Today on our blog we are featuring more of Jan Hill's interview. You can read the first part of her interview here. Jan is a great author and we love having her be apart of our team here at BYCT. To read more about Jan or to purchase one of her books click here.
"I was raised on a small farm in Milo, Idaho, the second of seven children. I often define my life in stages because they were pivotal points when I could have chosen very different paths and might not even be here today. When I was five, my mother blamed me for the accident that nearly ended my younger brother’s life and left him handicapped. It was something I never recovered from and made me want to protect and take care of everyone. I never learned how to relax and be a child.
When I was in the third grade, I contracted Rheumatic Fever and spent six months in bed with no one to look after me because my mother was working away from home and my father was in the fields. The illness damaged my heart and I was never able to do anything physically exerting. I couldn’t even take P.E. The next year, my violin teacher molested me, but in those days, children were not believed. They were just left to suffer in silence.
My father died when I was thirteen. I had two more bouts with Rheumatic Fever before I graduated high school, and something associated with one of the outbreaks caused half of my hair to fall out. My mother had a nervous breakdown when I was a senior, and I ended up leaving home, never to return again except for an occasional visit. Being separated from my siblings was probably the most difficult thing I ever went through because I was truly on my own after that.
My beloved grandmother died when I was a freshman in college. I didn’t get married until I was twenty-three and that was not a healthy relationship because I didn’t know how to find one. I suffered numerous miscarriages and was never able to carry a child to term, but I was blessed with two amazing children – a son and a daughter whom I adopted. They have been the greatest joy of my life.
In my thirties, I had an emergency hysterectomy right after losing my last baby. Eight different types of uterine tumors were found, each in a different stage towards malignancy. That plunged me into the darkest depression of my life where I wandered down by the river at night for months wondering why I just couldn’t die. I pleaded to be given the strength to keep it together for my children. That was lovingly granted to me, along with a lot of other insights.
When I was divorced a few years later, I was told by my principal to watch my back because the good people of my home community were out to crucify me even though I had done nothing wrong except remove myself from a very toxic situation that was hurting everyone in it. I had to start over with nothing to fall back on. I have lived with severe bouts of despair, anxiety and a total loss of self-esteem.
All I’ve ever wanted was to be in a loving, committed relationship but that has never happened, and the more I interact with other people, the more I come to understand that few lives are turn out as expected. That’s why I write what I do. I want people to understand that no matter what horrible situation they may find themselves in they are not alone. There are other people who share their pain, and God is always there to lift them when they cannot make it on their own any longer.
The Brylee Hawkins Saga:
As a series, this story has been amazing to write. It started as a way to keep my sanity at school during the last two years when I was a lead witness in a federal court case – something new and terrifying that nearly destroyed my physical and emotional health. I’m not even sure how Brylee came into being. One day she just appeared on paper heading off into an unknown future where the past and the present would collide and where she would be faced with making decisions and coming to terms with things she never dreamed possible.
I loved her from the beginning because she had tenacity and spunk, yet she was terrified of making wrong decisions and hurting other people. She wanted to forgive her father and accept what he’d done because her religious beliefs told her that was the right thing to do, but she was very human and had a great deal of trouble resolving anything. Like so many of us, she got caught up in circular thinking and hoping things would automatically change. It took multiple experiences until she was able to accept that what she had planned for her life might not be what God intended. When she finally let him in and quit trying to retake control, she was given the strength and the courage to accept his will, not hers.
All the other characters were equally as important to me because they faced their own struggles and had diverse ways of dealing with reality. They were like any other family – complex, human and sometimes not very lovable – but I’m very glad I got to know them and hope other people will too. They teach us that family really is everything, and with God at the helm we can accomplish anything.
Hardest and easiest things about writing:
The easiest and most fun is allowing my mind to wander wherever my characters want to go. I don’t mind where they take me because I can always figure out the omissions later like what prompted the experience, who else might be involved, or how it will eventually turn out. I just sit back and enjoy the journey whether they’re doing something mundane like I do most of the time, or are off having an adventure I will only be able to picture in my mind. That’s the wonderful thing about imagination – I can still be young and can enjoy everything I missed out on – if only vicariously. I love rereading parts of the story and wondering where it came from because it’s so different from any occurrence or emotion I’ve ever had, at least consciously.
The hardest part is all the rewriting and editing so the story flows and makes sense to someone other than me. I treat each word individually and try to decide if it’s worth keeping. Some writers can’t bear to give up anything on the printed page, but I’m not like that. If it doesn’t work or something would sound better, I’m perfectly happy to erase words or entire paragraphs. It’s hard and tedious work, and most of the time it takes far longer for me than writing the original manuscript. It’s the part where I wonder if I really want to do it, or if I’d rather just play around with ideas for the rest of my life.
My books are like my children. I want to enjoy them, and I don’t want anyone else to ridicule or censure, but sometimes it just has to be done. That’s what brings growth and understanding. It’s the most difficult part of any life experience, but it can be the most rewarding because it can show us just how far we’ve come.
Thoughts on writing a book series:
I never thought I’d actually write a series. All of the books I’d written in the past had been easily concluded in about 350 pages. Brylee’s story was originally one very long book. When it was accepted for publication, Andre told me that since it was so extensive it could easily be made into four books. That was an impressive idea but I never imagined it would eventually turn into seven books. I worked for several months making the breaks in the story like he suggested. That meant adding a little more to each portion so it would be the necessary length, but it also gave me time to explore each character in more depth and add interesting tidbits about their lives that would help move the rest of the story along and give them more depth. The last three books were a real joy to write. I completed the first draft of all of them in less than six months. That meant working some really lengthy days – up to seventeen hours in front of the computer. The characters told me what they wanted to say, and the conclusion was just the ending to part of their story. There are still many things Brylee, Jake, LeAnn, the twins and both Trevor and Jackie could say. I never know when one of them might move me to action again. All of the characters in the series have become dear friends, even the ones I didn’t like, and I’d like to know what happened to them. Maybe someday I’ll find out.
That said, I love writing series now and have started on a new one that will be at least five books in length. When that is completed, I plan on taking all of my earlier books and combining them into an ongoing series under an umbrella title since they touch on so many important issues that are relevant today like the inability to have children, the loss of a spouse, divorce, abuse, peer pressure, career choice, overcoming incredible odds, staying the true course, trying to make righteous decisions in a fallen world and many other things. It will be fun visiting those characters again and finding out what they’ve learned.