It is my distinct honor to talk with one of my new favorite Christian Science Fiction writers, Jill Williamson and share her with my inksper friends.
Jill, tell me a little about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
I grew up in Alaska with no electricity. My biggest dream was to get to the lower 38 and experience “real life.” Thankfully I found God in college before I got into too much trouble. I was very talented at making my own clothes and my dream was to be a fashion designer, so I eventually went to New York City for a year to finish that degree. We moved to Los Angeles because my husband wanted to work in the movie industry. It didn’t take long for our hearts to change. Those industries just didn’t fit our personalities. Plus we wanted to start a family and both Hollywood and the fashion industry aren’t the most family-friendly industries.
So my husband went back to school to become a youth pastor. I stayed home with the kids. After reading some of the teen novels the girls in my youth group were reading, I decided to write a teen novel for Christian teens. I got hooked on writing my spy kids story. So hooked that I had to put the dreaded thing down and write something different. So I did. Then I wrote something else. Then something else.
In your Darkness Series you created a whole different reality. Is it harder to create your own world or is it harder to have to keep within the confines of a reality where you could get the details wrong at some point in the story?
It depends on the genre. But usually for me, it’s much harder to write within the confines of reality because of all those necessary details. The science part, especially. If I’m writing science fiction, or dealing with an element of science in a contemporary fantasy story, it’s really hard for me to research all that. I’d much rather draw a map and create my own world and its own rules. *grin*
What inspired you for your current novel, “Replication: The Jason Experiment”, to write about clones?
I was riding in a car through upstate New York with my sister. We were going to pick apples. We passed endless amounts of ranches, orchards, and farms. It got me thinking. What if there was a farm where they grew people? Clones. It could be called Jason Farms. And that’s where the idea for the story came from. I wanted to explore how the world might treat cloned humans. Would they have the same rights as the rest of us? And what would their existence say about a creator God?
Did you consider cloning to be a hot-button topic and one that may not be accepted by your religious audience?
Not at all. I just thought it was a fun story idea. And many of my critique partners—and my husband too—said it was their favorite of the books I’d written to date. And it was the easiest sale I’d ever had. But as the book neared its release date, I heard from some of my Blood of Kings fans who were a bit worried about this cloning story. The phrases “creeps me out” and “I don’t think I’ll like a story about clones” were mentioned more than once. And then I got a couple almost-offended reviews from magazines, and it suddenly occurred to me that some people might see this as a political story, which I never intended it to be.
You write Christian Science Fiction. How do you set out to put a message in your story that touches readers but that doesn’t preach to them in a way to turn them off to the message?
I never set out to put any message in my books. I just write the stories as they come and try to be true to the characters’ journeys. In the Blood of Kings trilogy, Achan needed to have an encounter with the One God, so I showed that the best way I could. And in Replication, Abby was a strong Christian—the kind of kid who actually tries to live out what she believes. So, I felt that the faith issues that arose between Martyr and Abby were naturally the things that would have come up in real life, the way they might in youth group one Wednesday night.
I can understand why non-Christians don’t understand that and that some might think I put those scenes in on purpose to meet some secret agenda, but I didn’t. It’s always been one of my pet peeves when a character gets saved in a book one because it never seems very realistic to me. In my own life, I was around Christians for eight years before I made the decision to follow Christ. But Martyr was different. So, I guess the answer to this question is that I try to be true to who my characters are, the story they are living through, and where they story needs to go to reach an ending.
We writer’s seem to get inspired by the strangest details. What was one of the strangest things that you experienced which brought forth an idea for a novel?
I distinctly remember where I got the idea for every story I’ve written, and most of those ideas were inspired by pretty ordinary things. I suppose that seeing the partially burned tree when I was on a walk with my son was a pretty small detail that inspired an entire trilogy. Luke and I had stopped our walk to look at a house that had burned down. And there was a tree in the yard that was partially charred and mostly still alive and leafy green. I remember running home (pushing the stroller ahead of me) and Photoshopping that tree. Once I had the image of a half-dead/half-living tree, I started brainstorming a story to go with it, which became the Blood of Kings trilogy.
What do you have next on your drawing board that you can share with us today?
I’m very blessed to be working on a few things. Marcher Lord Press bought my teen spy kids series (the first book I wrote!). The Mission League is a series of four books that follow one young man’s experiences with a spy organization that fights evil. The first book, The New Recruit, is scheduled to release in the fall of 2012. I’m so excited!
And I am writing a new series for Zonderkidz that is scheduled to release in 2013 with the first book tentatively titled Captives. Here is the gist of that story: In a dystopian future, most the population is infected with a plague. The only exceptions are those who live outside the city walls. A mutation in the plague sends city enforcers looking for uninfected nationals in an effort to purge the disease from future generations. When enforcers raid Levi’s village, they take his fiancé into the city and hold her captive in the Highland Harem. Levi launches a one-man war against the city in an attempt to free his loved ones from his village before it’s too late.
How do you view the future of the Christian Speculative Genre?
I see a bright future for the genre. There are a lot of houses looking for Christian speculative fiction. So I think that there is a huge market out there and publishers are willing to give it a try. I also see many writers getting caught up in ebooks and self-publishing. And while I’m not opposed to self-publishing on a case-by-case basis, most writers are not born marketers or businessmen. Being a self-published author is really tough, and many who go this route may get discouraged.
And one other thing I’ve noticed: critics can be hard on Christian spec fiction. It’s not politically correct to write books with Christian themes, and some reviewers get downright angry when they encounter them. As a result, I’ve seen a few authors tempted to write their next spec fiction books with allegories that can cross over into the general market. It’s difficult to continually create books you know some people will despise. So in that regard, the Christian speculative fiction may continually be a challenge to the author’s heart. Christian authors need to arm themselves with a Galatians 1:10 mentality. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Jill’s newest release, Replication, is an amazing speculative story about a secret cloning laboratory and the one clone, Martyr, who simply wants to see the sky before he fulfills his life’s purpose before he expires and the girl helps save him. Jill’s refreshing tale of an innocent mind opening up to the knowledge of God and what real purpose and sacrifice looks like will touch your hearts. I highly recommend it for teens and adults alike.
Thank you, Jill for a wonderful interview and a great read!