Thursday, June 30, 2011

Author interview: Jennifer Hillier

I want to introduce you to a new author, a hugely talented thriller writer whose new book is brilliantly titled CREEP. I mean seriously, how perfect is that for a thriller?

I interviewed her via a series of emails, a more conversational back-and-forth. I did that because she has an amazing website and a blog, and most of my usual questions are answered there.

So without further ado. . . Jennifer Hillier:

You have a book coming out, called CREEP. July right? What's it about?

CREEP is a psychological thriller about a popular college professor who is stalked and terrorized by her teaching assistant. Whew! I’m getting better at my elevator pitch. This is my first novel and it will be out very soon – July 5!

That was way too coy... but we'll send people to your website to get more. Where did this idea come from? Were you a teacher? A stalker?

Ha, neither, but I did spend a few years working in the Registrar's offices of a couple different universities, which inspired the setting for CREEP. And I've always been fascinated by worst-case scenarios. What if you cheated on your boyfriend? That's bad, obviously. But what if you cheated on your boyfriend with Hannibal Lecter? That's about as bad - and scary - as it gets.

No kidding. Anything to do with Hannibal Lecter is worst-case-scenario! So how long from coming up with the idea to the finished product? And then how long to get an agent? And then how long to get a book deal? I've found that there's as much waiting as writing in this business, has that been your experience?

Oh, definitely. Like you said, it’s a business, which you don’t necessarily think about as you’re writing and focusing on being creative. There’s a lot of “Hurry up and wait!”
It took me 14 months to write the novel (I wrote a total of 7 drafts). I queried for 3 months, sending out almost 100 queries, half of which were rejected. After I signed with my agent, we worked on another 2 revisions before subbing to editors (which took 3 months), and then the book sold 2 months after we went on sub.

So, to summarize, I started writing the book in August 2008 and the book sold in June 2010. I can’t believe that was almost a year ago. Since then, I’ve worked on a round of edits with my editor, another round of edits with my copyeditor (he kicked my ass), and another two rounds of hardcopy edits. And here I thought I’d have it easy once the book was contracted!

As a business, will you be doing a lot of marketing? Do you like that side of it? Or are you one of those live-in-a-cabin reclusive writers?!

I would love to be a reclusive writer, but unfortunately I don't think that's realistic for any debut novelist these days. I don't particularly enjoy marketing and promo, but it's an important part of the job. I'll have to talk about the book next week at ThrillerFest, so somehow I'm going to have to get over my shyness between now and then! I do enjoy talking about writing in general, though, so conversations like this one are fun.

What about research, is that something you do much of in person? Do you like it? What's the most fun research thing you've done...?

Research can definitely be fun. For the new book (which will hopefully be out in the summer of 2012), I spent an afternoon at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. I interviewed the Superintendent and was able to tour the prison. It was an eye-opening experience, sad and strange all at the same time. For CREEP, I mainly drew on my experiences from my own university days, and read as much as I could about serial killers.

Ah, so you have an interest in serial killers, too? Why do you think that is? (I'm with you, by the way, absolutely fascinated by them...)

You are a kindred spirit. I think the fascination stems from the fact that serial killers are just wired so differently from regular, non-murdering people. They don't follow the same rules that we do, and they don't care that they're breaking the rules. It makes them fun to write...but I wouldn't want to live next door to one!

Well then, without getting too specific (don't want to give my serial killer readers ideas) tell us where you do live, and what kinds of things keep you busy when you're not writing.

I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, about forty minutes outside Seattle. Been here for going on four years now (I’m originally from Toronto, Canada) and it’s finally grown on me. I’ve discovered that the rain is good for writing!

As for what I do when I’m not writing, I read a lot (my fave authors are Stephen King and Jeffery Deaver), I watch a lot of movies (last one I saw was Super 8 – loved it!) and I hunt for new restaurants to try. I also love tennis. I’m watching Wimbledon right now.

I left England because of the rain, so you're a braver woman than I am. You're a braver woman than I am a man. Brave man. I'm not a brave man. Shoot, you know what I mean. :) Anyway, you mentioned a new book. What's it called (if you can share!) and what's it all about?

Haha! I don't know about brave, but the weather isn't for everyone. It definitely took some getting used to.

I would love to tell you all about the new book, but I can't without giving away the ending of CREEP. I will say that that the new book takes place a few years later, and many of the characters do return. I know, so cryptic, but I don't want to jinx it!

Okay, we'll just have to read CREEP and wait, then. So what festivities do you have planned for the launch?

I will be in New York at ThrillerFest next week as part of the Debut Author's Breakfast panel, and afterward there'll be a signing. I'm excited and nervous as these are both firsts for me! I'll also be meeting my agent and my editor for the first time - it's crazy to think how we've worked together for over a year now and yet I've never met them.

Well good luck and thanks for joining us!

Thanks for having me, Mark. This was a fun conversation!


  1. Thanks again for having me, Mark! Can't wait to get you in the hot seat someday soon. :)

  2. Great interview, guys! :D

    Jenny - Soooo excited for you!!! Can you believe it? Creep will be sending chills through countless of spines in a FEW DAYS! :D

  3. Wonderful interview! Have fun at Thrillerfest! I definitely can't wait to read CREEP.

  4. Great interview. I think Creep is an excellent title too. I've been a teaching assistant at a university, so this would be especially interesting for me to read.

    Good luck with the book, Jennifer!

  5. Whoa. Four rounds of edits after it's been accepted by the publishing house? This is the kind o nitty gritty info aspiring authors need to hear. Can't wait for the book and great interview!

  6. I was lucky enough to win an ARC of Creep and read it in one sitting. It's that good...and creepy. Jennifer is an incredible writer and I cannot wait to read more!

  7. Great interview. Lots of fun. CREEP sounds exactly like something I'd read. :)

  8. That was such a fun interview! I've read several of Jennifer's recent interviews and I think you asked some of the most interesting/fun questions I've seen.

  9. The word 'creep' can have so many meanings. Love it!

  10. This was such a great interview! I was lucky enough to get an ARC and I couldn't put it down (neither could my husband, who read it after me!). I still pre-ordered my hard copy, though! It was just that terrific!

  11. Thanks for stopping by, guys! And thanks again, Mark! Happy Independence Day!


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