I am very excited today to present my first ever author interview! From a tweet I found last week, I discovered Jill Murray, author of Break on Through, her first novel, and now, her latest release, Rhythym and Blues.
Jill is a cool, approachable author (that answered my questions in record time); she’s also Canadian, so I’m happy to share with the blogging world this new discovery for me. So, sit back and enjoy as we discuss Rhythym and Blues, writing, publishing, and what moves make a b-girl! Also, check out the book trailer at the bottom of this post that the all-talented Jill Murray created herself….talk about versatile :-)
Jill - Rhythm and Blues is a spin-off of my first novel, Break On Through. In that book, Alya is probably the character about whom we learn the least, and so it seemed like an exciting prospect to have her grow into a story all her own. She gets recruited into a an all-girl pop-R&B group, and the story takes off from there.
EEL – Rhythym & Blues is your sophomore novel. Did you find it easier to write the second time around?
Jill – Every novel I complete and then see through the editorial process teaches me something– a lot of things. This makes it possible to grow as a writer and make entirely new mistakes on each new project. Rather than getting easier, it remains infinitely difficult. This challenge is what’s appealing, and hopefully it means my writing is getting better all the time.
EEL – I’ve read that your first novel, Break on Through, was not initially intended as a YA novel. Did that hold true with R&B too? Or does the age range just feel like a better fit with your writing and/or choice of topic?
Jill - Break on Through was always a YA novel. It was a never-published manuscript I wrote prior to starting Break on Through that began its life as a regular old adult novel and then had “YA” prepended to it in later drafts. I like writing for young adult voices, but I don’t know if it’s a question of fit or preference. It’s what I’m doing right now.
EEL – Breakdancing is a recurring theme in your novels and obviously a love of yours – do you think that recent main stream exposure on TV (ie. So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Best Dance Crew, etc.) has given the dance form more mass appeal or have they taken the “street” out of it & watered it down?
Jill – B-girling is a very young dance form. To expect it to stay the same forever is asking too much. If it’s anything like ballet, it will barely be recognizable as itself 300 years from now. If we want it to last that long, we have to let it grow and change. Its roots will always be what they are, and the street will always be a part of that. I don’t think it’s something that any one interpretation or representation of it can detract from.
EEL – Rhythym & Blues has been dubbed “LGBT-friendly” – how has the response been so far, regarding a teen novel with this label? Are you seeing much more openmindedness in this regard (ie. a widening of the market)?
Jill – Things are off to a good start with a great review on the Queer YA blog (DaisyPorter.org/Queer YA). I think teens, especially teens who read, are already very open-minded. They’re probably confused that the rest of us are so slow to get with the program sometimes.
EEL – What is Alya’s favourite dance move?
Jill – Alya loves the big new thing she’s learning RIGHT NOW. Something hard. Something that looks impossible, but feels amazing. Sometimes, a huge leap, that lets her fly through the room and take up space. Sometimes, something so subtle and smooth, you’d swear she was made of liquid– once she’s practiced it a thousand times.
EEL – Montreal vs Toronto – which has the better b-boy/girl scene?
Jill - The scenes are SO different. When I first arrived back in Montreal, I was astounded by the sheer number of really strong b-girls in the scene, in particular. Also, of the willingness of guys and girls alike to take classes. When you think of how much smaller Montreal is in population, it’s amazing how much depth and variety there is to the dancing here– not just in breaking, but in many genres across the board– not to take anything away from Toronto. The two break scenes are very friendly with one another. For instance, the owners of Street Dance Academy in Toronto, and Studio Sweat Shop in Montreal are good friends.
EEL – When did you start break-dancing? How often do you practice now?
Jill – I started in my mid 20s, in Toronto, just recreationally. I’ve been doing it on and off for years, between injuries, and crazy work schedules, and writing projects, and all the adult stuff that life is crammed with. These days I’m doing more House dancing, and I’ve been getting back to yoga, which feels really good. In February, at Studio Sweatshop, I did SweatFest, which was 28 classes of all kinds, in 28 days. That was unusual but fun. I don’t normally get to dance that much.
EEL – You are your own webmaster, how do you think the internet affects book promotion/exposure? Is it more effective with a hands-on approach from the author, herself?
Jill – I think it’s most effective when you can work in tandem with your publisher. When I think of an idea, I let my publisher know about it, and I ask for input or help when it’s appropriate. The stuff I make (like my book trailer: http://www.jillmurray.com/2010/03/24/book-trailer-rhythm-and-blues/) gives them more to work with, and I try to find out what kinds of things would be most helpful to them. I want to multiply my options by being creative and available for promo opportunities. At the end of the day, your publisher has one or several of your books to promote, but only you can look out for your whole career; not being hands on isn’t a serious option.
EEL – Did you find it hard as a Canadian author to find a publisher or agent? Has your work crossed our borders yet?
Jill - We’re still working on getting my work out of the country. We’re pretty lucky in Canada, to have good Canadian publishers who can make editorial decisions on their own terms. Sometimes it seems like they have more flexibility than say, American publishers, who strike me as more aggressively market-driven– which of course has other benefits. I don’t think that being in Canada is holding me back. It’s just a matter of writing the right story for the right place at the right time. It’ll all come together when it’s good and ready.
EEL – You write, sing (according to your publisher), dance, web design and do event speaking – is there anything that you are afraid to do or something that you’re dying to try but haven’t yet?
Jill - I was afraid of bre
aking before I tried it, but it looked way too fun not to. My reaction to fear is usually to force myself through it (after a period of building myself up.) Just the simple act of trying something usually shows me an aspect of life I hadn’t noticed before. And everything is less scary if you tell yourself you’re allowed to totally suck at it. I don’t try these things because I think I’ll be a hotshot at them. I just want to know what they feel like.
EEL – What is your favourite dance move? And, for the non-breakdancer, is there a simple move that we could try at home?
Jill – I’m rather a fan of anything that involves backbends, or turning, because I have a leftover addiction to spinning, from my figure skating days.
I think the simplest, best “move” anyone can try is go to a place where people are dancing, and join them. Just that is so intimidating for so many people– guys especially, in my experience. So I say, get on that dance floor, enjoy the music, and see for yourself how much no one else cares what you look like, and how great it feels to burn off energy in time with the beat.
I want to thank Jill for taking the time to be here with us today. And while this may not have been the most hard-hitting, edgy interview, I hope you all enjoyed it and leave here curious to check out Jill’s work. I will be reviewing Rhythym and Blues soon, so keep an eye out for it!