A blog about writing and self publishing

KWL Ep 161: How to Sustain a Successful Writing Career with Jill Shalvis

With 20 years in the industry and over 100 novels under her belt, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis shares her tips for finding the right method of publication for you and how to sustain a lifelong publishing career. Jill shares her strategy for her social media and how she models her posts in the same tone as her novels. 

Jill Shalvis is one of the most prolific and well-known romance authors in the business. She began writing category romances, which are shorter and faster to write. From there she moved on to single-title romances which are longer stories, and now she also writes Women’s Fiction.

The Writing Process

Jill’s writing process is the same across all projects she works on. She wakes up, gets her slippers on, goes out to her deck to write with coffee at her side and her dogs at her feet. Jill is most creative in the morning and likes to write before the day gets going. If she misses this opportunity, she cannot seem to catch the creativity again. She works all day until her family starts coming home and makes noise. She also writes at the lake, by the river, and a cliff overlooking the river near her home.

Photos from Jill Shalvis’ Instagram

Jill has ADHD and does not take medications, so she finds she has to move around a lot. “I don’t have an office, I don’t have a laptop, I just migrate to wherever is the best,” which tends to be outside. Jill has tried to dictate her novels but the porgam has a hard time recognizing her voice however, she wants to try the process again in the future.

The Changing Landscape of Publishing

There were no indie or digital markets when Jill started her writing career in 1998, so the industry today is very different. “If readers didn’t find you on the shelves, it wasn’t always easy to be found at all. And now you don’t even need a publisher, you don’t need to go the traditional route.” If Jill was starting her career now, she thinks it would be more fascinating and fun because there is less pressure to be taken on by a publisher and authors are putting out their work themselves. Jill however, loves to be in print. She loves going to Walmart, Target, and Barnes & Noble and seeing her books there.

Print Versus Digital

We asked Jill if her readers preferred print or digital, and she says her readership is half and half. She had her original print readers and when her books went digital she gained new readers. This is why Jill straddles both publishing worlds. However, this type of career is not for everyone. Working with a traditional publisher comes with its own rules and restrictions. “To be an indie writer you’re basically running an empire, and that takes a lot of talent and work. I really just want to write.” Jill recommends that all writers follow their own path and where their talents lead, whether that is solely writing, or also being involved in cover design, marketing, etc.

From Blogging to Social Media

Jill was first published in 1998, before social media existed. She started with a blog in which she told stories about herself. Jill grew up in LA and moved to the mountains with bears and porcupines and snow, things that the LA girl had never experienced before. Writing was a lonely business before social media, so she would blog about her writing adventures. Jill always enjoyed photography and as social media grew it was a natural fit for her. When sharing these pictures and stories Jill uses the same voice and tone that she writes with. Social media has been a path to more readers for her. For Jill, her social media is not solely dedicated to her books. She uses pictures and videos to show who she is as a person.

Jill’s sense of humor as seen on Instagram

Engaging with the Author Community

Jill has a network of genuine author friends whom all support one another. Readers do like hearing which authors are friends with whom. Since writing is a solitary career, it is important to have writer friends for companionship and to stay up to date with the industry. Jill is an introvert, even if it does not appear so on social media. In a face-to-face situation she is shy. Jill has made author friends from being dragged to publishing parties and workshops, as well as reaching out to writers online. She met both her editor and agent at conferences, where you can make appointments with publishing professionals.

What Moved Jill to Write Romance

We asked Jill what motivates her professionally and personally. What motivated Jill in the beginning was needing a job and having to provide for her family. It is hard to be self-motivated when there is no boss standing over you, so you really have to be passionate about writing. Jill cannot imagine doing anything else. She studied accounting and journalism at university. In 1998, Jill was pregnant and working for an accountant when she got laid off due to budget cuts. She was home for 5 months, writing short stories and reading romance novels, before deciding to write her own. By the time she had the baby, she had almost finished her first book. Daycare was too expensive, so her plan was to write full-time and take care of the baby full-time (hello, Superwoman!).

Romance had been Jill’s favorite genre since high school, when it was still considered racy. Romance novels were placed in the back of the library, uncategorized, and Jill would read them by placing them in her chemistry textbook and pretending she was studying chemistry. Even the fiction books she works on now contain romantic relationships. She likes second chance romances and bringing characters back together. Her stories have gotten longer, but she is still writing romantic comedy and small-town romances. “Warm and funny and sexy and cozy at the same time.”

The tone of Jill’s stories hasn’t changed, they now have a wider scope. She prefers the longer novels as they have more intricate threads, such as mystery and suspense, rather than a primary focus on romance. She loves writing characters with flaws and planning more intricate plots. A big challenge Jill faces is the fact that conflicts in contemporary romance must be real between characters, as opposed to rooted in fantasy or the supernatural, for instance. In the process of writing a novel Jill does not read romance, otherwise she would not have time for her family and friends. She does recommend that all writers read, as this is a means of improving their craft. Jill gets ideas for stories from magazines, television, books, conversations, anything that inspires her.

Movie Adaptations and Jill’s Current Project

Jill’s book, The Trouble with Mistletoe, was adapted into a movie two Christmases ago, available to stream on Amazon and Passionflix. This volume in the Heartbreaker Bay series is centered around a woman who works at a dog store, so there are a lot of animals in the story. Although, Jill was not involved in the script process the movie stayed close to the story and Jill was very happy with the end result.

Jill’s next novel, Almost Just Friends, is coming out in January 2020. The story is about a woman in her late twenties who raised her younger siblings. Her sister and brother have now left the house and she is alone for the first time in her life. She follows her dreams for the first time before the siblings come back, along with a mysterious dark stranger. Almost Just Friends is available for preorder!

Jill wishes to continue writing her longer stories and would love another book-to-movie adaptation. She thinks the Heartbreaker Bay books, set in San Francisco, would be good for a Netflix adaptation. There are eight books in the series and a lot of story content. Almost Just Friends would also make a good movie, or The Lemon Sisters.

Parting Questions

What book inspired you the most? Jill chose the Harry Potter series, as it got her children hooked on reading and writing. She has such fond memories of reading the books with them over and over. Watching kids find the love of reading stuck with her. She owes J.K. Rowling a huge thank you for giving that gift to her kids.

Any tips for fellow writers? “Always put out your best work rather than rush through a few drafts. Once the readers read something that is not 100% finished, they are less likely to pick you up the next time. You have to write and rewrite and write again until your work is perfect. “Memories are long and the industry is small. You have to be professional even if you are in bunny slippers writing on the deck.”

Follow Jill Shalvis on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! You can find her website here.


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis writes warm, funny, sexy contemporary romances and women’s fiction. An Amazon, BN & iBooks bestseller, she’s also a two-time RITA winner and has more than 15 million copies of her books sold worldwide. Jill lives with her family in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters.

Want to read authors featured on the podcast? Check out our list here.

2 Responses to “KWL Ep 161: How to Sustain a Successful Writing Career with Jill Shalvis”

  1. Richard Murray

    I love how Jill used the book that she loved reading to others, in this case her children, as the inspiration to write. If you like reading it, try writing it.

    Reply

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