We’re spending the morning with the hilarious Jill Shalvis, author of the Animal Magnetism series of romance novels published by Berkley. Jill is one of the headlining authors at this year’s RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans this week. We can’t wait to see her at the conference!
Lucy Silag: Your Animal Magnetism books star characters who work with animals—a kennel owner, sexy vets, shelter workers. That’s not your everyday premise for a series of romance novels, but it totally works! Tell us about how love blossoms among the animals in Sunshine, Idaho.
Jill Shalvis: In my mind, there’s nothing sexier than a guy who loves and can take care of animals. That’s how this series was born. I kept circling back to this idea of a bunch of guys for whom animals were their whole life.
LS: It seems like it would be terribly difficult to gracefully write about pets—if it were me, I would devolve into baby voices and cooing. How do you do it?
JS: Ha. Well, I genuinely love animals. Sometimes more than people. And my dogs do not respond to baby voices or cooing. 🙂 Plus no one wants to see a big strong hero using a baby voice. So I make a conscious effort to have the characters treat their animals the same way we do here at home. Which is, of course, like they’re the kings of the land… (I say as my 85 pound black lab is trying to get into my lap…)
LS: In your books you have characters who are overcoming tremendously damaging traumas. How do you balance the lighthearted conventions of the romance genre with realistic portrayals of real life?
JS: I just don’t think you can be super happy unless you know what it’s like to be the opposite. And plus, I really enjoy torturing my characters and making them work for their happy. As for the balance, life is funny to me. So while I do put my people through the wringer, I do also like to bring the funny while I’m doing it…
LS: On your website, you’ve got a hysterical play by play of an average day in your life as a romance writer. You are so self-deprecating about your own writing productivity but I do not buy it! You’re publishing bestsellers at an amazing rate! How many pages or words do you REALLY write in a day? How did you learn to make goals for yourself and stick to them?
JS: Well, it is a job after all. And a MUCH better job than anything else I’m suited for. No one wants to see me flip burgers, and I’m not real strong in customer service. So I write every day, and I try to get 2,000 words. Doesn’t always happen but almost always. I’m pretty dedicated. And it doesn’t hurt that I happen to love my job…
LS: I’m going to guess that most of your legions of fans are women. What’s a memorable piece of feedback you’ve gotten from a guy reader?
JS: Most of my readers are definitely women. But I do get the occasional male reader letter. One letter memorably said: “I like that your heroes are all real guys, not big, fancy millionaires, but you wait too long to get them lucky.”
LS: Voice is such a huge part of good writing, and dialogue—the voices inside your voice—is crucial. What’s your approach to writing dialogue? How can a writer turn a satisfactory piece of dialogue into a great piece of dialogue?
JS: My trick is to listen to how people talk everywhere I go. I eavesdrop relentlessly. Seriously, I’m quite annoying to those who live with me. There’s such a difference between how women and men speak to each other and I’m particularly fascinated by the way guys talk. They don’t ask a lot of questions and they do a lot of telling. So I use that in my dialogue. And then after I’ve written a scene, I read it out loud to make sure it sounds like something that would actually be said out loud.
LS: Tell us about what you will be doing at the RT Convention, and what you are most looking forward to doing in New Orleans!
JS: I consider myself a reader as much as I am a writer, so I love to go to RT because it’s filled with readers. My people! I love to listen to what they’re reading, what they’re loving, and I could discuss books until I run out of air. So hopefully a lot of reader interaction will be going on in NOLA!
Jill Shalvis is the New York Times-bestselling author of dozens of romance novels, including the Animal Magnetism series from Berkley and the Lucky Harbor series from Grand Central. Connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads. Jill is doing a bunch of really fun events at the RT Booklovers Convention 2014, so be sure and add them to your RT14 itinerary!
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