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Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Jilly Wood!!

Today in our series of interviews with the Omegas, the 2019 Golden Heart Finalists, we’re welcoming Jilly Wood, a finalist in the Paranormal Romance category with THE TRANSFORMATION OF ALEXIS DOE.

Jilly Wood was born and raised in Derbyshire, England, a county that’s best known for Mr. Darcy but is also home to ancient castles, deep caverns veined with rare gemstones, wild moors studded with otherworldly rock formations, and a whole host of supernatural legends. All these elements are to be found in Jilly’s fantastic adventure stories of chivalry, rivalry, power, and love.

Jilly now lives quietly with her husband of many years in a leafy corner of historic North London. She writes epic fantasy from the comfort of her sofa, aided by her trusty laptop, a vivid imagination, and a steady supply of coffee and wine.

Here’s a blurb for THE TRANSFORMATION OF ALEXIS DOE:

Alexis Doe is a six-foot-tall, shaven-headed twenty-five-year-old woman raised in a monastery as Brother Alexis, an acolyte with kick-ass fighting skills and a stolen power jewel hidden in her navel. When Alexis becomes energy sick despite the jewel’s protection, she’s forced to seek help in Caldermor, a wealthy city-state ruled by Prince Daire, the half-brother she’s never met. Daire is still hunting his missing heirloom. If Alexis is caught with it, she’ll hang.

Alexis finds the help she needs—at a price—from career soldier Kierce Randsen. Kierce knows Alexis’s half-royal birth, her excess of life energy, and her power jewel mean she could make elan—a golden, near-miraculous medicine created only by the royal family, who channel their vitality into common pulse beans at an ostentatious ceremony known as Transformation. Kierce’s sister is ill and he agrees to team up with Alexis if she’ll make the elan Mirel needs to survive.

When Alexis and Kierce discover that the solution to her energy sickness and his need for elan are only to be found at Transformation, they have no choice but to attend, risking discovery and execution. They don’t expect to develop a personal connection that runs far deeper than a mutual assistance pact, or to learn that Caldermor’s elan secrets are older and more dangerous than either of them ever imagined.

Awesome! I love seeing full-on fantasy in the Paranormal category!! I’m a sucker for wild moors and mysterious caverns (my reading tastes were heavily informed by an Ursula LeGuin addiction that ran from when I was eleven until I’d run out of new novels by her to read). And WOW do I love the idea of a “six-foot-tall, shaven-headed” heroine raised in a monastery, with “kick-ass fighting skills”!! (I’ve been jonesing for more Brienne of Tarth, so you’ve got my attention!!)

 I think we’ll gather round in a forest today, friends—and, ooh, look! A circle of ancient stones! Perfect! Put off your armor, if you’re wearing any, and get comfy while I pass around a goatskin of sweet wine and ask some questions of Jilly Wood.

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Welcome, Jilly! Fantastic to have you visiting with us from all the way across the pond!

Thank you to Elisa and the Rubies for allowing me to share your blog, and for hosting this series of guest posts. I’m loving the chance to learn more about my fellow Omegas and their books, and honored to be part of the last ever Golden Heart class.

It’s truly our pleasure. I’m just loving the depth and variety of stories the Omegas are sharing!! So…fantasy is your jam! Why did you gravitate to that genre?

Because writing and reading fantastic stories makes me happy J.

I heard a superb workshop from last year’s RWA Nationals called Writing For Your Id. The presenter was Dr. Jennifer Barnes, a psychologist, cognitive scientist, and YA author (the recording is available for download from RWA). Dr. Barnes explained that an effective way to make your stories distinctive and memorable is to add in elements that the writer really, really enjoys. Dr. Barnes recommends building a personal Id List of beloved tropes, settings, or details, and using the list to add excitement to your writing. I really like that idea. I get a fizzy, Id List feeling writing fantasy romance, and if I can share that buzz with people who read my stories I’ll be even happier.

Oh, yes!! That was one of my favorite workshops in Denver!! The whole idea that instead of seeing tropes as clichés to be rigorously avoided, you embrace them shamelessly because if you enjoy them, there are surely other readers who do, too, and diving in to ones that give you that sweet frisson of excitement will make your writing delicious to others as well. She said it can be big things, like “friends to lovers” or “evil twin” or “couple come to know each other through long exchange of letters,” or small moments, like “midnight swim” or “hands brush unintentionally” or “gruff man gentle with child.” (At some point, I’m going to devote a whole blog post to this.) Dr. Barnes suggests making a list of things that give you that frisson of pleasure, and making the list as long as possible, so you can dip into it often. So what’s on your Fantasy Writer’s Id List?

Castles, monasteries, landscapes, seascapes. Jewels and sparkly stuff. Mystery. Wonder. Adventure. Bravery—physical and moral. High stakes—the world in peril. Wordplay and swordplay. Big ideas. Old-fashioned values—chivalry, idealism, sacrifice, honesty, respect, generosity, and kindness. Proactive women. Underdogs. True love.

Yum!! Definitely delicious!! Of course, fantasy can’t just be a pile of tropes; you’ve got to build a whole coherent logical world for your characters to exist in. Tell us about your worldbuilding for THE TRANSFORMATION OF ALEXIS DOE. What’s the big idea in your world?

Elan. It’s an imaginary medicine, created by concentrating life energy into specially grown beans. The mysterious transformation process changes beans from everyday foodstuff into hard-shelled, fragrant, shiny golden nuggets of elan, known as pulses. A pulse of elan can be grated and boiled into a tonic for internal use, or added to a poultice for external application. However it’s used, elan boosts the body’s own natural healing powers and gives near-miraculous results.

The Edevald family, rulers of the city state of Caldermor, holds a monopoly over elan. It’s a position that brings them wealth and power, but also envy and danger.

Fascinating! I love that it involves the power to heal, since that’s a power people will truly go to any lengths to obtain—either for themselves or their loved ones. I’ve noticed your gravatar looks jewel-like. Is it a jewel from your world?

Yes! That glowing amber stone is called the Light of Calder. It’s the greatest and most powerful treasure of the Edevald family. Missing, presumed stolen by my heroine Alexis’s mother, who was pregnant with the Crown Prince’s bastard child when she fled Caldermor. Now Alexis wears the Light in her navel, under her monk’s tunic.

Very cool!! So, will you be pitching Alexis’s story in New York in July?

No. The Caldermor Chronicles is a complex multi-book epic fantasy by a debut author. I think there will be at least two prequels and a main series of six books. It would be asking a lot to expect a traditional publisher to invest in that. Also I’m a bit of a control freak. I think indie publishing is a much better option for me.

Wow! That sounds big. You said indie publishing, not self-publishing. What’s the difference for you?

 I think the term self-publishing is misleading, because I didn’t do all the work myself. Many people have helped me get my elan stories to the almost-published stage. I’m super-grateful to them all, especially my main critique partner, Dragonfly/Persister and Paranormal GH winner Jeanne Oates Estridge, and ace developmental editor Karen Dale Harris. And I’m sure I’ll be grateful to many more folk before I finally get the first book to market.

No one should try this alone, that’s for sure! When do you expect the book to be out in the world?

I’m planning to publish my debut book, THE SEEDS OF POWER, later this year.

Oh, so you’re not starting with your Golden Heart story?

No, it’s a prequel. The heroine is Christal, a princess from a military-minded kingdom who’s ordered into a political marriage with spoiled Prince Daire of Caldermor but who uses her considerable ingenuity to avoid her fate. Christal becomes an important secondary character in the main series. The choices she makes in THE SEEDS OF POWER change Prince Daire’s life, and she sets in train the events that become the Caldermor Chronicles. Her story is the pebble that starts the series avalanche.

Cool! And what a great metaphor for a prequel! Do you have an official blurb ready?

Christal Hollin, princess of Larrochar, narrowly escaped death by marriage as a fourteen year-old. She won’t risk wedlock ever again. Instead she becomes trusted assistant to the King’s Cultivator and an expert in rare plants.

Christal’s safety rests on her papa’s obsession with elan—the mysterious golden, bean-shaped curative that gives neighboring Caldermor its wealth and power. Only the Calderran royal family knows how elan is made. Christal intends to break their monopoly.

Then, catastrophically, she receives a marriage proposal from Daire Edevald, crown prince of Caldermor. All he cares about is elan. All she has is her expertise.

Her father wants Caldermor’s secret. The Calderrans want Christal. To save herself she’ll need every kernel of knowledge she’s ever gleaned. And the support of Kiran Randsen, elite soldier turned Calderran bodyguard, who may be something even rarer than elan—a man she’d trust with her life.

OOH!! Love the concept, and that final line: “something even rarer than elan—a man she’d trust with her life.” Do you have a cover ready? Can we see it?

Yes! Here it is!

Oh, that’s absolutely gorgeous!!!! Hurray! Where can we find out more? 

You can read an excerpt at my brand new website: www.jillywood.com

I blog every other Sunday at Eight Ladies Writing: www.eightladieswriting.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jillywords/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jillywords

Fantastic! I’m eager to check out the excerpt!! Best of luck on your debut!! 

So, do you have a question for our readers today to get the conversation rolling?

Here are a few more items from my Id List: Bluestocking heroines, men with strong mothers, twisted tropes, make-unders, bright colors, tall men, deception, snark under pressure… Readers, what’s on your Id List?

40 responses to “Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Jilly Wood!!”

  1. Your series sounds fabulous, Jilly. (And since I’m your CP, I happen to know that it’s all that you promise and more!)

    My own personal id list includes underappreciated women coming to see their own value, wary men who fall helplessly in love with the one woman who will let them relax their guard, and just generally people becoming better, smarter versions of themselves.

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Jeanne, and for all your help. I can’t wait to join you as a published author, even though I know I’ll be exchanging one set of challenges for another.

      Confident women and the men who aren’t afraid to fall in love with them–that’s my kind of story 🙂

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      How awesome that you two found each other as CPs!!! Yet another multi-layered Golden Heart connection!!

      Jeanne, I love how the two Id List items you mention intersect…both seem to be about people shifting their world view to make way for love. Wonderful!

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  2. Becke Turner says:

    Hey Omega Sister,
    Intriguing story line and wow, you do think big. The story, the series, everything. I’m totally amazed. Also, the title is perfect. This is just the type of complex series that could take off like a rocket.

    ID list: horses, animals, science, medicine, character transformation/realization, strong savvy women.

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Hi Becke!
      So happy to share the Omega experience with you and the rest of the class. I’m really looking forward to meeting you in person.

      Thanks for your kind words. Life is too short for half measures, right? Carpe Diem and all that, especially as I’m late to this writing gig and making up for lost time.

      Science and medicine–yes! I love stories of competence and expertise, especially if it’s an area I don’t know much about but I see the author and characters handling it with confidence.

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  3. Jennifer Whitney Bray-Weber says:

    I love the idea of an epic fantasy series including romance. True romance. You seem to have it all mapped out, Jilly. I’m so happy for you!

    My ID list (off the top of my head): dark, adventure, damaged, swords, alpha males who meet their match in strong women, storms, seas, weather, mystery

    Good luck in NYC!

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  4. Tracy Brody says:

    Congratulations and I am so delighted to have you as a GH sister, Jilly! Look forward to getting to know you better in NYC.

    Love your overactive imagination in coming up with this world and series and happy that you have a plan to get them out there for us to enjoy.

    Hating that I missed that workshop as I can be a bit of a snob about tropes – even though I used a bunch myself especially in early versions of my current GH book. I hope this counts, but for me, I want a strong heroine who lives a more exciting life than I do. That may be why I have heroines who fly a Black Hawk helicopter or have worked with the CIA and FBI. And while I want a strong woman who plays a part in reaching her dreams or saving herself, I personally don’t mind her having a man help her because I like the aspect of them needing each other or being better together than alone.

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Thanks, Tracy–I’m super-happy to have you to smooth my path into the GH sisterhood and very happy to get the chance to know you better 🙂

      Actually, you didn’t miss the class! You can buy it as a download from RWA. $6 and an hour of your time, I think you’d find it interesting and worthwhile.

      The idea is that anything counts, big or small. If you really like what you write it will shine through in your writing. What you want for your heroines and heroes totally makes sense to me, and I think it’s perfect for romantic suspense. If you have a really powerful heroine then imo seeing her accept help and work with the hero in a partnership of equals is a demonstration of her strength. Better together than alone is the measure of a lasting HEA, right?

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Two strong people who need each other! I love that!

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      • Elisa Beatty says:

        And one of the most refreshing things about that workshop was it flipped the whole “snobby fear of tropes” thing on its head.

        We do get tend to get trained to look at tropes with gimlet eyes as we get “better” at writing…the presenter said she imbibed that same attitude. And then she had readers telling her they loved and emotionally connected with her earlier books (before she learned to disdain tropes) more than her later books. And she asked herself WHY she’d bought into the idea that tropes were bad.

        Once she realized good writers have always used tropes (and there are ENDLESS tropes) she realized that as long as she approaches them with fresh writing, there’s no reason to avoid them. Embrace them, feel them deeply, make them real. And readers will thank you for it.

        Obviously, just cramming them in mechanically would be crap. But if they resonate with you deeply, lean in.

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  5. Daisy says:

    This series sounds amazing!! The world building you’re doing lives and breathes even in the little peeks you’ve given us here. These are definitely going on my must-buy list.

    Let’s see, Id list. Unconventional characters with offbeat value systems to which they stay true. Protective romantic partners, both male and female. Pets of all kinds.

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  6. Your story sounds wonderfully intriguing, Jilly. Your passion about your characters and the world you’ve created is contagious. I can’t wait to get a chance to start reading all about Alexis, Cristal, and the rest.

    As for my ID list, I like second chances, “anyone but you” romances, and confident women and the men who aren’t afraid to fall in love with them.

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I’m looking forward to your feedback (with fingers and toes crossed)! Hopefully Christal will be ready and polished before Guy Fawkes Day (5 November here in the UK), definitely before Thanksgiving.

      I like all the items on your Id List, but especially second chances. I really like backstory if it’s used well, and second chance stories mean the relationships have depth, intensity and energy (probably misdirected, but that’s half the fun) right from the beginning of the story.

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  7. KayK says:

    It seems such a short time ago that we were in that McDaniel class, and yet here you are with this great series all set to launch – – as well as a Golden Heart finalist nomination under your belt! Congratulations on your hard work and success, and I look forward to reading the published books.

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Hey Kay! I know! Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?

      When I signed up for McDaniel I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had no idea it would take me so long to get to the almost-published stage. It’s been quite a ride! Thank you for your help and friendship, and look forward to sharing the next part of the journey with you.

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  8. Lisa Heartman says:

    Wow, Jilly this sounds amazing. Just from the blurb I can get a great feel for the world you’ve created. Had never thought about my ID, but I guess there would be coffee, dark chocolate, strong men who want to do right by the world, and even stronger women that don’t think they need the guys.

    I’m so excited to be your GH sister! Look forward to meeting you in NYC.

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Thank you, Lisa!

      I’m very excited to be your GH sister. I feel as though I know you a little already, given that one of your CPs is my McDaniel classmate and blog buddy! I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.

      Loving your Id List! I especially like that we all want strong women of one type or another–yours, who think they don’t need the guys, must be very fun to read and write.

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  9. Michaeline Duskova says:

    I love that your story is inspired by your beloved Derbyshire! I think setting is so important to a fantasy, and you can really feel it when a landscape is loved! I look forward to your story.

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  10. Oh wow, can we start a Jennifer Lynn Barnes fan club? Because I am obsessed with her after that id workshop too! My id list is heavily weighted with fake relationships, strong female friendships, and anything having to do with fame culture – but I do love fantasy! Huge congratulations on your final and your upcoming release, Jilly! Wishing you tons of sales!

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      I’d totally join a Jennifer Lynn Barnes fan club! It’s so great to learn that I’m not the only one who was blown away by her workshop.

      Strong female friendships–yes! Love those, in any sub-genre.

      Thanks for your kind words and good wishes. I’m thrilled to be here!

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  11. Fenley Grant says:

    Hi, Jilly!

    I can’t wait to meet you in NYC, my fellow Omega paranormal finalist!

    I wish I’d attended the Jennifer Lynn Barnes workshop last year–it sounds fascinating.

    So, an Id list. I’d have to go with: women coming into their power (in any form–emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.), Alphas (male and female), dynasties / bloodlines, urban fantasy, alternate histories, kick-ass heroines, and a hint of unusual moments in history woven into the story.

    Your series sounds like my kind of read and I can’t wait for your launch later this year!

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Hey Fenley, fellow Paranormal-Omega!

      I think I mentioned above, the Jennifer Lynn Barnes workshop is available for download from RWA. It’s a princely $6. Strongly recommended!

      I love everything on your Id list, which is hardly surprising as I share all the names on your favorite author shortlist and I really like the sound of your GH story. I’m hoping I get to read it some time soon!

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  12. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Hi Jilly! Oh my, oh my, oh my, I want to read anything and everything you’ve ever written! Can’t wait for The Seeds of Power to debut.

    My Id list includes mismatched main characters forced to team up and snark, snark, and more snark.

    Looking forward to meeting you in NYC my Omega sister!

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Hi Janet!

      Looking forward to meeting you too, and all my fellow Omegas. Counting the days now 😀

      Snark, snark, and more snark! Yes! And then, bring on even more snark!

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  13. Oh I just loved the id class! And your list has some of my favorites: snark; deception; pro-active women (love that).

    Wow you have an amazing imagination. This sounds like a very exciting series, one that fans will devour. Can’t wait to see your debut!

    My id list includes carriage ride discussions and no chaperones.

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      No chaperones–of course! I love that added challenge that historical heroines (and their authors) face!

      I like fan language. Oh, and foundling tokens! Historical romance author Justine Covington and I went to the Foundling Museum last year and saw their display of tokens. All those scraps of lace and bits of jewelry and half-coins. So poignant.

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  14. Jo Anne says:

    Jilly – I so enjoyed what I read of THE SEEDS OF POWER last year for TGN critique. Loved the concept and loved the characters. Please let me know when it’s out!! Alexis and Kierce’s story sounds fabulous, too!

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Hi Jo Anne!

      Thank you again for your TGN critique of The Seeds of Power–your comments were so insightful and helped me to improve not just my GH entry but the whole book. You focused on all the areas that really mattered to me. Bet I’m not the first person to say you’d make a fabulous editor!

      I will definitely let you know when the book is out. I’ll gladly send you a copy and hope you think the rest of the story lives up to the first 50 pages!

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      • Jo Anne says:

        Super, Jilly! I’m happy that my critique worked for you. Editing someone else’s work is always more fun than editing my own. 🙁 Looking forward to Seeds of Power!! Good luck in New York. Sorry I won’t be there this year, but I’ll be cheering for you!!

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  15. Claire DeWolf says:

    HI Jilly,

    Love your plans for the series. Indie publishing is the way to go. Looking forward to talking over indie plans at Nationals.

    My id list– Strong men who have their lady’s back, a man with a sense of humor, a powerful woman learning to harness her strengths and using them for good, justice winning over evil, threesomes and inventive sex.

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Hi Claire,

      Oooh, nice Id List! I like that a lot.

      Really looking forward to meeting you in NYC and talking indie publishing in person. Not long now!

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  16. Alice says:

    I can’t wait to read your series Jilly! And Iove the prequel. The exerpt is fab!

    I love the idea of writing to your id–basically writing to your heart! All the things that make my id happy? Love the pretend indifference trope, integrity and decency, underdogs, champions for the vulnerable, and loyalty!

    So so so thrilled that we are GH sisters together. Onwards Omegas! <3

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    • Jilly Wood says:

      Hey neighbour lady! Love your Id List, and your writing!

      Thank you for your kind words. So happy to hear that you enjoyed the excerpt of The Seeds of Power 😀

      Onward Omegas indeed! So very happy that we both get to share this amazing experience. And then when we get back to London we can meet for tea and enjoy it all over again 😉

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  17. Valen Cox says:

    Jilly! I loved “Writing For Your Id” presented by Dr. Jennifer Barnes! It was freeing and a whole new way to think about putting the joy back into writing because you could embrace the elements that you loved! Thanks for sharing and best of luck on your paranormal fantasy series!

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