Jill Robi first caught my attention by the viral Tumblr post with her and James Marsters. She was my intangible, unbelievable internet hero. That is… Until she found me on Facebook and sent me a message. It was like the fan girl universe was aligning and falling into my favor. Not too soon after, I found out that not only was she as big a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan as I was but she was also a writer. Dream come true. So, I preordered her latest book, sent a Facebook message, and a few weeks later we were seated in my favorite coffee shop for a personal interview about her latest masterpiece The Good Soldier.
Note to My Readers: This interview was recorded and was a 2 hour audio file. What started out as an interview turned into what could only be described as two women writers conversing over a bottle of wine, without the wine. Hahaha! While I obviously didn’t include TWO HOURS of awesome-ness, I do boldface and parenthesis a lot of finer notes of the conversation. The one thing that I love about Jill which is what makes her the topic of this fan Friday is that her personality is such a huge thing. It’s very alive and thriving and I felt like this interview wouldn’t have been complete without some of those little windows into who she is as a woman, a writer, and a fan girl.
Jill Robi // The Interview
What got you into writing?
Well, I was always writing. It started in fifth grade, writing parody songs. I was Weird Al’ing my way through the Spice Girls. Every other year at school, we had that Young Authors thing so it was like you had to have something. I won the award in my eighth grade year for my poetry, and I thought: “That’s kind of cool.” Then, I got into fan fic and fan fic was really where I started writing stories. I have to be honest, my first few stories were shit.. they were shitty but they still made people cry. So that was key.
I wrote my original fiction piece when I was about sixteen. It too wasn’t the best but I posted it on fictionPress and people liked it. Fan fiction really strengthened my writing. It tested me.
Are you excited?
I’m very excited. I’ve been working on this story in some shape or form for… [oh Gosh!] fifteen years? It started with a drawing. It started with a terrible drawing. I know to stay in my lane now, but I love art. So it started with a drawing of this character that I didn’t know who she was. It’s funny because she started very stereotypically; a comic-esque, skintight, cleavage bearing thing… This character is so far removed from that. She’s out of shape, “I’m not running around in no heels!” She’s very grounded.
Tell us about the book.
Oh God, I suck at summaries. [we both laugh here. It’s obvious we’ve both been through it.] It took me a year to write this blurb on the back cover. Part of me wants to say that it’s a “character study.” So you have Reese– the heroine in training and she’s approached by this businessman who is very wealthy. He could be good, could be bad. He’s like “You know what, the old hero is kinda fatigued. I want to get this going and put you on payroll and have you be the new hero.” That’s part of it. The other part of it is that he has this “brother relationship” because as a Whedon person, I love character study. I don’t think anything’s totally black and white. I love grey. [I’m actually in the background screaming ‘yasssss’ as she’s telling us this] That was a big part of why I wanted to write this book because most superhero stories are like “Good is good, bad is bad” and that’s boring to me. You want to know the layers.
So, what you’re saying is this guy.. comes to this girl and says: “Hey, you wanna be a super hero.” and she’s like.. hmmm… should I take it? One thing I learned from Joss Whedon.. is don’t trust that kind of stuff?
[Jill laughs here, a sort of sinister laugh. It also a laugh that indicates that she knows exactly the kind of thing I’m referencing when I say ‘I learned from Joss Whedon.’]
I know you’re a fellow fan girl and I was going to ask you if.. any of your books are influenced by encounters.
Oh yeah. My first book Fangirl is totally about [pauses for a beat and backtracks so that there is a deeper meaning to this story.] When I was younger, I was all about LiveJournal. LJ was a huge part of my life. I miss it. Back in those days, I used to do con reports. People would be like “Oh, I feel like I was there.” So I was like “Maybe I can weave this together and make this a thing.. and make things go the way I wanted them to go.” [I do have to.. sorta get in trouble here. Jill takes this moment to bow her head kinda bashfully. I laugh telling her there’s no trouble as she confesses that she has to give a bit of credit to James Marsters for being the inspiration of that book.] Big inspiration! I’m actually going to re-release that. I polished it up. It’s supposed to be coming out again Valentine’s Day.
What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?
I started writing this book in instances It started with a short story that is the prologue, and then I did a really shitty movie script. I did a comic script and when I couldn’t find an artist, I started writing totally out of order! I’d say “write it as it comes.” because maybe you don’t have chapter three but it’s like.. if you have chapter twelve, write that out! That’s what I did. I’ve definitely written a fan fiction that was within this same.. range, but this is the longest original that I’ve ever written. I knew that for a genre like this, it had to be set to a certain length. For Fangirl, it’s was a quick read but this is a full length novel. Especially because now with the concept and standard set out by Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, every book has to be like.. really big. I knew with this genre book, it had to be a certain word length and even then.. It’s about 70,000 words but I didn’t wanna write fillers. You can feel it as a reader. So that was my concern– making it a nice meaty book.
[At this point she laughs and admits that the characters in the book do however eat a lot; which could be misinterpreted as filler. As she was going back over it, she doted on it– thinking to herself “damn, they eat a lot.”]
What was the hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene was probably the sex scene. There’s actually a lot of sex. There’s one gentleman who is very ‘active’ but there’s a first time scene that was hard to write, hard to reread..I don’t know why. Also, writing from the perspective of a guy was a challenge too because I’m not a guy but I wanted to stay true to what they think, do and talk about. I wanted to capture how they talk about women and relationships. Like, “Oh I don’t know what to wear!” That’s not a guy. There is one thing in this book where the guy requests something to her, and it happened to me.. in real life. The guy was very passionate and emotional. I’m sure he didn’t discuss it with his friends but he discussed it with me.
Do you have a favorite character in your new book?
Honestly, I started out with the main focus on Reese but then I got a soft spot for Nic, the lead male character. He kinda came out of nowhere.
You do character study and I’m curious to ask if you’re attached to your characters? Are they like your children or your study?
I’m connected to all of my characters but I think I’d be more connected if this ever became a movie, because I’d have to be part of casting. I do not want some ‘pretty face’ who cannot act messing this guy up. I feel like [and I’ll reference this again.. *referring to the trouble she mentioned prior*] James Marsters, Tom Hiddleston; They act with their face. I feel like Nic doesn’t have to say a lot, it’s on his face and that’s kind of hard to write out but if someone’s acting it.. They have to know where his head is at. I’m very attached to him. I’m also very attached to Reese. She’s gotta be tall. That’s one of my requirements, which might sound dumb.
So, if you can cast your main characters, who would you cast? You’re not allowed to choose yourself as the main role; only because that’s not fair.
[She makes a mock gasp here which makes both of us laugh] She’s not a Mary-Sue (*a character inspired by the writer who is ‘unusually perfect‘*) , but I’d totally insert myself into the role of Reese. Aesthetically, I could cast Gabrielle Union but I don’t know how tall she is. [we muse over height for a bit. I even suggest putting the actress in heels which Jill calls ‘cheating’. The banter creates a clear evidence that Jill is in fact very attached to this character.]
I mean, would you be adverse to bringing in an unknown actress?
Yes, absolutely. I feel like there need to be more actresses here. If I can inject Angela Basset into a Gabrielle Union who’s like a couple inches taller.. That would be Reese Alexander.
[At this point, we go into a reboot of Buffy featuring an all-black cast. Names like Michael Ealy as Angel and Viola Davis as Joyce come out and there are a lot of laughs. Eventually after about forty five minutes, we come to a close and I return back for the final question]
Is there anything you would like to leave with your potential new readers.. aka me.
It’s a very character driven story. It has a lot of flashbacks and delves into the core being of these people. Anything you know about traditional superhero stories… Throw it out the window. I hope you love it.
Meet me back here in two weeks for my review of The Good Soldier. I’m going to give my absolute honest opinion about this book. In the meantime, you can follow Jill Robi on Twitter, GoodReads and Facebook . You go ahead and order your copy of The Good Soldier on Amazon because spoiler alert, I’m fangirling next Friday. I mean… How often do you find a book based off your hometown that gives you the fantasy dream life that you feel you can relate to? Let me not get ahead of myself. See you guys next Friday and don’t forget to congratulate Jill on the release of her newest novel The Good Soldier and to grab yourself a copy.