Hawaiians have a perfect word for gathering with family, friends and neighbors to share stories, opinions, or just plain gab; they call it "Talking Story" or Wala'au. Jill Marie's lanai is where a lot of neighborhood wala'au takes place.

Here are the answers to some of the questions you might ask if you stopped by to wala'au with Jill Marie.

Will your former readers enjoy your new "inspirational" books? What does "inspirational" mean exactly?

The romance is still the focus of the inspirational novels, along with a message of inspiration and faith. I find that the genre perfectly lends itself to stories of the Old West where pioneers tackled the hardships of rebuilding lives in a raw new land that took from them as much as it gave. People relied on each other, their courage, and their strong faith. Inspirationals are full of romance but no graphic love scenes.

I've been known for creating characters in situations that illicit deep emotion. My one goal when writing is to move memorable characters through page-turning plots. I believe that's what I've accomplished in HOMECOMING. I think readers who thought SUNFLOWER, COME SPRING, and SUMMER MOON were keepers will really enjoy HOMECOMING as well as the IRISH ANGEL SERIES.

And how about your mysteries? Are readers happy with them?

I love including Hawaiian island lore and a tropical scene. That's what I try to accomplish in the TIKI GODDESS MYSTERY SERIES. According to reviews, I'm succeeding. The novels feature a quirky cast of eccentric characters that I have a ball creating. Do readers enjoy them? I wish I could write as fast I people can read. As soon as one title in the series comes out, readers are clamoring for another. The books are quick "beach reads," heavy on comedy and light on mystery and follow the adventures of the Hula Maidens, a gaggle of amateur sleuths who get themselves into one fix after another on the North Shore of Kauai. There's a hint of a romance between one of the major characters and a handsome detective, but it's really a slow burn since these are, after all, in the mystery genre.

Have you always wanted to be an author, or did you have another occupation in mind before you began writing?

I've written something since I learned how. I penned my first romance in junior high school. It was about a surfer babe and her boyfriend and it was passed around and never came back to me. (I was dumb enough to have only one copy, written in long hand. We didn't have copiers back then--except for a few monks locked in a nearby monastery.) Journalism was my favorite class at Long Beach Poly High School. I was on the newspaper staff all three years.

Were you ever a struggling author? How long did it take you to get published?

I never struggled in the sense that we were starving and I had to sell to eat. It took me three years from the day I set a goal of becoming published in paperback historical romance--three years from the day I first committed to writing full length fiction and sending it out.

I'd almost finished a complete novel when I signed up for a Novel Writing Workshop at Long Beach City College, our local community college. The instructor was Frank Gaspar, a celebrated, award winning poet and writer, who taught us how to texture our work and make it come alive. I completed my first book as a class project and started the second, SUNFLOWER, which became my first published novel.

I entered SUNFLOWER in the Romance Writers of America unpublished writers' Golden Heart Contest. The proposal not only won the Golden Heart in 1986, but I sold the book to Damaris Rowland, now an agent, then an editor at Berkley/Jove, an imprint of Putnam Books. It was a wonderful and rewarding experience.

Why Romance?

I started writing historical romances because of a love of history and because I got into the habit of reading bags of paperback Regency romances, Western romances, any historical romances I could get my hands on in the late 70's and early 80's. Those classics included books by Devereaux, Lindsay, Woodiwiss, McBain and Spencer. After a while, I was inspired to write one myself. (Sounded easier than it was!).

Many people asked, "Why historical romance?" and the answer is that I've always loved researching and have a B.A. degree in History from Cal State University, Long Beach, California.

I chose the romance genre because the books are about a hero and heroine committing to a relationship. Each story promises a guaranteed happy ending. I'm a firm believer that we make our own choices in life, and no matter what those choices might have been in the past, each of us are continually offered new chances to learn, grow, work hard, and earn our own happy endings.

What do you believe are the three essential ingredients in writing a romance novel?

Emotion, emotion, emotion. In that order.
And memorable characters.

What are your writing goals now?

My goal has always been, and continues to be, to write character driven, emotional page turners. Over the years, I've added more viewpoints and mainstream elements, given characters deeper problems, and raised the stakes for them. Showing strong heroines is important for me. I write about women who have had to struggle and overcome incidents in their pasts from which they learn and gain strength and wisdom.

Tell us about your creative process and where you get your ideas?

My creative process is all over the board. I get ideas from the news, magazine articles and photos, real life experiences, people watching, dreaming, feelings, thoughts, and inspiration.

Do you start with the characters or the story line? Do you work from an outline?

I start with a premise. Is it love or blood that makes a family? Can a woman survive alone after being abandoned in a foreign land? For my first Inspirational romance, recently completed and due out in 2008, I asked the question: What happens when a former Comanche captive is "rescued" and she doesn't want to be? How is she reintroduced to a vastly different culture? What does she experience as she begins to remember her former life and her faith?"

Then I build the characters by asking: What do they want? Why have they chosen these goals? What is keeping them apart? What keeps them from attaining their goals? (This is the conflict.) How do they change from the beginning to the end of the novel? I try to know my characters as well as I know my best friends and show those characteristics to the reader.

Then I research the setting and time period or if the book is contemporary, the occupations and lifestyle I've chosen for my characters.

What do you like to read?

I read mainstream popular fiction as well as literary fiction. Reading all kinds of books broadens my scope of what's out there and also makes me push myself in my own work. Of course, I still read romance and try to keep up with reading my friends' books.

What keeps you from getting bored with writing?

After over twenty years, I'm still thrilled to be doing something I love so much. I'm able to work at home using my creativity in a way that never feels like real work. I used to teach kindergarten. That is truly a JOB and not an easy one. My hat goes off to all the teachers out there working in the trenches while I get to stay at home and make things up. I also get to wear what I want to work, which usually ends up being flannel pajamas, a tee shirt or a sweatshirt.

Do you write full time? Do you have a schedule? What's your typical day like?

I consider myself a full time writer so I try to write daily. I am on a two book a year schedule right now and write at least ten pages a day on weekdays. But let's face it, some days are meant for playing or catching up with real life. When I'm not in the mood to write, I get outside or work on other kinds of projects, like quilting, painting, dancing hula or gardening. I think focusing other projects gives my subconscious time to figure out the next scenes in my latest writing endeavor. Walking is good for brainstorming.

As far as having a schedule, I try to get right to work in the morning. I usually sit in bed with my coffee and make notes on the scenes I plan to write before I get up and get to the computer. I answer business emails. Then I start writing where I left off the day before. I edit as I go along. I'd rather see the page count build. I write to the end of the first draft, about 435 pages or so, before I line edit. After the first edit, I read through and edit a couple of more times. I usually write the very last scene of the book when it's completely finished.

Have you ever encountered writers' block?

There are days when I really don't want to work, but if that goes on too long, I make myself sit down and write anything, no matter how rough it is. Eventually, I snap out of the funk and at least have something to edit. Facing the blank screen can be terrifying, so it's better to write anything rather than wait for perfect scenes and sentences. My motto is "You can fix it later, so just keep going."

Catherine Coulter has said that a writer is "blocked" because something is not working. She's in the wrong place in the book, in the wrong character's point of view, the wrong scene, or the wrong story.

If you find yourself stalled, try a change of location. Try writing long hand or on a lap top in a garden, on the beach, in the woods, in a park, at the library, in the living room…wherever. Maybe you have a favorite spot on your porch where you can work. Or create an inspirational writing corner in your room.

What's your least favorite part of being a writer?

My least favorite part of writing is the business and promotional obligations that demand writing time. I would love to write and forget about interviews, writing articles, making bestseller lists, appearances, and book signings. But books have to be promoted to find their way into readers' hands. If you are a private person, it's hard to put yourself out there and be "on" for the public. I think most writers are private people or they wouldn't like being alone for hours on end while writing.

I do enjoy seeing all my writing friends at conferences and if it wasn't for the appearances and signings, I'd never get to chat with readers about what they like to read and why. And, promotional appearances do force me to get out of those pajamas in the morning!

What advice can you give aspiring writers?

Learn the craft of writing! Know grammar. Know point of view. Save yourself a lot of heartache and go to school. If you don't have the basic skills, get out and learn them. Join Romance Writers of America if you are writing romance. www.rwanational.org

What's the best advice someone ever gave you?

Get to the end of the book and learn to love revising.

If you weren't a writer, what would you be?

I'd probably be a mental patient because writing keeps me sane. Seriously, I would be in some other creative line of work. Or I'd teach writing.

You've written historical romances, contemporary romances, and now inspirational romances. Which do you like writing best? How long will you keep writing?

All of the above. I enjoy the process of writing, coming up with new characters, plot lines, and the challenges that come with adapting them to different subgenres of the romance genre. It's still a thrill to hold a completed manuscript in my hands, even better when a new cover arrives in the mail, or I see one of my books on sale.

I'll probably keep writing until my fingers fall off or I forget what the computer is for, whichever comes first.

Any last word to your readers?

Mahalo! Thank you for spending time while I wala'au.

A big thanks to all of you for taking the time to read this, to buy and read my books, and to continue to read, read, read.
Jill Marie Landis ©2020 All Rights Reserved.