In this edition of A Perfect 10, We sit down with author and self-proclaimed underpaid superhero, Jill Sammut. I hope you will enjoy her answers to the 10 questions. I know I did.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Most often, writing relaxes me. I often have a variety of ideas and themes running amuck in my head. Typing out my thoughts is therapeutic.
Do you ever write under a pseudonym? If not have you considered it? Why or why not?
Yes, I write under a pseudonym. I am a foster parent, veterinarian, and I teach at a public school, in addition to writing books. Basically, I’m underpaid superhero. Using a pen name gives my kids an additional layer of privacy and gives me some separation between my different job titles. Helena Newsworthy and her little sister, Martha Newsworthy, help out with my YouTube promotional videos. Their names are also stage name, though wouldn’t it be great to have a last name of “Newsworthy”?
Does a big ego help or hurt writers? Why or why not?
There can be a fine line between confidence and narcissism. Authors need to believe their work has something to offer and that it is worth readers’ time and money. However, I am a big believer in treating people with respect and kindness. If I am too self-important for basic decency, I have a far bigger problem than simply writing and promoting books.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I am truly thankful for stumbling upon my talented illustrator, Nicole Steffes. Her illustrations are just what I had been looking for, and she listened to all of my ideas. I especially love my cover art.
What does writing success look like to you? Have you achieved it?
My first novel, The Cloud at the End of My Rainbow, was published in August of 2016. The second book in the series, When the Rain Falls, has a projected release date of June 2017. I also have several other projects in the works. While I feel I am steadily progressing towards my goals, I suspect success and its definition will evolve over time. Last year, I defined success as publishing my first book, and nearing publication on my second.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What sources do you use?
In many cases, life is my research. Often, there is a topic of interest to my family, students, or wider community and that inspires me to include that element in my writing. Afterwards, I will go back and consult friends, or authorities on the subject matter, about a particular topic. They may also read selections from an upcoming piece for authenticity. For example, there is a hospital scene in my upcoming novel and I had someone who works at a level one trauma center proof that chapter.
How do you select the names of your characters? Have you ever regretted choosing a particular name? Why?
Oftentimes the names I choose were potential names for my children that were rejected for various reasons. Other times, my kids help me choose. I also try to pick a culturally diverse set of first and last names. I have had a few regrets on names. Thankfully, they were changed during the editing process. For example, at one point I had two unrelated characters with the same last name. In another instance, I had a new character who ended up as a friend with another character, and I realized that their names rhymed.
What is the hardest type of scene to write?
For me, the hardest type of scene to write is one where I have to get straight facts across with little emotion. I much prefer writing scenes that invoke sadness, anger, or some other strong feeling. There is one scene in my first novel and another in my second that still make me cry. I know the characters are made up, and I created the plot, but still, the tears fall. When readers tell me that my work made them feel, think, and consider new possibilities, I am pleased.
If you could have dinner with four people, living or dead, who would they be and what would you want to ask them?
This is the most difficult question of the bunch. I don’t know about four, but I would totally have dinner with my late grandfather and ask him about his life before I was born. As a kid, I always meant to sit down with him and record stories from his life.
He grew up in Malta and married my grandmother while the island was under siege at the height of World War II. When the country was devastated after the war, he moved to Dearborn, Michigan to make a better life for his family. Although my grandfather meant to go back to Malta to travel with his wife and three young sons after establishing himself, that didn’t happen. My father had major health issues and needed services that were only available in the United States at the time. My grandmother ended up traveling to the US on a boat with three small boys, and my father was able to receive medical care in the Detroit area.
My grandfather passed away when I was nineteen and I hadn’t yet made the time for the project yet. He loved my then-boyfriend and hoped that I would have many children. I would tell him that we have now been married for seventeen years and show him pictures of all of his great-grandchildren. Remember question number eight? I’m writing a scene with strong emotions…
What platform has brought you the most success in marketing your books?
Because I am an emerging author, marketing is a work in progress. I have a very new website, Facebook page, You Tube channel, e-mail list, and I recently did my first book fair. Based on numbers alone, I have had the most interaction from my You Tube interview with noted news personality, Helena Newsworthy. That particular video has around 2200 views. The most sales in one day was at a local book fair.
What book would you like to promote and how can we connect with you?
Connect with Jill:
My website: www.jillsammut.com
On it you will find pictures, the video interview, biographies, and links to social media. I would be happy to e-mail any separately, if you wish.