Jill Archer is the author of The Dark Light of Day and Fiery Edge of Steel (out March 28th), which are both part of the Noon Onyx series! I’m so excited to have her on the blog, so give her a warm welcome, and be sure to keep an eye out for a giveaway at the end of the post: Jill has kindly offered a copy of Fiery Edge of Steel to one lucky winner (US only)!
Jill, you’ve gone from Bachelor of Science, to law degree, to lawyer, and now writer of two post-apocalyptic fantasy novels! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and what inspired you to write Dark Light of Day (Book one of the Noon Onyx series)?
I’ve been a lifelong reader and I’ve always loved fantasy. For years I was a transactional lawyer and, from time to time, I’ve taught legal writing. I guess you could say I’ve been a wordsmith all my life.
My first completed manuscript was a sf/fantasy mix that was completely unmarketable. When I was looking for inspiration for a new project, I attended a writer’s event and sat next to a librarian at lunch. We each suggested the other tap into our careers to create new characters. I resisted at first. My first thought was that I wasn’t interested in doing a contemporary novel. But then we started discussing the character Evelyn “Evie” Carnahan from the movie The Mummy and what an awesome character she is. Which made me think that it might be possible to create a bookish lawyer character who lived in some sort of otherworld.
I have to ask…how did you celebrate when you found out that Dark Light of Day had sold?
Clinking glasses with my husband that night over dinner. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but believe me, it was. The months leading up to my offer had been, frankly, pretty horrible. My mother had passed away after a lengthy illness and I’d actually taken some time off from writing to return to a legal job because it made me feel better to get out of the house and do something I’d done for years. So when my agent called to give me the news, I wasn’t even home. I was working at a small firm, helping one of the partner’s with his cases.
When I got home that night and called my agent back, she told me about the offer, which was thrilling. But I still needed to get up and go to work the next day.
Book two, Fiery Edge of Steel is out at the end of this month! Will you tell us a bit more about the series and its heroine, Noon Onyx?
Noon is a student at St. Lucifer’s Law School (St. Luck’s) where they train waning magic users to be demon peacekeepers or Maegesters. As a student, Noon has several disadvantages to overcome. She has bad magic habits, a lack of control, zero fighting experience, and – worst of all, since part of her job will be to execute rule breakers – a pacifist nature. But her magic is strong and, even if she is a little naïve at times, she’s tough and feisty and has a good heart.
What do you enjoy most about writing fantasy?
It feels limitless. You have to follow the rules of your own world and novel structure generally, but otherwise there’s a lot of freedom for a writer when writing fantasy. If you’re creating your own world, you don’t have to be obsessed with historical accuracy or worry about the physical limitations of cities like New York or Los Angeles. (Of course, once your world’s history and settings are built, you are constrained by them, but the initial world building is a lot of fun). And fantasy is full of interesting characters, creatures, and magic, which give the stories a vibrancy that contemporary stories sometimes lack.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Will you tell us about your writing process and what kind of research you’ve done for your novels?
I start with an idea about the main character’s internal growth arc for the book and maybe some themes I’d like to explore. The ideas for the external plot usually grow from there. I write an outline and then I try to write a very good first draft, giving myself permission to go “off script” and deviate from the outline. I generally stick to the outline until the third act. The endings always change. They’re never the ending I originally outlined.
Due to the classroom scenes and student assignments in Dark Light of Day, I did some legal research. Most of it was just confirming my understanding of legal terms and concepts. I also researched demons, deities, and holidays from different cultures and religions. (I tend to use research as a jumping off point so sometimes the end creative product bears little resemblance to the original seed. Other times, the inspiration is obvious.) And I researched a bunch of antique apple varieties to create the ensorcelled apple wines that the Angels make. That was fun.
For Fiery Edge of Steel, I did some research on a 16th century French imposter case (the Martin Guerre case). It’s a fascinating true story which has inspired several novels, movies, and musicals. I also did a bit of research on dahabiyas, the type of boat Noon and her investigative team take to the Shallows. I wish I could have taken a trip on a real dahabiya in the name of research, but alas, it wasn’t to be. I had to answer my questions through online research. I also researched several fairy tales, lullabies, hymns, and poems, some of which made their way into the story in one form or another.
What are a few of your favorite novels or authors?
All-time favorites include Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold, Diana Gabaldon, S.M. Stirling, Maggie Stiefvater, Elizabeth George, Elizabeth Peters, Colleen McCullough, Ken Follett, Anne Rice, Stephen King, and Naomi Novik.
A newer “favorite” (I’ve only read one book of hers but very much enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading her next one) is Robin LaFevers, who wrote Grave Mercy.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Dune by Frank Herbert, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte…
I read in your bio that you’ve lived in or visited almost 25 states! Which one has been a favorite, and why?
My current state, Maryland, is a favorite of mine. People call Maryland “America in Miniature” because it has so many different geographical areas: urban areas like Baltimore and DC, the Appalachian Mountains in western Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay shooting straight up its middle (a boater’s paradise), the Atlantic Ocean on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and rolling green hills and farms in northern, central Maryland.
Other favorites: Louisiana, Hawaii, Colorado, Vermont, and the Carolinas. There’s something to love in every state I’ve been to so it’s hard to choose. States I haven’t been to but would love to visit include Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Alaska.
Your bio also indicates that you’ve had many different jobs. What’s something that you learned from your early work experience that you’ve carried into later life?
Trying isn’t good enough. To succeed, you have to do your best. You might not become “the best,” but if you achieve your personal best, you’ll be satisfied with the results and gain some terrific experiences.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give to struggling writers?
That depends on what type of writer they are and why they are struggling, but assuming we’re talking about beginning fiction writers, don’t quit unless you want to quit. If you want to be a writer, then WRITE. Also, savor the process, not the product. Ninety-five percent of the time you spend as a writer is on the process. For a few weeks there’s excitement over the finished product. And then it’s on to the next. So love the process.
What’s next for you and Noon Onyx?
Book #3. I loosely describe future books as having “new assignments, new adventures, and new adversaries!”
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of FIERY EDGE OF STEEL by Jill Archer to 1 winner
3. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian addresses only
4. You must enter on or before 6/1/13
5. Giveaway book courtesy of Jill Archer
6. Please see my Giveaway Policy.