Avoiding Head Explosion

My computer is glitching in ways too frustrating to list here, and of course my warranty expired thirteen days ago. THIRTEEN! DAYS! AGO! But of course!

And Blogger has been giving me a hard time all week, too. Sidebar gadgets keep disappearing, and then reappearing in different spots. Comments work sometimes. I've been getting error messages when I try to publish posts.

With all this, and the fact that I'll be leaving at the end of this week to go back to Toronto for ten days for my best friend's wedding (I'm a bridesmaid), and all the million little things I need to do between now and then (I have to get my hair cut! I have to get my dress altered! I have to write a wedding speech! OMG!) it seems like a good time to take a blog break.

Either that, or I suffer from Head Explosion. And it's never any fun when one's head explodes. (It's very messy – brains go everywhere, eyeballs go missing, teeth become shrapnel...)

I'll see you back here on June 13th, where I'll be posting an interview with my friend JB Lynn about her new book THE FIRST VICTIM! She'll be giving away a free copy of her book, so be sure to stop by!

Have a fabulous first half of June!

Goodbye Oprah

I watched Oprah's last show yesterday, and her words really resonated with me:

Nobody but you is responsible for your life. It doesn't matter what your mama did; it doesn't matter what your daddy didn't do. You are responsible for your life. You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself, and you're responsible for the energy that you bring to others.
~ Oprah Winfrey

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

10 things I hate about villains

Yes, I can feel your shock. Because I'm normally very kind to villains on this blog. They're my favorite characters, after all, but just because they're my favorite doesn't mean they're perfect.

Here are 10 things that annoy me about villains:

10. They're unpredictable. They do crazy things that I then have to justify/fix/revise/delete later.

9. They're moody. Writing all that angst into a character involves a lot of soul-searching. And I don't want to search my soul.

8. They're gross. Since villains are usually responsible for spilling most of the blood and guts in a book, they make me write descriptive passages about the different fluids that come out of bodies, and what they smell like… and sometimes, what they taste like.

7. They break laws. This requires me to research the consequences of their actions, like arrest procedures and courtroom trials and plea bargains and prison sentences. And I dislike research. Very much.

6. They make you care about them. To write a believable villain, you have to get inside their heads. And when you do, and you find out that they're tortured little monsters who've suffered their own abuse, you can't help but feel a teeny bit sorry for them. Which brings me to my next point.

5. They make you feel icky. Empathy for a psycho killer? Ew! I need a shower now! With disinfectant soap!

4. They have to die good deaths. You can't spend an entire book hunting a villain who then accidentally dies from a peanut allergy alone on a park bench. Lame! You've got to build up to their endings and kill them in authoritative ways. And the death has to feel satisfying.

3. They force your heroes and heroines to be smarter. You can't outwit a good villain without being smart. Or lucky. But too much luck will piss your readers off, so you have to write reasonably intelligent protagonists who can fight back. Which is fun to read, but damn hard to write.

2. They're frequently accused of being cliché. Which, okay, is not their fault – a lot of the time, they are cliché. Everything's been done before, in fiction and in real life. Which challenges me, the writer, to make them fresh and interesting, and that's hard work, too.

1. If written well, they steal every scene they're in. A good villain is a scene stealer because deep down, we secretly enjoy watching the bad guys kick ass. We don't want them to win… but we want them to try.

And the 10 things I LOVE most about villains?

Just reread this post. :)

* * *

Author Revealed

Simon & Schuster asked me to fill out this questionnaire, which is now posted on my S&S author page. But I thought I'd post them here as well for your smirking eye-rolling oh-man-she's-so-predictable amusement.

Revealing Questions

Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
    A. Love, friendship, beauty, truth, faith, diligence, and laughter.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
    A. Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
    A. A white sand beach, a pina colada, and nowhere else to be.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
    A. Death. Large dogs. And bugs. Pretty much in that order.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
    A. Toronto, my hometown, having dim sum with my family, and then grabbing a Timmy's with my friends.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
    A. My husband. For putting up with me. Worst-paying job in the world, but he's great at it!

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
    A. "Seriously?", "Interesting!", and "Oh HELL no."

Q. What do you regret most?
    A. No regrets. Everything in my past brought me to where I am today, and this is a really good place.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
    A. The ability to read my cats' minds. What? Is that weird?

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
    A. Marrying Steve. Having the same best friends for over 20 years. And writing CREEP.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
    A. I overanalyze everything.

Q. What’s your best quality?
    A. Loyalty. And I'm a good listener.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
    A. Why, a superhero, of course!

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
    A. I have an easy laugh.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
    A. Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme.That dude seriously kicks butt.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
    A. Hannibal Lecter.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
    A. Cigarette smoke and wimpy handshakes.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
    A. Reading. Talking to friends. And watching MAD MEN.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
    A. Opera singer! Too bad I can't sing.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
    A. Open-mindedness, honesty, and a sense of humor.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
    A. French fries. With ketchup.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
    A. "Creep" by Radiohead (of course), "Here, There, and Everywhere" by The Beatles, "Walk" by Foo Fighters, "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, and "By Your Side" by Sade.

How would you answer some of these questions?

How does it feel to read reviews of my work?

Pretty much the same way it felt when I was querying.

My heart starts pounding, my throat goes dry, my hands shake, my stomach churns. It's possible I might throw up a little. The anticipation is agonizing. Is the review going to be good? Is it going to be bad? A little of both?

The first time I read a review, I don't actually read. I SCAN. As fast as my beady little eyes will allow (yes, they're beady, because I can't bring myself to open them all the way, lest I see something I'm not ready for). This first pass takes about seven seconds. By the eighth second, I'm breathless and have a mild headache from the squinting.

I take a few deep breaths until my heart rate slows down and my vision clears. Then I go back and read the review again. Slowly.

It takes a few minutes to fully process the words.

And then, relief sets in.

The relief isn't because of what the review said. The relief is because I SURVIVED READING IT.

What did Hitchcock say? "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." The review itself is never as terrible as the anticipation of it is. For me, it's just like it was when I was querying. No agent or editor response was ever as bad as those few seconds before opening the email. Those few seconds of apprehension were always the worst.

The Sensitive Drama Queen in me is always surprised that I haven't dropped dead from a heart attack from all the stress that comes with publishing. Because sometimes I really feel like I'm going to (I just said I was a Drama Queen). But then I remember that I survived two writers' workshops, two critique groups, and dozens of rejections. Like all writers, my work has been shredded in magnificent detail, no punches pulled, by some of the most brutally honest people out there.

And yet we're still here, aren't we? Still breathing. Still writing. Still querying. Still doing our thing. Still loving what we do.

Pretty amazing, when you think about it.

Library Journal's review of CREEP!

From Library Journal:
When psychology professor Sheila Tao decides to break off an affair with one of her graduate students because of a growing relationship with another man, she discovers that her student is unbalanced. As his threatening behavior escalates, Sheila finds herself, along with her friends and family, in real danger. Although there are some rough spots in this debut thriller—the subplot about a murdered student is clunky, Sheila’s sex addiction seems mostly unnecessary, and the killer attacks the private investigator with a knife but conveniently misses any major arteries—first novelist Hillier succeeds in building suspense and piling up nail-biting twists and turns for the reader. The ending indicates a possible sequel, but even if Sheila Tao doesn’t return, Hillier will likely have best sellers in the future thanks to her suspenseful plotting and solid character development.
VERDICT: This fast-paced page-turner will keep fans of Lisa Gardner and Chelsea Cain guessing.

Booya! I'll take it!

When life shifts...

Have you ever looked back at where you were a few years ago and been astounded at how much you've changed?


Oh. Okay, then. I guess it's just me.

In all seriousness, my life has changed a lot in the past few years. Four years ago today I was living just outside Toronto and working in the Awards (scholarships) department of a university. Our house was for sale and we were gearing up for a move to Seattle, which was more scary than it was exciting. I was second-guessing our decision to move out of Canada constantly, wondering if it was the right move, wondering if we'd regret selling a house that we loved, wondering if I'd regret leaving a perfectly good job with great benefits, wondering how much I'd miss my family and friends. And admittedly, feeling a tiny little bit resentful that we were doing all this so that Steve (my husband) could take on a new role in his company.

The first year we lived in Seattle was SO STRESSFUL. For lots of reasons. Can't even lie.

But it got better. Because I've actually grown to love the Northwest, and I have a new house which I love more than the old one, and I have a new job (writing) which fulfills me so much more than the old job ever did.

Of course, I still miss the family and friends I left behind, and always will. But we have iPhones and BlackBerrys and long distance plans and we talk – if not see – each other as much as we always did. And I've made new friends here, really good people I'd never have met if we hadn't moved here.

It was the right move.

So tell me... where were you four years ago? Are you where you've always been, or has your life shifted, like mine?

Why CREEP changed from trade paperback to hardcover

A few of my extra-observant friends have noticed that when you click to pre-order CREEP from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Chapters Indigo (or any of the other bookseller sites, for that matter), CREEP is listed as a hardcover release.

And these same friends were wondering, "Uh, Jenny... wasn't CREEP supposed to come out in trade paperback?"

Yes, it was.

When I got my contract for CREEP back in June 2010, the deal was originally for trade paperback. Which was great and fantastic and amazing. I was not disappointed that it wasn't a hardcover deal. How could I be? All that mattered – and all that still matters – was that I was going to be published by a great publishing house, and the day my agent called with that news was one of the best days of my life.

But now the book is coming out in hardcover. Why the change? Well, I found out in January that the publisher of Gallery Books herself had read CREEP over the holidays. They then decided the book might do well as a hardcover.

I was floored when I heard the news. Because it had never occurred to me that something like this could even happen – at that point we were already seven months into production. And I didn't blog about it then because I felt really guilty being so happy about it. After all, getting a book published is a huge accomplishment, no matter what format the book is in. We all want to see our stories out in the world, and read by people who don't personally know us, right? So in that respect, I'd like to think that the format of our published work is much less important than the content.

However, since I've always been honest about my publishing journey on this blog, I can't pretend that I haven't dreamed about holding a hardcover of CREEP in my hands. When I was writing the first draft way back in 2008 and envisioning the finished product, hardcover was what I always imagined. Maybe it's just me, but I've always felt there was something so classically old-school about hardcover books and the way they feel heavy in your hands. Or maybe it's because all the Big Name thriller writers I love and admire get their books released in hardcover first, and I dream of having a career like theirs. I don't know. But I do know that when my agent called and told me they'd changed the format from trade paperback to hardcover, I honestly felt like I was getting my book deal all over again.

Because now it was exactly as I'd envisioned it would be.

The reason I'm telling you this story is because I want you all to DREAM BIG. I'm not trying to be cheesy here. And I'm definitely not kidding. DREAM BIG. Whatever it is you want, put it out into the universe. Imagine it every day. Talk about it. Blog about it. Act as if it's going to happen. Because you know what, it does happen.

It really does.

Edit to add: Blogger ate about 15 other comments that I have in my email but are not appearing below. Thanks for all the good wishes, guys!

Publishers Weekly likes CREEP!

CREEP was reviewed by Publishers Weekly yesterday:

In Hillier's agreeably frightening debut, a psychological thriller, beautiful Sheila Tao, a highly regarded professor of social psychology at Seattle's Puget Sound University, has been having an affair with her volatile teaching assistant, Ethan Wolfe. Sheila, who's spent three years in Sex Addicts Anonymous, a fact known only to her trusted therapist, wishes to end the affair since she's about to marry Morris Gardener, a successful Texas financier who's deeply jealous. Ethan, however, has his own plans for Sheila and uses his considerable talents, which include raising the art of disguise to new levels, to carry them out. When Sheila suddenly disappears, Morris, rebuffed by the skeptical police, hires an equally skeptical PI to hunt her down. While unlikely coincidences abound (a stolen cuff link conveniently turns up) and the characters distinctly lack any redeeming spark, the book holds its secrets well and packs a concluding wallop. (July)

Cool. :)

CREEP cover art! For real this time!

Finally. My cover for CREEP is here.

Click to enlarge to full size

So obviously I'm biased, but I think they knocked this out of the park! I'm thrilled (pun intended). I think this cover is icy and bold and not remotely girly. Exactly what I was hoping for.

Interestingly, it's pretty much the same cover as what they showed me back in January, but the background color has changed (the original had some gold in it), and the red has since been made more vibrant (the original red had a "tarnished" look to it). And they added the Deaver quote (for his full blurb, click HERE).

I love it.

My mom is the reason I write thrillers

In honor of Mother's Day this Sunday, I thought I'd share two of my fondest, funniest childhood memories about my mom. And you wonder where I get my dark sense of humor? Wonder no more!

When I was five, she killed my goldfish. Not intentionally. I'd won two fish at the local fair by bouncing ping pong balls into their glass bowls. Later that evening, we went shopping for a proper fish tank, which came with another free fish. I was now the proud parent of three goldfish! The next morning, they were all dead. Floating belly up. My mom had eaten a bunch of grapes and then put the grape vines in the tank for "decoration". She thought they looked pretty. She also thought that when the fish started swimming around like crazy, they were somehow enjoying the grape vines. But they weren't having fun. They were being poisoned, and they died a slow, painful death.

When I was twelve, she murdered my brother's pet snake. This was definitely intentional. It was a gross creature, long and black and smelly, and he kept it in a large tank in his room. One day, somehow, he lost it. He looked everywhere for it and couldn't find it. So he went to work. Later that afternoon, my mom was gardening. A long black snake was writhing in the flowers. She freaked. She grabbed a shovel and killed it. When my brother got home, he saw the snake in the garden. He freaked. All I remember hearing was him yelling, "Oh my God! Someone chopped my snake in half!"

I love you, Mom. I love you for introducing me to Stephen King's Pet Sematary at the age of ten. You told me I'd like the book because it was about a cat.

You neglected to mention that the cat dies, gets buried in a pet cemetery, and comes back evil.

You also introduced me to Stephen King's IT. You said I'd like it because it was about a clown.

You neglected to mention that the clown was evil and murders tons of kids.

Decades later, you read a short story I wrote, the first one I'd written in years. You didn't think my knife worked well as a murder weapon. You suggested an "ancient Chinese cleaver" instead. And it worked – the story was so much better for it.

Your love of the dark and suspenseful has shaped who I am today as a writer. Thank you for always supporting my dreams. Thank you for always being my biggest fan. And thank you for loving what I write... and for never, ever suggesting I write romance (because we both know I'd suck at it).

Love you.

Toronto, 1977

If you haven't read these already, don't miss out on my mom's pearls of wisdom here:

Her thoughts on the F-word
The importance of learning from other writers, no matter how awful they are
Why used books give you pink eye
An awkward conversation about cameltoe

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! What do you love most about your mom?

My name is Jenny and I'm a two-spacer.

Yes, it's true. I leave two spaces after a period. And I get that it irritates some folks. Maybe not as much as this guy, but it does bug people.

Not that it's much of a defense, but I learned to type in a high school typing class back in 1992. On an actual typewriter. A Selectric, I think. Looked like this:

The class was taught by a fifty-something woman who drilled it into us that two spaces after every period were the proper way to go. Were there computers back then? Of course there were. We even had one at home. But we were all taught the two-space rule. Nobody ever mentioned that the rules were different on a computer.

I'm trying to become a one-spacer. I really am. I'm managing to do it with this post, though it's not without great effort and mindfulness. And I did go back and edit the last few posts I'd written to be all one-spaced. But it's hard, yo! Really, really hard! It might look RIGHT, but it feels WRONG.

So tell me, are you a two-spacer like me, or a one-spacer? And if you're a two-spacer, are you planning on making the switch?

Hello, Angry Birds!

Look what got delivered yesterday:

Isn't she pretty?

I've been a long-time BlackBerry user and I didn't make this switch lightly. BlackBerry is a really great phone, and it's what the majority of my friends use. I already miss BlackBerry's Messenger feature, and right now I really miss the keyboard that has actual buttons (typing on iPhone's touch screen is just awful right now... I've said so many things I didn't mean to say!). I'm also not crazy that the iPhone doesn't push my emails through the second they arrive on the server – the quickest setting is every 15 minutes unless I check them manually. Not a big deal, but I got spoiled by my BlackBerry.

Other than that, the phone is fabulous. I now have iBooks, and Winnie the Pooh came free – it looks amazing! Blogging, Facebook and Twitter also look better and are easier to navigate (which will help my productivity on these sites – my editor has encouraged me to increase my social networking efforts, and now I have no excuses), and having iTunes right on the phone is convenient.

Okay, now I'm going back to work. (I will not play Angry Birds, I will not play Angry Birds, I will not play Angry Birds... gee, maybe I'm not going to be as productive with my new phone as I thought!)

Does your phone help or hurt your productivity?

My first editorial review, from Booklist! And Jennie liked CREEP, too!

You know how I once blogged about spurts of excitement and long periods of nothing?

The last couple of weeks have been a spuuuuuurt.

Okay, totally gross (wow, I'm getting some wicked imagery here), but you know what I mean.

As if Thursday's news wasn't awesome enough, I got my first editorial review for CREEP. And it's Not Horrible! In fact... it's sort of the Opposite of Horrible.

From Booklist:
In this first novel, a sort of really twisted riff on Fatal Attraction, psychology professor Sheila Tao, finally engaged to her boyfriend, thinks it might be a good idea to terminate her affair with a graduate student. But the student, Ethan Wolfe, is a shady character with other ideas that include kidnapping Sheila and playing mind games with her fiancé. This is an engaging thriller, with the kind of twisted story that makes you a bit queasy even as you can’t look away (Sheila appears to be a sex addict, and Ethan a serial killer). Hillier nicely keeps readers on their toes, and there is a whopping great plot twist in the final scenes, one that forces us to revise much of what we believed during the course of the story. Psychological thrillers are tough to execute, because their authors must create stories that infiltrate readers’ minds, pulling them into the plots as more participants than observers. Hillier pulls off that sleight of narrative hand with remarkable skill.

I just... WOW.

I don't know what else to say.



My awesome friend Jennie Bailey, who was one of the winners of the My CREEP is bigger than your CREEP! contest, has posted her review of the book. I'm over the moon! Thank you, Jennie! Click HERE to read it. (You should be reading her blog, anyway!)

I'm so happy.