Fantasy Maven: An Interview with Jill Marcotte

For this week’s author spotlight, it is my pleasure to introduce the fabulous Jill Marcotte. I recently discovered Jill’s work through the Women in Horror Issue of The Sirens Call. I was impressed with her command of language as well as her ability to establish a haunting mood in very few words. Naturally, I was eager to feature her on my blog. Earlier this month, Jill was kind enough to answer my questions about her fiction writing process. Her responses are as revealing as they are enthusiastic.

A few icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Jill MarcotteI was one of those creepy stair goblin kids who always wanted to be a writer.  Of course, I also wanted to be an astronaut, an exotic dancer, a firefighter, an assassin, an Animorph, and a nun, but the writing stuck.  Now I get to bypass all the training and working out and trespassing in construction sites looking for downed alien spacecraft, and just write about all those people instead.  It’s really the best of all possible worlds.

That said, I’ve still got a loooong way to go, and what is an aspirant without her idols?  I’ve always admired Terry Brooks for his prolificness, and Brandon Sanderson for his ability to blow my mind.  Shakespeare, for his sass and dirty jokes.  I love the crazy creepy worlds of Neil Gaiman and China Miéville.  And I will always hold a special place in my heart for the writers of the classics: Bram Stoker, Henry James, Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, and lots of others.  This is hard to narrow down!  There’s so much to love out there.

You write in a variety of genres, including horror, science fiction, fantasy, and even children’s books. Do you have a favorite genre, or do you enjoy the flexibility of writing so many different styles?

I love having a genre for every mood, and when I get my hot little hands on some delicious new concept, there’s no denying that siren song.  And I dearly love to twist and tweak tropes from one genre into another.  There are very few genres that I haven’t dabbled in at least once, although I definitely have a better feel for some than others.

Epic fantasy, however, is the ex-husband I keep remarrying.  I just can’t keep away from it for long.  I might get distracted by a shiny new idea, and I might work on other stuff for weeks, even months, but I always come back.  Love me some epic fantasy.

Since Alaska is your current home, does the often harsh climate there ever impact your story ideas, or have you become so accustomed to the weather that you don’t even think about it anymore?

Most definitely it impacts me.  In fact, I was just thinking this morning about how I usually write in season—that is, the things I write are very often set in the season I am currently living in.  For me, in real life and in my writing, nature is practically a living creature.  It moves and breathes and loves and kills.  It’s wild and shifting and everywhere.  I cannot fathom living in a place wherein it doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter.  Where I live, that can be a temperature swing of a hundred degrees F or more.

I love Alaska.  It is indescribably glorious year round, from the stark, brutal beauty of an endless night to the bright, bursting exuberance of summer, where every growing thing is desperate to get twelve months of life and activity into three months beneath an unsetting sun.  The funny thing about Alaska is that it’s too extreme to ever get used to.  Summer Alaska and Winter Alaska are two different places, with spring and fall just a hiccup in between.

As a member of your local NaNoWriMo, what advice do you have for other writers interested in getting involved? Also, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the NaNoWriMo experience so far?

Sirens Call Issue 19My best advice for getting involved, in just about anything, is to dive in and do it!  The great thing about NaNo is that there’s something for everyone.  Are you a social butterfly delighted to meet other writers?  Go to write-ins, show up at planning meetings, check in with your accountability buddies.  You’d rather hide in your closet and spend that time writing?  That’s fine, too.  Just sign up, make your goal, and hit the road running.  And if you’re like me and fall somewhere in between, there’s plenty of online engagement available so you can egg on your writing buddies from the safety of your Batman print snuggie.

NaNoWriMo is, admittedly, kind of stupid.  I mean, who blocks off one month to write an entire novel?  FOR FUN?  Well, I do, and I love stupidity!  You know what else I love?  Accountability.  And creativity.  And neat little graphics that show my progress.  But I think the most important thing I’ve gleaned from NaNoWriMo so far is that drafting is just that- drafting.  It’s not a finished product and it doesn’t matter if it’s utter poop.  Keep.  Moving.  Before NaNo, I spent years editing the same one book.  Over and over and over.  NaNoWriMo jolted me out of the editing rut, and that has been of incredible value.  Now I know how to draft and how to edit, and how to hold the two apart.  And even more important, how to move on.

Out of the stories you’ve written, do you have a personal favorite piece?

I have an epic fantasy series that I am absurdly in love with.  I daydream about these places and make up grammar rules for their dead languages.  I make physical copies of the games they play and have been known to call my children by characters’ names.  If I were to suddenly be transported to this world, I would have about twenty minutes to be absolutely elated before something horrible killed me.

As far as published works go, I believe I am currently proudest of my most recent one, The League of Draven, about a girl who learns the hard way to believe in fairies.  Check it out in Issue 19 of The Sirens Call eZine.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

Last year, I drafted several new novels, so this year I’m focusing on cleaning them up.  I especially look forward to polishing The Sad, Sad Tale of Dead Timmy, a supernatural tragicomedy about a prince who dies, and then the real trouble begins.

Any links you’d like to share?
Don’t mind if I do!  I’m big into literary camaraderie and can attribute a lot of my successes to digital high fives (and butt kicks) from other writers.  If you’re just starting out, having writing buds can make a world of difference–as sounding boards, as beta readers, as cheerleaders/drill sergeants, etc.  Here are just a few of the fertile fields of friends:

NaNoWriMo–If you’re still on the fence, consider this a loving shove.
Camp NaNoWriMo— For those of you who can’t get enough of a good thing.

Twitter — This is hands down the best place I’ve found for surrounding myself with fantastic writers from all walks of life.

Local writing groups- I’m involved in a couple writing groups, as well as just people I like to informally write with.  (Okay, person. HI, MARY!)  Join a group in your neighborhood, or start your own!

And of course, everyone is always welcome to pop over to my blog to say hello and read the doofy things I say.  I’d love to meet you!

Major thanks to Jill Marcotte for this fun interview!

Happy reading!