It's that time again and boy have I got a Firsts Fridays doozy for you! If you don't know Jennifer Hiller yet, what are you waiting for? This girl is fab squared, just check her out (sadly I couldn't get her pic to download so I opted for her killer --no pun intended-- book cover instead). Head over to her blog to check out her beautiful face and much more.
DB: Congrats on your debut novel Creep! Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Jennifer was born in Toronto, which is where she spent the first three decades of her life. When her husband was offered a transfer to Seattle, she didn't know which would be worse: leaving Canada or moving to the West coast. She spent her first few months on American soil bemoaning her existence and writing her first novel. Now nicely settled in the Pacific Northwest, the only thing she misses — other than family and friends — is snow.
A member of International Thriller Writers, she's always been drawn to dark fiction, even though she sleeps with the lights on when her husband isn't home.
JH: Creep is a psychological thriller about a popular college professor who is stalked and terrorized by her teaching assistant. (Hey! I think I actually remembered my elevator pitch for once!)
DB: Ooo that really is creepy!
Can you tell us about the process for Creep being born, from the first write to becoming a debut author?
JH: I started writing Creep back in the summer of 2008. I woke up with an idea about a serial killer and thought I’d bang out a short story. What I ended up with was a first chapter. Five months later, I had a completed first draft. With the help of a workshop I took through Gotham Writers in NYC, I revised the heck out of it, and ended up with a pretty polished seventh draft by the fall of 2009. I was ready to start querying, but I was terrified to jump in, even though I had written a query letter and had a detailed spreadsheet with a couple hundred agents I’d researched all ready to go.
I queried close to one hundred agents over a three-month period, sending out my queries in batches of about twenty each time. Half the agents rejected me. Ten requested. One offered. I blogged about getting The Call here: http://www.jenniferhillier.ca/2010/02/call_08.html.
My agent and I worked on another two rounds of revisions for Creep before going on submission on April 30, 2010. My book sold exactly two months later. And now, a year later, the book is about to come out! Creep will be available in stores on July 5, 2011.
I still can’t believe it all really happened.
DB: I honestly never tire of hearing these amazing stories. Talk about motivation!
How do you go about writing? Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long did it take you to finish the novel?JH: On my own, I wrote seven drafts, which took fourteen months. Another two revisions with Victoria took an additional three months. I’m a pantster, but I’d love to be a plotter. As fun as it is to write a first draft organically (I love surprising myself!), second drafts are a nightmare for me. Once I get into the third draft, though, it’s fun, because by then the story structure is in place and it’s just a matter of making the prose as polished and shiny as possible. For my final draft, I print out the entire manuscript and read the whole thing out loud to myself. And I always edit with a purple ink pen.
DB: Did you read that readers? Even the successful ones have draft after draft.
What do you think has helped you develop your talent enough to become a published author?
JH: Workshopping helped a lot. I got my work ripped to shreds many times over, and while the feedback wasn’t always easy to take, it made my writing so much stronger (and my skin that much thicker). I also read extensively in my genre – I’m a huge fan of thriller authors like Jeffery Deaver, Chelsea Cain, and Greg Iles – and so I felt I had a good idea of what type of book would be marketable. In the end, I wrote the book that I really wanted to read.
DB: Can you tell us a little about your query letter and where you learned the most about queries?
JH: I spent a lot of time in Absolute Write’s Query Letter Hell forum reading and absorbing as much as I could about queries. I also read Janet Reid’s Query Shark blog religiously. In the end, though, I don’t think my query letter was all that strong – queries are ridiculously difficult to write! I tried out three different versions, and you can read them all here: http://www.jenniferhillier.ca/2010/03/which-query-got-me-my-agent.html. (Hint: Version A, which was actually the second version I sent out, was the one that piqued my agent’s interest).
DB: Now see, I thought that was pretty good:)
Do you have any fun plans for the debut of Creep? If so, how can we find out how to be a part of them?
JH: I’ll be at ThrillerFest in New York the same week that Creep is released (July 8 and 9) as part of the Debut Author’s Breakfast panel. Afterward, I’ll be signing books alongside my fellow debuts. I’m excited and nervous! I was at ThrillerFest two years ago when Creep was somewhere between the third and fourth drafts, and I can’t believe I get to go back this summer as a debut novelist. It’s so surreal… but in an amazing and wonderful way.
DB: I love it! I couldn't be more excited for you:)
Who is your agent and how do you like that working relationship?
JH: I’m repped by Victoria Skurnick of Levine Greenberg. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the woman kicks ass! We’ve been working together for over a year now and have developed a really strong relationship. She’s been in the publishing business a long time, and her advice is always spot-on. Plus she makes me laugh. I’ll be meeting her for the first time at ThrillerFest, and I can’t wait to give her a big fat hug for all her hard work.
DB: That gave me cold chills Jennifer! You get to finally meet her!
Just for fun…
What is something we just have to know about you?
JH: Hmmm… not that this is a big secret, but my favorite movie of all time is The Princess Bride. I can find a quote from that movie to suit any occasion. I’m always surprised when someone tells me they’ve never seen it. INCONCEIVABLE!
DB: Haha...well I HAVE seen it. I get your obsession!
JH: Thanks so much for having me, Deana! Since my book doesn’t come out for another two weeks, I’d love to offer one of your blog readers an ARC of Creep. I’ll do a random drawing for anybody who comments below, winner to be selected on June 21st.DB: How cool is that? Even I can be suprised at my own interviews!