Jill Amadio is an author, journalist, ghostwriter, and audiobook narrator from Cornwall, UK. She lives in Westport, CT. She has ghostwritten 17 memoirs, including Rudy Vallee, a U.S. ambassador, a nuclear physicist, an oil baron, a rodeo champion, an inventor, and others. Jill writes three mystery series, a column for a UK online magazine, and for The Writes in Residence. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Authors Guild, and Mystery Writers of America.
What brought you to writing? I won every English award at school and college with my passion for writing, while I failed miserably at math. My life ambition was to be a reporter, and I achieved that goal at newspapers in London, UK; Madrid, Spain; Bangkok, Thailand; and in Westport, CT. I wrote a syndicated column for Gannett Newspapers and an automotive column for Entrepreneur magazine.
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I write mysteries, novels, true crime, biographies, and ghostwriting memoirs. I was once hired to write a thriller by a client and went on to write my own crime series featuring a British amateur sleuth in America.
Tell us about your writing process. At first, it was daunting to come up with 70,000 words after writing 3,000-word articles. I am lucky to have the drive to write and rarely experience writer’s block. I awake each day eager to get to my necessary research, which can send my plot off in a different direction than planned, but it can also open new scenarios. I always write at my desk because it feels more like working rather than at a café or other outside location.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am both. I think up a rough idea for a plot, mulling three or four different ways to go, then I expand upon my choice, create the characters, decide on the settings, and then write a two- or three-page outline. Once I begin writing the first draft, however, I become a pantser, which means I feel free to change any of the elements as I go along. As I write I often get better ideas than my original ones, especially when writing dialogue,, and I am always delighted when this happens.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Realizing that my characters try to make their own decisions, I once decided on a particular character as the murderer, but the more I ‘wrote’ her, the more I came to like her, so I picked someone else for the killer, throwing the plot into chaos but eventually fixing it, and keeping her as an ongoing minor character in the series. I’m a great fan of descriptive verbs, and particularity can challenge a writer to create colorful, original detail.
How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist – for the antagonist? Raising the stakes is one of the most exhilarating times of writing a mystery or a thriller, especially with cliffhanger endings worked out for each chapter. I can half-drown someone, have my sleuth flee the murderer with an extraordinary feat, or put characters into great danger with the flick of the keyboard. It all depends on the imagination whether and how any of the victims should be spared or not, whether the killer must be caught in an unexpected, explosive ending, and if the plot is so compelling with a satisfactory ending, the reader eagerly awaits the next book in the series.
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? No, but they can go off the grid, so to speak, because my sleuth, Tosca Trevant, is a transplanted Brit in California who is often mystified by the lifestyle. I occasionally wish she was more understanding and less impulsive. In my novel based on a true 9/11 story, the protagonist is a real-life young woman who had asked me to ghostwrite her memoir. I eventually published it as fiction, but the book is closer to true crime than novelistic.
What are you currently working on? I have started two new mystery series, as well as completing my third book in the Tosca series. One of the new series features three retired librarians living in a New England fishing village who find murders on their doorstep. The other series’ protagonist is a ghostwriter based in Connecticut who is mistaken for a ghost hunter.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Find the authors you most admire and study their technique, style, and how they craft their stories. Each of us writers has a different, natural talent and means of expressing ourselves in our books, so don’t worry you might be copying your idol. Use them as guidelines.