Today, I’m pleased to present an interview with author Judy Dearborn Nill, who recently released three of her Young Adult novels on Amazon: Simple Twists of Faith, Just for Kicks, and The Rise and Fall of Bibi Karstad.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 10. I was always trying to “rewrite” Nancy Drew and my other favorite stories. But about that time I also wrote a couple of short stories (one about a hamster monster and the other about a mermaid) which were graded down by my teacher because “hamsters are small creatures” and “mermaids don’t exist.” Reminds me of being in first grade, when my teacher told me I couldn’t color trees pink because they’re green. I think she forgot about spring!
Where do you get ideas for your books?
The initial inspirations often come from life experience. For instance, Just for Kicks couldn’t have been written without the martial arts training I did in two different dojos. But the stories take on a life of their own and wind up being about fictional people whose lives bear little or no resemblance to real people, real lives or real events. Characters, situations and locales simply “happen” as I’m writing. I don’t know much about where I’m going when I start, and I’m often surprised where I wind up.
When did you conceive the idea for your first book?
The summer before I entered grad school. I was reading the autobiography of a writer, and I suddenly felt I MUST start writing a novel. A scene popped into my head from grade school—playing softball in the broiling sun—and I sat down to write it. An editor at Scribner’s liked the story well enough to encourage me to revise it, which I did. Multiple times. At some point, he told me he just couldn’t look at it anymore; didn’t know what was wrong but it wasn’t working for him. I didn’t have the interest or time to really buckle down and learn the craft of novel writing then, so the novel was never published.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It may take only a few months for the first draft, but the revisions and the crafting take years.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
When I’m really into it (usually the later stages of a draft, as I near completion), I don’t want to have any other schedule. I don’t like to stop for eating or sleeping or anything else. I get so wound up, it’s difficult to settle down. But when I’m not into it (typically the early stages of a draft), I can be easily distracted. Any other activity appeals more than staring at a blank page or a contrary sentence.
What do you most like about writing fiction?
Finishing the story or the revision and knowing it’s really the best I can do at that moment.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Everything else. Particularly starting a story. I have difficulty keeping my internal editor from crippling me with scores of reasons why I shouldn’t be writing what I’m writing.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m the most compulsive reviser of anyone I know. I simply cannot look at anything, no matter how many times I’ve corrected it already, without wanting to tinker with it again. Not sure if this is interesting, but it is a quirk.
What do you like to do for fun when you’re not writing?
Read. Spend time with friends. Relax in beautiful surroundings. Take walks. Play games. Listen to music. Do crosswords. Watch movies.
What kind of books do you like to read?
So many different kinds, it’s hard to say. Classics, biographies, memoir, nonfiction of a spiritual nature (sometimes I read only nonfiction for months at a time), mysteries (especially by Julia Spencer-Fleming and Alexander McCall Smith), anything by Madeleine L’Engle or C.S. Lewis, lots by Anne Lamott, the C of E series by Susan Howatch, some YA, some literary. I could go on and on.
What does your family think of your writing?
My husband, my sister, and my family-in-law are among my most loyal supporters, although not all of them are big readers or readers of the kind of thing I write. My “family of choice” (i.e., friends) are also extremely encouraging, even if they don’t all volunteer to read my work. I’m very thankful for those who do, by the way.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That plots are lurking in me I never knew were there. I can tell a story which has a beginning, a middle, an end and a fair bit of suspense in between.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written five. At this time, three are published, one is under consideration for publication, and one is in need of serious revision (or proper burial!). I tend to think whichever one I’m working on is my favorite, but Simple Twists of Faith is probably my best. According to a multiply published author friend, “[Twists] may be the most important book you ever write.”
Do you have any suggestions to help young people who want to write? If so, what are they?
Let yourself fall in love with your own words if you must in the beginning (I did). But beware that your first attempts will need to be honed and crafted. Don’t be afraid of hard work. Start it earlier rather than later. Attend writing classes. Get into a constructive critique group or start your own. Read, read, read about writing. And pay attention to how the authors you admire do things; how they create a mood, set a scene, conduct a dialog, use flashbacks (or not).
How do you get an e-book published?
You have friends who push you into it! LOL. I don’t recommend doing it unless you have other writers to support you, to critique your work and offer constructive suggestions as well as to share the adventure. And I don’t recommend it unless you have above-average computer skills or know someone who does, and unless you really enjoy self-promotion and spending a lot of time online. But then…I don’t fit the enjoying computers and promo part of that profile, and I did it. Anything’s possible!
What advice do you have for those who want to become authors?
If you think you could enjoy doing anything else more than writing, do it. Writing is for those who are compelled to do it, whether it’s in a journal for only you to see or in a book which you hope the world will read.