Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a native Brit, currently living in San Diego.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I don’t have much spare time and almost all of it is spent writing, marketing, and researching. When I do switch off for a while, I like to read and do crosswords and other puzzles; see – always into puzzles. Until a year ago, I was a good crafter and could turn a ball of yarn into almost anything and sell it, but two small hand surgeries put paid to that.
Do you have a day job as well?
I work full time in the world of finance, with a 120 mile round trip commute. Four hours of my day is spent on the road, which carves into my writing time and makes me unhappy.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I wrote my first story when I was 7. A kids story that my teacher loved. It gave me my first taste of writing for entertainment. I kept at it as I grew up, and attempted my first serious novel in 2007, after my English professor suggested I try to publish my work.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
The mystery genre chose me. I love all things mysterious and puzzling. I read mysteries and thrillers and watch the real drama crime shows on TV. I plot all the time.
Where do you get your ideas? Do you ever experience writer’s block? Do you work with an outline, or just write?
My ideas come to me from things I read about or hear in my daily life. I twist and turn them until I can fit them into a plot. Once I have motive, it’s off to the races. I also have a lot of nightmares, and much of what’s in my novels comes from these. When I immerse myself in murder for so many hours, it doesn’t usually result in pleasant dreams.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Growing up, I had one favourite author: Enid Blyton. I started reading at a young age, after I got entranced by her magical fairytale books, and never stopped. As an adult, the mystery genre intrigued me, and I read Lawrence Sanders, Sidney Sheldon, Sandra Brown, to name a few. I love to read new authors all the time.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
As a first time author, the biggest challenge for me was understanding the rejections and getting feedback as to what I needed to do to improve my work. Most rejection letters are one liners, if you’re lucky, with nothing to help you understand where you went wrong. I found that incredibly frustrating. When I met my publisher, and got my first rejection letter from her, I asked the editor for feedback. She was gracious enough to give it, and this unlocked the door for me. Once I knew where I’d gone wrong, I made corrections and pumped out a much tighter piece of work, which she went on to accept after resubmission.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
No. The rejections made my work better. If the manuscript I first submitted had been published I’d be cringing, so I don’t look back. I only look forward.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I use all the social media, plus I go to signings, conferences, festivals, and street faires. The entire rear window of my car is an ad for my book, for all those hours I spend on the freeway. I’m not sure any one thing works best, more that it takes a combined effort and it’s non stop. Marketing is hard work, it’s exhausting, but it is enjoyable. I expect to market my own work if I want it to sell. No one is more vested in the success of a book than the author.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Not yet. I do have a third completed manuscript I hope to have published. It’s another suspense called Hide and Seek. I recently finished this novel and set it aside after all the rewrites so I could clear it from my head, then go back to it after a good break and read it with fresh eyes. I learned early not to rush a manuscript to the publisher. For it to be my best work, I have to finish it and stand back for a while. If something about it sucks, I won’t be able to see it until I’ve put it aside, moved on to something else, and then gone back. Hide and Seek is waiting for me to go back. I’m sure it’s tight and ready, but I don’t want to rush it and waste the publisher’s precious time.
No Alibi is a suspense set in San Francisco, featuring homicide cop, John Doucette. When a young air stewardess is murdered, Doucette finds himself with a number of suspects, all caught up in the middle of a tangled mess of deceit and betrayal. Doucette’s investigation pushes him somewhere he doesn’t want to go, and dredges up a name he hoped he might never hear again.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
My first book, Madness and Murder, has real life elements woven all the way through it. So does my 3rd book, Hide and Seek, and the book I’m currently working on. No Alibi is 100% fiction, purely imagination.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I enjoyed every chapter, although I’d have to say the last chapter was my favorite. I thought I had the ending clear in my mind. In the last re-write, one of my characters decided I was wrong and surprised me. This changed the ending and I’m much happier with the result. Always listen to your characters. They tell you what they want to do. Not the other way round.
How did you come up with the title?
I wanted to make Doucette work hard. I wanted my characters to sweat when they realized they had No Alibi for the crime. I like short titles.
What project are you working on now? Will you have a new book coming out soon? Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I am working on Fatal Fury. This is a suspense novel set in Oxford, England. I changed the setting to give my readers a new angle on my books, take them across the pond, and show them my beautiful homeland. I will return to San Francisco for future novels.
My new book, No Alibi, is due out on April 15th, with Echelon Press. After the release of Madness and Murder, a lot of readers asked me for the return of detective, Mac Jackson. I’m pleased to say he makes a comeback in Hide and Seek.
I’m a bit of an eclectic type. I prefer stand alones to series. I might bring Jackson back in a third novel, I haven’t decided. I want to see how readers like Doucette. He’s very different to Jackson. As for a theme, I seem to be drawn to the character who struggles to fit in. I think this was/is me, after I moved to the States and got my first taste of prejudice. It hit me like a sledgehammer, made me think, “this is what some folk deal with every day.” It’s ugly, unkind, and unfair. It festers and changes your personality. You might become withdrawn, or openly angry. I channel those emotions into making my “weak” character stronger. I dislike cliques, clicks, “in-crowd” types, whatever you want to call them. I always root for the underdog.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism came in the early stages, when I let people read my first draft way before I should have. It was crap, and I cringe when I read it now. I had harsh critiquing at a writers group, where I was told, “I don’t like your characters, and I wouldn’t buy your book.” Ouch. The best compliment is when a reader asks, “when’s your next book out? I can’t wait.” This makes it all worth while.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I’m no expert to dole out advice. All I can say is this: Have motivation to write. Without it, you won’t emerge from the pile of rejections. If you have motivation, don’t let anything stop you. Lastly, never give up. The only sure way to fail is to quit.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you so much for your support, it makes it all worth while. Thank you for your patience. In this noisy world of writing, with the flood gates open for so many new books on the market, it must feel like an assault. Readers might feel overwhelmed with so many new authors clammering for their attention. Hang in there. Don’t stop reading. I know the volume is deafening. With all this noise comes opportunity; the chance to find gems you might never have found. I’ve discovered some myself, and at a fraction of the cost. I’m more willing than ever to try out new authors – I can do it for as little as 99 cents. This is an exciting time for authors and readers alike.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Depends what it is. Normally, I’d say chocolate. If it’s ice-cream, I’d say vanilla.
The light side or the dark side?
In reality, the light side. In fiction, the dark side.
If you were a superhero (or villain!) what would your power be? Would you wear a cape?
I would be able to fly. I would definitely wear a cape, along with thigh-high boots and a lycra suit. I don’t work out for nothing. Oh, wait…..I don’t work out. That’s why I’d need the cape.
Do you have deep dark secret? How about a shallow grey one?
Alas, I have no deep dark secrets, nor any shallow grey ones. All my murky behaviour is in my novels.
What does your main character think about you? Are you best buds or have you tortured them so much you’d run if you actually ever met?
I think they like me. I let them have their own way in my books, so what’s not to like?! My antagonists are the ones I wouldn’t want to meet. Many of their characteristics are drawn from real-life people I try to avoid. If I ran into them again, I might end up with a deep dark secret after all.
What sort of Starbuck’s coffee would you order? Simple coffee, complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare?
I wouldn’t. I don’t like Starbucks coffee at all, not even the smell. I only drink Earl Grey tea at Starbucks. For coffee, I prefer Douwe Egberts, which I bring over from England.
Is there any food you refuse to eat? Drink of choice?
If olives, ranch dressing, pickles, Salmon and beetroot were the only foods on this earth, I’d starve, or eat bugs. My drink of choice has to be tea. A good British blend can’t be beat.
If you could live off of chocolate would you? What kind?
No. I tried it and it’s not fun. I was sick of it after 2 days. Ask my mum. She put me on a chocolate diet when I was a kid because I ate too many sweets. She thought if I had nothing available to eat but sweets, I’d grow sick of them, so I had chocolate, cookies and sweets, nothing else. After 2 days, I’d had enough. It worked. Oh, and as for favourite kind, Cadbury’s it is.
What pets have graced your life? Which was your least favorite? What do you think the coolest pet to have would be?
I’m not a massive animal lover. Of all the pets I’ve had, I haven’t disliked any. We currently have 2 dogs, which belong to my boyfriend. I love them. They are the dopiest, most loyal animals. However, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have a pet. I think the coolest pet to have would be a dog. They are the best companions. I’m not at all into exotic pets – I’m not even sure I understand it.
If you could visit any world ever written about, where would you go?
Unlike one particular “winning” personality (or not, as the case may be), I live in this terrestrial realm. When I was 7, I thought Enid Blyton’s magical Far Away Tree world existed and I always wanted to live there. Alas, I grew up and realized I couldn’t.
About the Author:
Jenny Hilborne has worked in a variety of fields, including the retail music industry, residential real estate, commercial real estate and finance. She is the second of four daughters, born and raised in Wiltshire, South West England, and relocated to Southern California in 1997. Jenny is a member of Wolfwriters, a group of professional writers who meet bi-monthly in Northern San Diego. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime. Madness and Murder is her first novel. Her second suspense novel, No Alibi, is due for release by Echelon Press in 2011. Jenny is currently working on her third mystery, also set in San Francisco, featuring the return of veteran homicide inspector, Mac Jackson.