Lessons Learned Interview + Giveaway

Lessons Learned by Jillian Neal
(The Gifted Realm #2)
Publication Date: October 30, 2013
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy

  One, breathtakingly hot, passion-filled, night ignites a fire in his soul. Everything in his world should be nothing short of perfection…but he is Rainer Lawson.

  His wild evening with Emily is the Realm’s front-page story. Could he have lost the respect of the man that has been like a father to him? Could his family’s hard-earned fortune really dissolve before his very eyes?

  Evil rapidly cinches its chokehold, and everything his father fought and died for threatens to implode. Rainer attempts to protect those that he loves and satisfy the fiery passions between he and Emily, but everything in his world is spinning wildly out of control. His desire to prove himself could very well be his undoing.

  Sometimes the best of intentions are not enough, but perhaps it is the trials by fire that make the man. Steel sharpens steel, and the passions burn white hot in “Lessons Learned.”

Interview with Jillian Neal

Can you tell us a little bit about your series and what inspired it?

  “The Gifted Realm” is based around the concept that there are people living among us that can draw on and use the energies of the earth and of their own bodies. I love the concept that these people are hidden among us, seen but unseen. I have no idea what inspired it, honestly. I woke up one day with Rainer in my mind, and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. This guy that had a really rough life and how he would cope with all that had happened to him and around him. My books are also a take on what happens after a revolution. What happens to the people left behind when their loved ones give their lives for a cause? What would drive them? What would they do to make certain that no one’s life had been given in vain? Every part of their lives deeply intrigues me, and I wanted to show all of that in my story. I honestly feel like these fantastic beings walked into my living room, sat down on my couch, and told me every detail of their story. What would Rainer and Emily’s first time have been like? I wanted to capture those moments in “Within the Realm.” In “Lessons Learned,” we amp it up a little, ok maybe more than a little. I also wanted to know how different couples do things differently. Guys make love, fight criminals, and do everyday things differently. I try to let their personalities show through in every scene. That’s why I enjoy writing from different perspectives. I like showing what’s going on in all of their minds.

When you are writing a book, where do you get your main ideas? Do you outline? Do you have the full story planned out before you start writing?

  I really don’t think that there is any one way to write a novel. I personally do not outline. I kind of feel like it cramps my creativity and my style. I do; however, always carry around a notebook with me and scribble down idea after idea as they come to me. When I began “The Gifted Realm” series, I had a very, very lose idea where we were going, but I had no idea how exactly we were going to get there. I had to write it to find out myself. I love that about my job! Everyday it’s like I get to dive in see what’s going to happen.

There are so many children in the Haydenshire family. Does this parallel your own family?

  My parents are divorced so that is certainly not like the Haydenshires. I have one brother, two step-brothers, and one step sister. That’s from both of my parent’s re-marriages. So, I would have to say no the Haydenshires are not a reflection of my own family, but oh how I would’ve loved to visit the farm for a day when all of the Haydenshire boys were little just to take all of that in.

What are some things you do to give depth to your characters?

  My characters are very real to me. They have birthdays and favorite things. They have real personalities. Logan would never react to something the way that Garrett would or even Rainer would. I try to constantly remain true to each of my characters and what drives them. I already know all of their backstories (yes they are written down and some will appear in upcoming books). But, where they’ve been and what they’ve been through often dictates where they’re going and how they’re going to act when they get there. I keep all of that in my mind when I’m writing, and I try to represent all of that in their interactions.

You write about some seriously “swoon worthy” guys, and on your blog you often discuss how much you adore your husband. So, how did you two meet?

  My DH and I met on a ski trip with the church youth group in high school. We were sitting in the common room of the chalet, surrounded by other people, and we started talking. He was a senior and I was a freshman so I kept telling myself that he was too old for me, but I just always wanted to talk to him. He called me a few nights after we came home and then every night for the next three years. He left for college and we stayed together. I lived for eight o’clock every night when he would call, and I could just talk to him. I honestly think that God sort of stepped in on my behalf and said, “Here you go Jillian. This is the one for you.” We married two months after I graduated from high school. (I can hear you gasping!) I’ve never looked back, and I never want to. I never want to go one single day without talking to him!!

Before you and your husband married, would you say you were like Rainer and Emily?

  Hmm, let me think. No, not really. Emily has infinitely more spunk than I had at her age. I would say we were and are as committed to one another as Rainer and Emily, but they are not us.

Are there “lessons” in your novels that you most want your readers to grasp?

  So, many lessons! I want my readers to ask “why?” Why is this person doing this? Why did he or she react that way? Then when we put the puzzles together I want them to understand that people are not all good or all bad and that most people do have a reason for doing what they do.

  I want my readers to see that marriage can still be hot! I love that the Haydenshires are still “very active.” I love the passions that course through the relationships I craft. I want women to find their own passions and to put passion back into their marriages or relationships.

  I wanted to show that women are beautiful despite the stereotypes we’re bombarded with day in and day out, and I wanted to show that men are not morons. You will see several of my female characters self esteem falter due to societal pressures to be a certain way or have a certain look, but then you’ll also see their partners expressing how beautiful they think that they are. On the other hand, it infuriates me when I see a television show where the father or husband is portrayed as imbecilic and that is too dumb to get in out of the rain. Stop that! So, my female characters are not double zeros with triple DDD’s, and my guys are intelligent, caring, strong, men. I’m also not a big fan of a very passive female character. My girls have personalities, and thoughts, and ideas all their own and they aren’t afraid to let you know that.

Did you learn any “lessons” from writing your books, and what were they?

  Where to begin? I would say that first my writing has given me a great deal of confidence. I believe in my story. I believe in my characters. Everyone is a critic, certainly, and some people may not like my writing, but I love what I do. I had to decide to do it for me, because my characters have a story to tell and I just feel so privileged to be the one that gets to tell it. On that note, telling my family what I’d been doing for the last few years and that I was going to be published, as a romance writer, was another time that I had to cling to my own belief in myself. I come from a very conservative family, and my love scenes certainly are far from conservative. I had to decide to let the world see me and my beliefs. It was a very scary thing to do.

Which question are you most sick of answering in interviews?

  Are you kidding me? I’m a mom. The mere fact that someone, anyone cares what I have to say is astonishing to me! I’ll answer anything (well just about anything) because that means that somewhere out there someone cares about my opinion. LOL – Actually, if I were being completely truthful probably the “Who’s your favorite character” question. I just cannot answer that. I have no idea. I love them all. I could never choose!

Which of your characters do you think is this most misunderstood and why?

  Oh, that would have to be Dan Vindico. He’s so intense and driven, and he rubs a lot of people the wrong way. There is a method to his madness and when we get to his story hold on tight it is hot, hot, hot and then brutal all at the very same moment.

A number of characters in your books have tattoos. Do you have any, and if so what/where? If not, would you ever consider getting one?

  I do not currently have any tattoos. I would love to get one (or more) but honestly I’m scared of the pain. I’m a wimp. I know. I have said that maybe, possibly if I sell ten thousand books that I would get a “Alis volat propriis” tattoo done with either a dove or a butterfly. It means “she flies with wings all her own.” I love that! I would also like DH’s initials done somewhere, not sure where. Have to think about that.

There are a lot of different types of elements in Lessons Learned. Chases, tender moments, battles, and steamy love scenes. Which type of scenes are your favorite to write, and which are the most difficult?

  Wow! Good Question! I would say that the “battle” moments or when one of my characters has been hurt or is about to be hurt are by far the hardest to write. It wounds me to write about them being hurt. When Adeline and Logan break up in this book (That was in the scene at the end of “Within the Realm” so I’m not giving much away here.) I hurt for Logan and for Adeline. It made me physically sick. You’ll have to read to find out what happens to them.

  I do love to write a love scene. I love the intricacies of it and to really think about what would be going on in their minds at that moment.

  I also love writing what I call an “advice” scene from one of my older characters. I love to stretch my own mind into that of someone who has lived so much more than any of my characters. What would they really say at this moment? How would they feel? What would they wish someone had told them in a similar situation?

You write from the male perspective. Do you find this hard to do, and how do you make sure it sounds authentic and believable?

  Well, I am completely surrounded by men in my life ☺ I’m obviously married, I have two boys of my own, I grew up with a little brother and all of his friends hanging around constantly. I have a dad and a step-dad. So, I kind of think that I “get” guys as much as any girl can “get” guys. They are people after all even if what they say occasionally sounds alien. I always read what I’ve written that day to DH, and more than once he’ll stop me and say either “wow how did you know we talk like that or think like that?” He also occasionally says, “ok no guy would say or do this…” So, he’s my go to source for all things “male.” I also peruse quite a few websites and Men’s Health and other men’s magazines (no not porn) to get a few ideas here and there.

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