Once again, I have a very timely guest on How I First Published. With the last of The Hobbit movie trilogy premiering in a few days, we have the author of a teen devotional based on characters from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings–Jill Richardson! Welcome, Jill! So interested to hear your story!
What was your first published book?
Friend of a Friend, a historical romance published by Barbour in their Heartsong Presents line. It’s about a young woman living in southern Illinois just before the Civil War who has to balance her father’s Southern sentiments with her leaning toward an abolitionist young man and her faith.
I wrote it ages ago when I was in seminary and had two toddlers. Can’t believe I had the time!
Was it a traditional publishing contract or did you go indie? How did that come about?
It was traditional. At that time, indie wasn’t really even an option. I know no one will believe this, but–Amazon did not exist!
How did this make you feel? Has it been as good as you expected, or a letdown, or exhausting, for example?
Ecstatic. And odd. I had never considered myself a fiction writer, and I still don’t. Before that, I had been published in dozens of magazines with strictly nonfiction pieces.
The idea for the book came to me in a dream—really. So I followed it, and suddenly I’m being offered a contract. Surreal, really. I’m not even sure twenty years later if it was any good, but it did help me pay the bills during grad school!I think it also helped me find that fun, creative part of my brain at a time when it was otherwise full of writing heavy papers on theology and theories of mission work.
Tell us what’s happened with your writing journey since.
I followed that up a few years later with Making a Name for Myself, a book of biblical monologues for church performance. That’s now transformed into individual scripts on the Lillenas website people can purchase. Some are also in a compilation, I love that they’re still being used.
Then I concentrated more on articles during the early child rearing years of life. Shorter attention span, and all. Some of those also were chosen for a compilation on missions put out by Christianity Today.
My most recent books have been Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids: Short Term Missions for Your Whole Family (with a more secular companion, Please Pass the Fish Head: Planning a Volunteer Vacation with Kids,) and Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World, a teen devotional based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters (2013, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas).
The first one was shopped around by my agent for a while, but though publishers loved it, they felt it was to “niche” to sell. So I self-published it on Amazon. It’s close to my heart, because one of my ministries is to encourage parents to minister as a family, and to empower their kids to be ministers, not spectators. So I told the story of our own family’s trip to China and gave a pretty exhaustive education on how to plan one’s own trip.
The second book was born of my love for literature (especially Lord of the Rings!) and teenagers. Again, I really want to help kids think for themselves and develop a worldview that sees Christian faith as relevant to their minds and hearts. I want to keep them engaged in the church.
So I took these characters from the books/movies and talked about one characteristic that makes them unique and related it to Scripture. Then application brings it close to home. Youth groups have used it, and parents have studied it with their teens. I love nothing more than to get an email from someone who tells me their child was drawn closer to God through this book. And I do get them.
Right now, I’m working on a Young Adult novel about illegal immigration, as well as a team written book about Millennials and church. I’m kind of eclectic.
Where can we find your books?
On my website, http://jillmarierichardson.com.
Also at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001KI4P0C