Author Interviews

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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Author interview with memoirist Jill Schaefer (revisited)

Back in March 2013, I interviewed author Jill Schaefer for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with memoirist Jill Schaefer. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Jill. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
JillJill: My name is Jill Schaefer, born and bred in England, married a German, then with our three sons immigrated to the USA in 1974, settling in Santa Barbara, California.
Morgen: You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Jill: I have written two memoirs.  I decided to write about growing up in WWII with my German husband and I sharing our stories in Nazi Germany and the London Blitz.  My third book is a journal of our travels of discovery through the Western States of America.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date?
in_quest_of_the_old_westJill: Up The Wooden Hill – The Tale of Two WWII Families, Coming of Age in California –English Style, and In Quest of the Old West – A Driving Diary.
Morgen: You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
Jill: I first printed Up The Wooden Hill locally strictly as a gift for family, then when friends wanted the book, I self published, as I did for Coming of Age and In Quest of the Old West.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Jill: Yes, all three are eBooks, too.  I don’t read eBooks as I don’t own a Kindle.
Morgen: I used to have a Kindle but then I bought an iPad so read it using the free Kindle software on it. I also have the same software (which you can get by Googling it) on my computer but prefer the iPad as it gets me away from my ‘office’. Did you choose the titles / covers of your books?
Coming of AgeJill: I chose the titles for all three. I did the cover for Up The Wooden Hill, my son for Coming of Age in California and my daughter-in-law for In Quest of the Old West.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jill: I am working on The Crimson Cloak, an auto-fiction story which takes part in England, California and the Berlin Wall of the 1960s.
Morgen: That sounds fascinating. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Jill: At the moment I am marketing my books and at the same time mulling over The Crimson Cloak.  Yes, I can only write when the words gush forth uncontrollably morning, noon and night.
Morgen: <laughs> I love it when they do that. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Jill: I wrote all my books thirty years ago in a six-month period, then placed the typewritten mss in the proverbial drawer. They came to life again a couple of years ago with much editing, etc.
Morgen: They do say to leave your writing to marinate but perhaps not for thirty years. :) Do you have to do much research?
Jill: None at all. It’s all in my memory.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Jill: Once I finish The Crimson Cloak, there are no more in the offing.
Morgen: Have you ever pitched for submissions?
Jill: In the early years I pitched for submissions through hard copy mailings—no computer then.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Jill: The proverbial wall lined with them.  I was forever optimistic until I tired of it all.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Jill: No agent. Have managed quite well without one through self-publishing.
Morgen: Me too, although I’d never say never. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Jill: I do it all by giving talks, book signings, on-line clubs, social networking, etc.
Morgen: Which is hard work. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Jill: My favourite is when all is said and done and the book printed.  My least favourite is realising that’s when the real work starts—the marketing!
Morgen: Almost every author I’ve spoken to has said the same. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Jill: Go with the flow, follow your feelings, write your passion.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, whom would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Jill: No-one comes to mind at the moment.  As I’m not a cook, they’d have to take me out!
Morgen: That’s a good idea. Do you write fiction? If so, do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, whom would you have as the leading actor/s?
Jill: My Crimson Cloak is part fiction, the others all non-fictionally true.  Since the characters are all real people and the stories all true, I have no favourite character or book.  One wish is to have them all become best sellers and made into movies / films.  The lead actors would have to speak with English accents.
Morgen: I speak with an English accent. :) Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jill: Although I know the ‘plot’ beforehand, I do just get an idea and run with it.
Morgen: Most authors do, myself included. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Jill: I have no need for that as my characters are real people with real names and their adventures speak for themselves.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Jill: I have written all three from the third person point of view.
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Jill: No, except that I have been asked to give talks to aspiring writers to tell them that if I can do it, so can they, and quote from my journey of producing my books.
Morgen: Congratulations. I love going to author talks but sadly our council’s not had a budget for that for some months but Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire have a healthy writing scene. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Jill: Still play tennis, aquacize, tutor English-learners, travel when possible, walk my 16 year old dog.
We’re two old gals growing old gracefully together.
Morgen: Ah, sweet. Mine (a boy) is 12. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Jill: As I’m not writing at this time, except to finish up The Crimson Cloak, most of my attention is on marketing.
Morgen: It does tend to take up (often too) much of our focus. Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Jill: Yes, I’m on most of the social sites, as well as writers’ sites. Along with sharing our trials, tribulations, and successes, I plug my books, though other authors are not looking to buy books.
Morgen: Unless something catches their eye. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Jill: For me as a writer, do you mean? If so, I will be satisfied when my fourth is completed and that’s that!
Morgen: :) Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Jill: My website is which includes a bio, videos and where to buy my books apart from
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Jill: It’s been a thrilling ride and hope there’s still more thrills to come.
Morgen: I’m sure there are. I think it’s a great time to be a writer. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Jill: Yes, am curious to how you find the time and energy to do what you do for so many others, and what’s in it for you?
Morgen: <laughs> I do little else. I’m passionate about writing so that’s partly why I do it. It’s been a wonderful experience collaborating with other authors and as for what I get out of it; one of my contributors (for whom I was podcasting one of her Flash Fiction Friday short stories) emailed me a while back to say that a random person she’d met at a party in American had heard of me and quoted “Morgen Bailey! I love her blog, I love her podcast!”. That makes it all worth it. Thank you, Jill.
I then invited Jill to include a self-contained excerpt of her writing and this if from ‘Up The Wooden Hill –The Tale of Two WWII Families’.
Up the wooden hill“Years of undisturbed dust enshrouded the stacks of stores treasures long forgotten in the attic of the big old house on the avenue of a London suburb.  The red, white and blue stripes, usually bright and vivid, of a tiny patriotic Union Jack flag, flung forlornly to the floorboards, were scarcely distinguishable beneath the pall of gray.  The stark swastika insignia on the cover of a booklet close by no longer appeared bold and black.  Only the piles of luggage, peppered with powdery dust particles, appeared to have had any recent use.
“A creaking footstep on the ladder below, a squeak of hinges rusty from rest, and the muffled voice of an intruder suddenly disturbed the quiet peace of the gloomy place.  As the heavy trap door opened, a rustling sign of fresh air wafted up through the yawning hole.  Groping fingers found and clicked on a light switch at the head of the ladder, illuminating the gloomy attic.  Obscure shapes sprang startlingly to life…”
and a synopsis of ‘In Quest of the Old West – A Driving Diary’.
in_quest_of_the_old_west“As a Cold War dilemma unfolds, an Anglo-German couple, Jill and Horst, drive off on a lighthearted jaunt through the western states of America, their adopted country.  Jill keeps a daily journal of their fortnight’s trip through the Western States to the Dakotas and back to their home in California’s coastal city of Santa Barbara.  News alerts of the US / Russia drama up-date the couple during their driving journey of discovery, as they dig and delve into the past, dally with locals, delight at historical sites, and day-dream into the future.”
Jill has lived on the California West Coast for the past thirty-five years, fifteen years of which were in Santa Barbara and Goleta and twenty in Lompoc. She, her late husband and three sons emigrated from England and Germany in 1974. Jill’s website is
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog,, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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