(Editor’s note: This guest column blends two columns, this one and this one, from our archives. Both featured Blood of Kings series author Jill Williamson. The “weird” novel Jill mentions near this column’s end was published as Replication in December 2011.)
Hi. I’m Jill. My family moved to rural Alaska when I was five. We went from house to house those first few years. My dad was a carpenter and he’d get free rent as long as he was fixing up the places. When I was nine, Dad bought his own land. Our first house was a combination of a turquoise bullet trailer and what Dad called “the hooch,” which was an almost see-through addition to the trailer made from a spindly pine tree frame that was covered in Visqueen — the stuff construction workers use to hold insulation in walls. Dad took more sappy pine trees and built a triple bunk bed in the hooch. Being the oldest, I got the top bunk. I’d stay up until the middle of the night reading under that never-darkening Alaskan summer sky. I usually woke up from mosquitoes buzzing around my head or a twitching dragonfly that had somehow managed to get trapped between the Visqueen layers of the ceiling three feet from my face.
We didn’t have electricity. Town was twenty-five miles away. So when I ran out of library books, I daydreamed. I came up with all kinds of characters, most of which had electricity and running water and didn’t have to use the two-seater outhouse my dad was so proud of. (“You don’t have to wait,” he’d said when he first unveiled it to mom and us kids.) So that’s where I came from.
I’ve always love reading, especially teen fantasy. When the first Harry Potter movie came out, a huge debate started in our church as to whether or not the books were evil. I decided to write a book Christians wouldn’t complain about. (I know. Naïve, huh?) But once I started writing that novel I was hooked. I’ve been writing ever since.
Some of my all-time favorites? The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia, Harry Potter, Blink, This Present Darkness, anything Randy Ingermanson wrote, LOTR, Timeline, the Narnia books, Ender’s Game, and The Giver.
My first book was sort of a Christian Agent Cody Banks. I got stumped when I tried to write the marketing proposal. I had no genre. At first I thought it was suspense. But it was also action/adventure. Or maybe an urban fantasy. Urban or contemporary fantasy? Was there a difference?
Since my spy kids story was driving me nuts, I wrote a book called Jason Farms. The same problem cropped up when it came to genre. Jason Farms is about a girl who discovers her father is working at a cloning lab. I was pretty sure this one had to be suspense. But wasn’t it also science fiction? What were Double Helix by Sigmund Brouwer or Blood of Heaven by Bill Myer considered?
My next book was a medieval fantasy. Finally, something I could stick in a category without difficulty! But what kind of a random author was I trying to be, anyway? I kept stumbling onto these discussion on the ACFW loop about author branding and how important it was to write the same genre, at least at first.
At Mount Hermon 2007, I sat in on a workshop by Jeff Gerke who talked about “weird” fiction. My eyes got wide. Oh, yes. I liked the sound of this “weird” thing. It made a lot of sense. Turns out I wasn’t as random as I feared. I was, and am, a speculative fiction writer.
Aren’t you glad there is a genre that encompasses such variety? I sure am.