene Conflict tells why the viewpoint character can’t have it.
Plot Points tags sub-plots, external/internal conflicts, romance journey, faith journey, etc… This helps me see if a scene is necessary to further the plot or not.
Finally, the Chap/Scene shows me which chapter the scene takes place. For instance, if it’s the second scene in chapter 13, I’d write 13:2.
By the way, I include sequels in this list and just make a note that it’s a sequel.
Maintaining the scene list takes very little time. I’d say five minutes a day is generous. Naturally, some scenes will change during writing, but I stay very close to the plan and I update it each day when I finish my pages.
•I was impressed when I read that two years into your writing journey, you took a summer away from your writing to study craft. What led you to do so? What are some of the resources you found most helpful and why?
I’d received my first critiques, my first lackluster contest results, and my first rejection—all in a week’s time. At that point, I’d written four novels, and I was still in that lovely dream world where I thought maybe my first book would sell.
Reality kicked me in the ribs! I promptly went into humble mode, locked up my laptop, and checked out every writing craft book I could find at the library. I studied grammar, the writing life, plotting, scenes, conflict, editing, and even screenplay writing.
I wish I could say I became a master of craft in one summer, but for me, applying what I learn takes time. I’ll probably always be honing my craft. In fact, I should take every summer off to study!
As far as resources, two books really stood out for me: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. They gave me useful tools to take my writing up a level. I know you’re a fan of Self-Editing too, but I had to mention it because it’s my favorite writing book.
•What have been some of the highest highs on your journey so far?
Earning confidence in my writing. My last book came together for me in a way none of my earlier works had.
Another high was an extremely nice rejection letter I recently received from an editor. I practically hyperventilated—okay, I did hyperventilate–when I read “you’re clearly a talented writer…”
I also highly value the unexpected warmth of the writing community. I love meeting other writers, and I’ve been blessed with some great and supportive friends. And Keli, being interviewed on this blog is way up there on my high list!
•Like all of us pursuing publication, you’ve experienced some lows, such as the day you received your first rejection on your wedding anniversary. Ouch! How do you deal with the downsides of the writing life?
The biggest downside I’ve had to overcome is my insecurity with my writing. When I received my first rejection, I struggled with doubts. I prayed daily and wondered how I could have been so arrogant? Sometimes when I pray, I hear answers, right then and there in my head. Instead of hearing “give it up—you stink,” I heard happy laughter and “but I like your writing, even where it is right now.” Does that make sense? It was such a turning point. I realized I don’t have anything to prove.
This path is not about fame or bragging rights; it’s about sharing a bit of me. I aim to get published, and I do everything in my power to achieve that goal, but I’m relaxed about it. If it takes a few more years, that’s okay. This attitude has been such a blessing and has allowed me to bypass many self-induced valleys.
Partners on Jill’s Journey
•When you decided to write with the goal of publication, you joined a local writers’ group. What do you see as the benefits of participating in such a group?
Writers are generous, supportive, and they understand your ups and downs in ways others can’t. The first group I joined, Pen to Paper, helped me get started writing because we had assignments. We met twice a month, and I found the discipline necessary. The members taught me so much, and although I had to quit the group due to time constraints, I’m still good friends with them.
I’m a member of Romance Writers of America® and American Christian Fiction Writers and I recommend both. I’ve gotten resources, met other writers, and learned industry ins-and-outs from my local chapter, Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America.
•In addition to your writing associations, you also have some great critique partners. How did you link up? Are you able to meet, or do you exchange via email? What have been the greatest blessings of working with these women?
I’d been looking to join a critique group with like-minded writers for roughly six months when one of the bloggers I follow, Terri Tiffany, posted about critique groups. She seemed interested in belonging to one, so I contacted her. We felt three to four members ideal and quickly added two other fellow bloggers, Cindy Wilson and Wendy Miller. We set a few ground rules, the most important one being if anyone felt the group wasn’t for them they could quit at any time. Friendship is much more important to me than a critique partner, and sometimes a group isn’t a good fit.
I’m happy to say we all work well together, and I’m very thankful to the talented ladies who have helped me polish my work. It’s a joy to read their classy writing. My writing could never be described as literary! I wish we could all meet in person, but we live in separate parts of the country. Our critiques are all via e-mail.
Jill’s Journey Continues
•I noticed on your blog that you returned from RWA® Nationals last month having made the decision to focus on contemporary category romance rather than romantic suspense. Why is that?
Because I need to be beat over a stick to figure out what’s obvious? No! I’d submitted to Harlequin Romance and Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. The last few books I wrote helped me find my voice. I write small town, quirky characters. I don’t excel at gritty suspense or glamorous locations. The agent I pitched to offered good advice: to focus on one line. The editor I pitched to gave me honest feedback about my story line, and it hit me that I haven’t submitted to the line I’m best suited for: Love Inspired. I think I could become a good suspense writer, but at this point, my voice stands out in contemporary romance.
•What are you working on presently? A new contemporary or something else?
I’m preparing to rewrite a Christmas book I’d written with Steeple Hill Love Inspired in mind. It’s a funny, emotional book and I can’t wait to return to it.
•Are you in the process of submitting your works to contests, agents or editors?
Yes, I recently submitted the partial of my latest romantic suspense, The Lies that Bind, to an agent and an editor. I will enter it into one contest this summer.
Five Facts About Jill the Writer
~ I never write in PJs because I need to feel professional.
~ I snack on fresh fruit when I write because I could eat wood chips and not notice. I don’t want to waste the calories!
~ I keep an idea journal and add to it whenever something strikes me.
~ My writing makes me laugh out loud during my first draft, but I cringe while revising.
~ Sometimes when I’m in the writing zone, I get that first date, fluttery feeling. Isn’t that the best feeling?
Five Fun Facts About Jill the Person
~ I love to polka!
~ I used to live on a Civil War Battlefield and could practically see the ragtag Confederate soldiers picking their way through the overgrown forest.
~ My family has to drag me away from the rabbit barn at any county fair.
~ I’m fascinated with frugality. I may have read every book written on the topic.
~ I think the tradition of afternoon tea should make a comeback. Naturally, I’ll need a few servants, several friends to call (you’re all invited), and a big manor house to host it in, and maybe my hubby will need to be knighted?
Jill’s Question for You
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Jill. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors. What would you like to know?
What holds you back in regards to writing? Your own inner demons or outside constraints? Or maybe nothing holds you back? My hat’s off to you!
Learn More About Jill
Visit her blog – http://jillkemerer.blogspot.com
Visit her Web site – http://www.jillkemerer.com
Friend her on Facebook: Jill Kemerer
Follow her on Twitter: jillkemerer
Leave a Comment for Two Chances to Win
My Regular Drawing
My next drawing will take place August 10th. The winner will receive a set of thirty vinyl-covered paper clips and a set of six binder clips decorated with mock typewriter keys, a fun addition to any writer’s workspace.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by August 10th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On August 11th, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and July 31st. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On August 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)