Sunday, September 25, 2016

AMONG THE STACKS: Jill M. Richardson


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jill M. Richardson:
I'm a writer, speaker, pastor, and mom of three girls (women).  I like to travel, grow flowers, kayak, break into random musical numbers, and read.  I love cats, oceans, the Cubs, dark chocolate, Earl Grey, my family, and God, not necessarily in that order.  I have an unnatural love for Middle-Earth, fish tacos, old musicals, and chocolate marzipan.  I've written five books, hundreds of articles, a fair number of Facebook rants, and blogs on the topics of empowering women and girls, listening to the next generation, and loving annoying people.  I've been an associate pastor for nineteen years but a senior pastor for only four months.  It's scarier than I thought.  I have a degree in English and Secondary Education from Washington University in St. Louis, a master's of Divinity from Bethel in St. Paul, and I'm completing a Doctorate in Church Leadership in a Changing Context at Gordon Conwell.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Jill M. Richardson:
Most people don't know a lot about me since I'm such an introvert.
  1. I have played Mother Superior (Sound of Music), Mrs. Potts (Beauty & the Beast), Addaperle (The Wiz), and other things on stage.
  2. My favorite bird is a rose-breasted grosbeak.
  3. I have been to Paris three times, which is not enough, but I think my favorite city might be Vancouver.
  4. My first pet as an adult was named Loki, before that name was cool, because he was a very mischievous cat.
  5. I graduated first in my seminary class, and I don't think a woman has done that before.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Jill M. Richardson:
I remember my favorite book as a small child was Ferdinand the Bull.  I understood that he felt different.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Jill M. Richardson:
Oh wow.  I'm reading a ton of books at one time, which is very uncharacteristic.  For fun, I'm reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown and Essentialism by Greg McKeown.  For work, I'm reading Good Faith by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.  And also Rick Steves' Spain because we're going there soon!  That's enough to mention.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

Jill M. Richardson:
When I coached Battle of the Books, I read The House of the Scorpion, a YA futuristic thriller, not at all my thing.  I loved the deep issues the author brought out and how well she did it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Jill M. Richardson:
I kind of fell into writing.  I always knew people said I was good at it.  When I couldn't get a teaching job because I was too mobile, I started writing magazine articles instead.  The first one I submitted was to Discipleship Journal, and they took it.  I was hooked.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Jill M. Richardson:
I have a recliner that's supposed to be good for my back.  That's usually the spot.  If home is too distracting, then the library (I like to go to lots of different libraries) or a cafe.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Jill M. Richardson:
Other than the usual too many distractions until I finally put words on the page?  Not really.  I used to absolutely have to write with pen and paper, but NaNoWriMo made me lean to compose on the computer.  I do tend to research a topic to death, so I put off the actual writing too long.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Jill M. Richardson:
Outlining it all is a comprehensible form to begin with.  That's the hardest part.  I always am certain that it will never, ever come together and this one will be a failure.  And then it does, and the rest is much easier.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

Jill M. Richardson:
It probably is this Hobbit book, because I've gotten such much correspondence from parents who have seen it bring their teens or college-age kids back into scripture.  My life mission is to bridge the faith divide between older and younger generations, so when I hear people tell me something I wrote made young people want to read the Bible more?  Want to explore faith again?  I can't even say what that means.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Jill M. Richardson:
My favorite authors are TolkienVictor Hugo, and Jane Austen.  I am inspired by the first two because of their themes of grace, second chances, and everyday heroism.  That's my heartbeat right there.  For nonfiction, which I read far more often, I like Malcolm Gladwell's work.  I love figuring out why people behave like they do or history happens as it does.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Jill M. Richardson:
A good conflict.  A story has to have something worthwhile driving its dilemma.  If it's just someone's personal issues, it might be fun reading, but it's not a story in a timeless sense of the word.  And characters I can actually like, even with and more because of their flaws.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Jill M. Richardson:
For me to love a character, she has to have real fears yet real courage.  She has to be quirky, funny, smart, and want to do good, even if she fails at that sometimes.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Jill M. Richardson:
Yes!  If the cover looks unprofessional, I assume the inside is as well.  If it looks like the graphics were designed thirty years ago, that tells me something about the writing.  For the books I self-published, I gave my concept to my daughter, who does graphic design, and she came up with what I thought was beautiful work.  For the Hobbit book, I also gave ideas, they showed me theirs, and I loved what they did.  I especially loved the gold writing around the hobbit door.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Jill M. Richardson:
I've learned that not everyone will love me or my books, but for those who do, we have a relationship.  I have their trust.  I never want to violate that.  I want to give the best I have not because I'm a perfectionist and it's all for me (I do have those tendencies) but because these are my people, and their hurts and needs and hopes mean something.  Writing is a dialog.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Jill M. Richardson:
I wrote a scene in the YA novel I'm working on where the protagonist's friend is verbally assaulted with racial slurs.  That was hard for me to write.  I hated it, and I had to get it right, no matter how awful it felt.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different than others out there in this genre?

Jill M. Richardson:
I hope my books do a good job of blending humor and serious theology.  I don't talk down to my audience.  I believe in their intelligence.  I also believe in not taking everything too seriously and having fun while we learn from one another.  One critic called me "constructively irreverent."  I'll take that.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Jill M. Richardson:
I did not choose it.  It is immensely important, and I am terrible at coming up with titles, so I happily let my publishers do that for me.  They know more than I.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Jill M. Richardson:
My tagline is "Reframed: Repicturing Faith with the Next Generation."  That's the mission out of which I write.  The hobbit devotional was an attempt to bring teens and college students who might be drifting from faith toward something that connected to them on a pop culture or literary level and then talk about God.  My book on short term missions tries to help families do mission together, not segmenting off in separate generations.  I want readers to talk to one another about how they can do faith together, regardless of issues that divide them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Jill M. Richardson:
Hmmm... my trunk right now has to be a different kind of book - I need to make a wedding photo album for my daughter and new son-in-law!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Jill M. Richardson:
I am working on a book that is a dialog between baby boomers and millennials on faith and how we do church together with love.  I'm also trying to find a home for my first YA novel, a book about a high school girl who just wants to disappear but instead gets entangled into issues of immigration and its legalities while she learns to be a brave friend.  A collaborative devotional written by 75 women that I am compiling and editing.  Lots of articles on church leadership, especially for women.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by today, Jill.  One last thing before you go.  Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Jill M. Richardson:



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