Today the Suspense Sisters host an interview with award-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson. She says she writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. A popular speaker for conferences, writers groups, and civic and church groups, she delights to bring the “Ahah! Moment” to her students as they make new skills their own. Her current release is Betrayal on the Border from Love Inspired Suspense.
S.S: How long have you been writing?
My writer’s journey began as an introverted child with her nose constantly in a book. In the sixth grade, I was blessed with a teacher who perched on a stool at a certain time each day and read to the class from the most imaginative stories. Something in this process of hearing a story awakened a realization in me—I didn’t merely want to be a person who received pleasure from a good book; I wanted to be the person who gave that pleasure to others.
I knuckled down right away and wrote my first novel—a perfectly awful mystery about a group of kid sleuths. Not a shred of that manuscript yet exists, and the world is grateful!
In between then and now, the dream of becoming a published novelist was born and died several grizzly deaths, until finally my “fullness of time” came. When doing speaking engagements about my books, I tell folks that if God can bring a dream to pass for this nobody in particular from nowhere special, He can and will do it for you!
S.S: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?
I work full time outside the home, as well as holding down a writing career. At the day job, I’m the housing manager of a 36-unit senior apartment building, and I double there as the secretary (ahem—to be politically correct, the administrative assistant) to the CEO of the health care continuum that includes my apartment building. Madison Lutheran Home is the parent company of the hospital, nursing home, clinic, and senior housing complex.
I love being a writer. As related in my above answer, becoming a novelist was a long-held dream; however, I do enjoy my day job. It’s very fulfilling to feel like I’m helping people lead a better life longer. At Hilltop Residence we provide the best of both worlds—a complete private apartment (not just a bedroom), along with the services that help people age in place. We call it independence with peace of mind. Anyone ready to apply for residency? LOL.
S.S: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?
I think it was when I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (it was American Christian Romance Writers then) and no one laughed me out of the group. In fact, they seemed to “get” me in a way that I hadn’t realized I was hungry for. Wow! I realized there were other people out there who thought like I did—inventing characters and situations in their heads—and it was okay. Normal, even. Novelists are supposed to think like that. Whoot! Whoot!
S.S.: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author?
Currently, it’s my husband. Oddly enough, he’s not a book reader. Magazines and newspapers, yes, but not books, especially novels. All the same, he gets super excited every time I get a new contract, have a book come out, or win an award.
In the past, in fact all the way back to my childhood, my biggest cheerleader was my father. As I was growing up, he never had anything but encouragement for my writing aspirations, though I often doubted myself.
Sadly, he passed away when I was in my freshman year in college, but I dedicated my debut novel to him in the following words: To my dad, Robert Field, who always thought I could make it as a writer. He is no longer on earth to see this day, but I trust he knows in heaven.
(Sheesh! I’m kind of tearing up just reading those lines again.)
S.S: Why suspense? Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?
As I related above, my first [dreadful] novel was a mystery, which is a genre closely related to suspense. Tales of mystery and suspense have always been my preferred genre to read and to watch as movies or TV shows, so it’s come naturally to me to write suspenseful stories.
However, I do write in other genres. I have an unpublished contemporary women’s fiction manuscript that I hope sees the published page one day. I also have a high fantasy series that truly are books of my heart. I’m convinced these will one day be published, even if under a pen name, so as not to confuse the readers who expect suspense from Jill Elizabeth Nelson.
S.S: How does your faith play into your writing?
My faith plays into everything I do. I never leave God out of anything. He is in me and I in Him. Forever. Amen!
Every writer has a worldview and that view cannot help but creep into our stories. My life is centered around Jesus Christ. He is the most precious thing to me. That said, I don’t feel the need to make my stories evangelistic tracts. Such an approach would defeat the purpose of a novel, which is to tell a story. But the best stories convey truth wrapped in a package that stirs our souls. No wonder Jesus chose parables as one of His favorite ways to communicate with people!
S.S: Tell us about your current release, Betrayal on the Border.
I had a great time writing this story about my ex-Army Ranger heroine and her investigative reporter hero. Here’s Betrayal on the Border in a capsule:
Former army communications specialist Maddie Jerrard may not remember the details of the deadly mission on the Texas-Mexico border, but she knows one thing. She's not the one responsible for the massive ambush that left only her and investigative journalist Chris Mason alive. Maddie is sure the culprit must be the only other survivor—Chris. Yet with suspicion—and danger—targeting them both, and a killer on their trail, partnering up is the only solution. But as Maddie and Chris get closer to uncovering the truth, they'll have to trust each other to make it through alive.
S.S: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?
A couple of things: It’s never too late to learn to trust again, and God can bring good out of the blackest situation. Maddie starts out thinking the situation is hopeless on both of these counts. Gradually, despair fades before renewed faith—a journey through which I hope my readers find encouragement and enjoyment.
S.S: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
Well, Maddie, of course. An early reviewer put the matter nicely, calling her an “intriguing role reversal.” Writing a hero capable of coping with this female ex-Army Ranger with his manhood intact was a fun challenge. Apparently, I did okay at it. The same reviewer called Chris “a hunky hero who is man enough to follow a capable woman.”
S.S: What are you working on now?
I had a call from my agent a few days ago. Love Inspired Suspense is contracting me for two more books. I don’t yet know when they release.
The first of the two, tentatively titled Shadow of Suspicion, features as the hero a secondary character from Betrayal on the Border—David Greene, a man suspected of murdering his girlfriend. The trouble is, even David doesn’t know for sure he’s innocent. Back when the murder happened he was a heathen with an attitude and a drinking problem. He was found passed out cold beside the dead body and no recollection of events.
The tragedy threw him into the arms of the Lord, but unless he can prove his innocence to himself and to a public that has already judged him, he might as well graduate to heaven for all the life he’ll be able to enjoy. His determination to uncover the truth endangers himself, as well as a woman he is growing to love and her young daughter.
Then the following book features a secondary character from Shadow of Suspicion, a beautiful but troubled woman seeking to overcome a dark and sad family heritage. I’m excited to write about the setting on Martha’s Vineyard. My readers and I will have lots of fun with rumors of pirate treasure and secret pasts.
S.O.S.: Where can readers find you on the internet?
Readers can visit me on the web at: www.jillelizabethnelson.com or look me up on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JillElizabethNelson.Author or Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JillElizNelson. I love to hear from readers.