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Kindle Author Interview: Jill Metcalf

Jill Metcalf, author of Family Reunion, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Family Reunion?

JILL METCALF: Family Reunion is a romance set in 1890's Virginia, USA. While it is a stand-alone book, it is a sequel to Spring Blossom and tells Jennifer's story. Jennifer is the youngest of four sisters. She is feisty and demonstrates a determination that challenges the attitudes of the times.

Chad Moran is a long-time friend and neighbour of the Downing family. He is a young lawyer who was enjoying success and showing great promise within the Richmond law community. A serious accident leaves Chad dependent on a wheelchair. He immediately gives up his law practice and returns to his family home, basically desiring to become a recluse.

Through persistence, and with humour, Jennifer becomes embroiled in Chad's life again. As a girl, she had admired him. As a woman, Jennifer falls in love. And, against his better judgement, Chad comes to love her deeply.

Together they overcome numerous obstacles associated with Chad's disability and the prejudices of society.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

JILL METCALF: Generally I get a mental image of my lead characters. Thoughts of them will roll around in my imagination, often for weeks, and their personalities and back-stories develop from there. From those back-stories other characters associated with each begin to flesh out. I then begin making notes of each character, their appearance, their own backgrounds, etc. The association of each character with the hero and heroine lead to additional story events.

Often just a simple every-day event, a spoken word, an image, something in a particular piece of music, can trigger a character image in my mind. It's a bit like a lightning strike, except it isn't painful and it's not dangerous...in fact, it's fun and challenging.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

JILL METCALF: I imagine my ideal reader to be someone who enjoys tender stories with family highs and lows mixed in with love and passion, conflict and resolution.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

JILL METCALF: When I think back, I've written since I was a young girl. I wrote a lot of poetry, back in the day, and I think I get that from my grandfather. I still have copies of the poetry he wrote.

And I've always been a reader as far back as I can remember, plus I love history. History and romance just naturally go together for me. I started writing novels during an extended illness in the 1980's after I had read a book I did not like and decided, in my arrogance, that I could do better. After returning to work full-time, I continued writing and learning about the craft and the industry, mainly through trial and error in the beginning. I didn't have any author acquaintances at the time so I was really flying on my own.

I did attempt to approach publishers myself in the beginning and received my share of rejections. But I also received some very helpful guidance. Eventually I gained the attention of an agent in New York and quickly received a contract offer; which I happily accepted, of course.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

JILL METCALF: My first manuscript was written by hand using three-ring binder paper and a package of Bic pens. Then I graduated to a typewriter and eventually a computer.

I now compose my stories using my computer but I continue to hand-write everything I know about individual characters on 3 by 5 recipe cards. I find the cards a handy reference tool and will often also use them to keep track of historical dates or events.

I always know the beginning and the end of a story and the middle develops as I work along. But I have had the middle of a story come to mind first, believe it or not.

I start with a brief, point-form outline and go back to the beginning when that is done. I then start filling in details and events and my characters continue to develop during this process as well. Sometimes the characters will take the story in a different direction and surprise me. That's always fun.

I will go through the story several times, looking for better ways to say something, expanding on descriptions of history, locations, and, of course the characters, their conflicts and the romance.  

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
    
JILL METCALF: Now there's a tricky question. Let me say that I read across a variety of genres and I am greatly inspired by a huge variety of authors whose work I love. As a writer of historical romance, I think I was most influenced by Kathleen Woodiwiss and Lavyrle Spencer. 

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

JILL METCALF: Whitney My Love by Judith Mcnaught. My first print copy fell apart, partly because I read it so many times and partly because my puppy got his teeth into it. I purchased a new copy last year.
    
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

JILL METCALF: I'm just getting started in the process of marketing my work on the digital platform. I'm currently re-issuing my backlist and now have two books available at Amazon.com with more backlist books to come soon. I also hope to self-publish new stories in the near future.

I am active on Facebook and Twitter@jillmetcalf. I have my webpage and a Blog. I'm also a member at BacklisteBooks, which is a great, reader-friendly site populated by a large number of terrific authors. I am just now starting to do interviews (this is the first and thank you so much) and will be looking to do features of my work at various sites. I also visit and post at Goodreads and the Kindle Community Boards.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

JILL METCALF: The Kindle has such a huge market and seems one of the most popular e-readers. Plus there is a huge variety of books available worldwide to readers of ebooks through Amazon.com and Amazon makes it quite easy for self-publishing authors to offer their work; having said that, it is easy once an author understands the world of formatting for e-readers. It's very different from print publishing submissions. I was fortunate to have a mentor in Marsha Canham and all the terrific authors at BacklisteBooks.com who shared their experience and knowledge with me.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

JILL METCALF: Become involved with authors who have experience and are willing to share their knowledge and experience with digital publishing; it's a whole new world and has so much to offer. Learn the art of formatting and closely review your finished work before posting; programs can cause fluky formatting problems that are difficult to detect.

Have eye-catching new covers designed and actively promote the work, particularly on sites most appropriate to the story.

Most of all...love the process, have fun, and let readers get to know you.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR  

Jill Metcalf lives near Toronto, Canada, 20 miles from the village in which she was raised. She is the award-winning author of five novels and one novella, all published in the 1990's. Now retired, Jill's favourite vacations where throughout the United States, researching locations for her stories. Jill has recently entered the digital world and her first out-of-print books, Spring Blossom and Family Reunion, are available at Amazon Kindle. Spring Blossom was one of the two launch books for Berkley's highly acclaimed Homespun Series of books, noted for "Romance From The Heart Of America."

Visit her website, read her blog, find her on facebook, and follow her on twitter.

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