Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | August 19, 2011

Meet Jill Metcalf, A Lady With Many Stories

T. Hello Jill, welcome to Pinnacle Writing. Get comfortable and tell us a bit about yourself.

J. I was born and raised in a small town just west of Toronto, Canada. Actually, Streetsville was a village when I was a little girl. To this day, I love the smalltown life but it does have its disadvantages. I knew just about everyone in the village and, subsequently, just about everyone knew me. Therefore, the day I plunked my younger brother, Michael, into my doll carriage and pushed him across town, as he cried the entire way, several women called my mother to squeal on me. Those were the days of telephone party lines, so I imagine half the town listened in on that conversation.

Both my mother and father were great readers and, therefore, my brother and I learned to love reading as well. My father was also a history buff and we were fortunate enough to take numerous family vacations to historical sites in the United States and in Canada. Thus, Michael and I became the next generation of history lovers, something for which I’ve always been extremely grateful.

I have such vivid memories of those trips. For example, we were having lunch in a restored Montana town, sitting at a table beside a huge picture window. Michael was 5 years old as I recall. When my father said; “Here comes the Sheriff,” our noses were practically pressed against that window as we watched a staged shoot-out and the bad guy fell off the roof of a building across the street. We knew he was a bad guy because he wore a black Stetson, of course.

I continued to travel when I was older. I lived and worked in Vancouver, Canada and then Sydney, Australia for approximately a year in each place. When I returned to Canada, I still took driving vacations throughout the United States, enjoying more historical places. Many of my experiences and the familiarity with the wonderful places I have visited have become the backbone of my stories.

I hated high school and couldn’t wait to start working…at anything. Once I graduated high school I jumped around from job to job, always bored and never really happy with anything I was doing. After ten years of working in various office positions, I returned to school full-time, completing two years of college and going to complete numerous University degrees at night, while working full-time. I found my niche in the world of real estate management and ended my career after several years of underwriting mortgage fraud. In other words, I underwrote high-ratio mortgage insurance, which is required in Canada, but my forte was seeking out applications that could possibly be mortgage fraud. A computerized application doesn’t prove a lot of background information, but one gets a ‘feel’ for something odd. For example, I picked up one such application submitted in the name of a well-known doctor. She was apparently selling her house in one area of Ontario and buy in another and needed mortgage insurance. The thing is, I knew the doctor had died a few weeks prior. There are many signs of what may possibly be mortgage fraud and it was always a challenge. But I love a challenge! I became fully retired almost two years ago.

T. When did you start writing?

J. Let’s just say I was over thirty when I started writing seriously. I developed Rheumatoid Arthritis and was hospitalized on and off, followed by two years of being housebound. I read everything in the historical romance genre that my family could purchase, beg and borrow during that time. One day I read a historical romance that was truly bad and I said, arrogantly now that I think about it, I can do better than this. So with a package of lined three-ring binder paper and a handful of Bic pens, I wrote a story. My family asked what I was going to do with it. Good question! Next step…I rented a terrible typewriter and went to work. It was a terrible story, of course, but a great learning experience. I went on to write others, eventually investing in my own typewriter and worked at a broken down steno table. The first time a publisher asked to see a completed manuscript, I said, “Oh, no! I’m not showing this to anyone.” I did send it, of course, and it was rejected. But I went on to write others. Eventually I attracted the attention of an agent in New York and the next thing I knew I had a contract with Berkley, writing under the Homespun imprint. I wrote five full-length novels and one novella, while working full-time at a day job. There is something to be said for moon-lighting, however. Writing has had wonderful rewards for me.

T. Was there a favorite writing teacher or mentor? Tell us about him/her.

J. I suppose my “mentors” were the authors of the books I loved to read and re-read. Because historical romance was my favorite read, women like Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and Lavryle Spencer, and their like, had a huge influence on me and my writing. In fact a book-store owner in Chicago compared my first book, Spring Blossom, to the style of Spencer’s early books. I was thrilled, to say the least!

T. Please tell us about your current book. What is the genre? Give us a thumbnail sketch.

J. My next backlist book to be made available in ebook format is Autumn Leaves. It’s a historical romance and takes place in Natchez, Mississippi during the early 1800’s. This book was written on an early excuse for a PC, thus no disc and I’ve retyped it. But I clearly remember how I arrived at the premise for the story. I was half awake in the wee hours when I had a vision of a small girl sitting on the steps of a modest mansion. The child turned out to be McKenna and she came to live in that house with the help of her older sister who schemed to have the frail waif placed in a warm, safe environment before winter arrived and threatened the child’s health further.

The digital format is currently with a wonderful friend and proof reader. And the cover, designed by friend and author, Marsha Canham, is complete and I can hardly wait to show it off!

T. Do you have a sequel or prequel in mind or in progress?

J. I don’t have a sequel to Autumn Leaves planned at this time, although one never knows. Of the three books I have available in digital format at the moment, Family Reunion is a sequel to Spring Blossom. Once Autumn Leaves is live, I will be retyping my novella, a Mother’s Day story set prior to there being a Mother’s day, as we know, it and entitled, Emma’s Day. And after that, I will be working to make my full-length backlist book, Marriage by Design available.

T. What are your writing habits? Are you an outliner or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

J. I usually start with a brief outline and go back to elaborate and fill in the blanks, flesh out the characters and enrich the history. But it is not unknown for one or more of my characters to take over my plans and run the story in a different direction. That can be fun! But I hate coming to the end of a story. The characters live inside my head for so long, they become almost like friends and ending the story is very much like saying goodbye to someone you care about.

T. What are your ideas about the future of digital publishing?

J. I think the future of digital publishing is tremendous. There are so many possibilities. I have to admit I was hesitant about it at first…I have my collection of print books and I treasure them. But honestly, my house is not that big! I have book shelves everywhere. And I discovered how neat it is the throw my Kindle or Kobo into my purse and go. Plus these ereaders are very easy to handle, particularly when one has arthritic hands.

I was dragged kicking and screaming into preparing my backlist for digital publishing but it is absolutely wonderful knowing my stories are out in the light of day again and readers are enjoying them. And, I have learned a lot of technology in the past few months!

T. Anything else to share?

J. Absolutely…happy reading everyone, whatever your choice of genre!

T. Thank you.

J. Thank you for this opportunity to share my ramblings, Thomas!

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Responses

  1. Enjoyed getting to know more about you, Jill. You have had quite an interesting life, but then I think most writers have. Grist for the mill, and all that. LOL

    • Thany you, Maryann! I happy you found my bit of history interesting and thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a message. Best Regards, Jill

  2. Hi Jill,

    Wishing you great success with your digital adventure!

    Evelyn David
    http://www.evelyndavid.com

    • Thanks so much for your good wishes, Evelyn. I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by and post a comments, Regards as always. Jill


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