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Archive for March 14th, 2019

Shultz-photo-128x128 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Jill Shultz. Jill Shultz has always been enthralled by the places where the wild meets the fantastic. She’s the award-winning author of Angel on the Ropes, science fiction with a Cirque du Soleil vibe. For most of her career she’s zigzagged between environmental and arts organizations; some of the strange but true consequences can be found on the author page of her website.

Born in Brooklyn before it was cool, she now lives upstate, where she awaits the arrival of transporters to whisk her to the sage flats of Yellowstone every dawn.

Jill Shultz’s latest book, Angel on the Ropes, is a novel circus and science fiction fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Amandine Sand lives to fly. Unfortunately, she’s hobbled by a life-threatening secret: she’s one of the spotted humans wrongly accused of being a plague carrier. These “leopards” are hunted by zealots to protect their off-world colony from the scourge. Despite this threat, Amandine spends her days guiding other leopards to an underground shelter run by the pacifist Seekers. At night, with her own spots hidden, she soars on the trapeze, the one place she feels free and gloriously alive.

When the persecution of leopards explodes into widespread violence, the Seekers demand more of her time. But her circus is teetering toward bankruptcy and desperately needs her, too. She has no time to breathe…then she meets a stranger who leaves her breathless—and might be the biggest risk of all. If her trust is misplaced and she’s unmasked, everyone she loves and everything she’s fought for could crash.

To survive, Amandine must draw upon all of her circus and Seeker skills. But can a pacifist defend her violent enemies to stop a civil war? And can this reluctant angel fly beyond her limits to save her life, her love, and her world?

AR_cover-trade_120312.indd Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Angel on the Ropes?

The origin of this novel was quite unusual for me. Generally, my curiosity is piqued by some unusual fact or phrase or experience that prompts research, which deepens my intrigue and eventually develops into a story. Angel on the Ropes, however, began with an emotion. For a day or so I walked around feeling my protagonist’s longing. I had to figure out what she wanted so badly—she was driving me nuts!

Once I realized she was an artist and a performer, I decided to focus on the circus (based on an experience some years before that transformed the way I thought about circus.) Amandine’s personality was inspired by interviews with professional circus artists. When I uncovered her biggest problem and her secret dream, I had the story.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Amandine Sand, the protagonist. She longs for the basic things that most of us want: love, happiness, a sense of accomplishment… but she’s caught between two opposing worlds, and to make matters even worse, she has a life-threatening secret. So this very flamboyant and passionate trapeze artist is also secretive and constrained. I love passionate people who are full-throttle, and is she ever. Her transformation was so satisfying.

Interestingly, I’m terrified of heights. Imagining what it was like to adore flying was truly entering a new world! I did try flying trapeze during my research and actually launched the book from a flying trapeze, because, “book launch.” How could I resist?

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

Self-published. For me, the key advantages of self-publishing are creative control, nimbleness in marketing, and longevity. I had a great relationship with my editor and cover artist. Of course, when you’re acting as both writer and publisher—in effect, starting a business—there’s a lot more work to do and higher costs. Plus, science fiction and fantasy is not yet as open to self-published authors as other genres, so many promotional opportunities are unavailable.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m both. I tend to do a lot of research before I begin writing, and develop character profiles based on psychological theory. With my current novel, I’m pushing myself to create fairly detailed chapter summaries first. That’s tough but productive.

The research continues as I write, though it changes. If I simply need to fact-check something, I just leave myself a note in the margin to do that later, which allows me to keep up my momentum. If I can’t write a scene effectively without more information, then I’ll stop and do the research I need right then. Of course, if a fabulous interview opportunity arises, I’ll make time for it.

During the first draft, I’ll write scenes that are rattling around in my head and not worry about whether they’ll end up in the story, knowing they’ll contribute to a deeper understanding of my characters, if nothing else. The combination of planning and writing into the unknown helps me navigate my doubts while still remaining open enough for those lucky discoveries.

For me, the most fun happens during revision.

What was your favorite book as a child?

The first book I remember falling in love with was Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. Just thinking about it makes me smile. That book was so full of joy and discovery, so boundless, so magical.

Like many others, Anne McCaffrey was one of the first science fiction and fantasy authors I encountered, beginning with the Dragonriders of Pern series. I wanted to be best friends with a dragon, though I probably would’ve freaked out while flying (see fear of heights above). I’m still a sucker for dragons. And witches. And shapeshifters of all types. I’m equally drawn to science fiction and fantasy.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and a member of the Bad Decisions Book Club (readers who make bad life choices they know they will dearly regret the next day because they just can’t stop reading a good story, even if they toothpicks to prop their eyelids open).

What writing project are you currently working on?

A novel about a wolf biologist in Yellowstone who’s going to have to make some very hard choices to protect what she loves most. In the process, she’ll wrestle with a pack of werewolves who are radical environmentalists. It’s full of wildlife geekiness, moral challenges, and love…which pretty much sums up my life.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

“Don’t flinch.”

Andre Dubus III said that during a workshop. The more I learn about writing, the more it makes sense to me. My early drafts are full of flinches. Sometimes when the discomfort is really bad, I’ll just write notes to myself about the work I need to do and move on. Does that count as a half-flinch? Other times I try to push through right then, knowing that if I wrestle with this, I may discover something powerful. Learning is often uncomfortable, after all.

A special offer from Jill: If you’d like a free copy of the ebook version of Angel on the Ropes, send a message to Jill here.

Want to learn more about Jill Shultz and Angel on the Ropes? Check out her:  Website and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a paperback copy of Angel on the Ropes.

Thanks to author Jill Shultz for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Wendy Van Camp on March 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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denise laughing “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – A.A. Milne

I said goodbye to a dear friend less than a week ago. Not a fare-thee-well because she was moving to the midwest — though she’d done that about a year ago. Not a see-you-soon because she was going on a trip to a distant land for several years — though she’d done that decades ago when she taught in Japan. Not a see you next year on vacation at Lost River State Park (if not sooner) — though I’d done that nearly 60 times. Not even a thanks for letting me stay at your place, but I need to get to the writing conference on time so-long — though I had spent a night with her when she lived in Virginia before going to a writing conference. No, I said goodbye until I see you in heaven.

Some of you reading this might not believe in heaven — but I do, and so did my friend. So when I thanked her for being such a good friend for over 50 years, and told her I’d miss her for the rest of my life until we met again — for me, and for her, it was true — we will meet again.

Which brings me back to the opening quote from A.A. Milne — for me, and those of you who have wonderful people in their lives — how lucky and blessed we are to have had friends, partners, and family whom we care about so much that it hurts to say goodbye.

And so, in honor of Denise, I will end, as I began — with a quote from A.A. Milne:

“‘We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. ‘Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”

 

 

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