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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?

The Latest Comments

  • Louisa Cornell: It’s a great first line, Louise! I am looking forward to reading the book!
  • Lenee Anderson: The murderer is David’s best friend. I’m concerned if I said something along the lines of...
  • Darynda Jones: This is great, Lenee, especially for a first attempt. Wow. I’m wondering if the stakes can be...
  • Darynda Jones: YES!!! I love it, Vivi, but Autumn’s is adds that twists that grabs me. Great job both of you!
  • Heather McCollum: Yes, this works! Thank you Autumn! You are awesome!!

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