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Psychological Thriller

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An Interview with Jennifer Hillier

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?

I used to be very rigid about my writing schedule, and for years I was an evening-to-the-wee-hours-of-the-morning writer. And then all that changed when I had my son. When he was a baby and toddler, I’d be zonked by dinner time, so the only time I could write with any focus was in the morning for 3-4 hours, with the help of a babysitter. 

Now he’s six, and more able to do things on his own, but then the pandemic hit. He spent nearly the entirety of first grade in virtual school, which eliminated any kind of writing schedule I’d hoped to have. I wrote when I could in between helping him with school – an hour here, twenty minutes there – and as I neared my deadline, all night long when everyone was asleep. At least my husband was working from home, so he would help with mornings to let me sleep in.

What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?

Probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken was letting people actually read my work. Which sounds strange, but I was a “closet writer” for a long time. It was hard for me to tell people – especially close friends and family – that I was dreaming of being a published author. I didn’t want anyone to know that I wanted something so badly but was scared I wasn’t good enough. And for years, that was fine. I wrote, but I didn’t have the courage to send my work out anywhere. I didn’t send it, I couldn’t be rejected, right? Which meant I could keep dreaming. 

But then the day came when something switched. The fear of never knowing if I was good enough outweighed the fear of failing, so I started submitting. Sending out that first query letter and writing sample to a literary agency was terrifying. 

Do you play music while you write — and, if so, what’s your favorite?

I actually can’t listen to music while I’m writing, but I do listen to music in between writing spurts. I make playlists for every book, and I don’t delete them until the book is completely written, edited, and ready for publication. For my first book, Creep, I listened to a lot of Radiohead (shocker, I know). Jar of Hearts, my fifth book, was inspired by two songs: Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” (again, shocker) and “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. 

My playlist for book seven is mostly 90s R&B, as a chunk of the story takes place in the 90s.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

I’ve received a lot of writing advice over the years, but the one that was most helpful was: write the book you want to read. And what I wanted to read was a really dark, obsessive, gritty thriller with a love story weaved in, where the sex scenes didn’t just fade to black. I wanted a fast-paced, twisty, murdery book that allowed me to peek into the characters’ bedrooms as well, and that’s when I wrote Creep

 Whom do you trust for objective and constructive criticism of your work?

I’ve had the same literary agent my entire career, and I trust her judgment completely. She always tells me what’s working and what isn’t, and that any advice she offers comes from a place of wanting the best out of me, as well as the best for me. I’m also fortunate to have a fantastic editor who is always so respectful of my vision for a book and finds the best ways to help me fulfill that vision without changing it. I’m really, really lucky.

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date? 

I’m right about to dive into edits for my seventh book. It’s a bit lame, but I’m superstitious about revealing anything specific about a new book until the edits are done. But it is another psychological thriller, set half in Toronto and half in Seattle, with some of it set in the 80s, some of it in the 90s, and some of it in 2018 (pre-pandemic). And we still don’t have a firm title, so I can’t even tell you that! But it will be out in Spring 2022.