Call me biased, but after getting to know Jill Marsal over the last seven months, I think she’s the best… And I’m thrilled to have a chance to interview her today…
On the fiction front, Jill looks for all types of women’s fiction, stories of family, interesting relationships, Southern fiction, or multi-generations, and all types of romance, including romantic suspense, historical, contemporary, and category romance. She also is looking for mysteries, cozies, suspense, and thrillers that keep the pages turning and have an original hook. She likes general commercial fiction and welcomes a dramatic storyline and compelling characters in interesting situations or relationships. If you have a novel that has a highly original concept or voice, Jill would love to see it.
On the non-fiction side, Jill’s areas of interest include current events, business, health, self-help, relationships, psychology, parenting, history, science, and narrative non-fiction. She is particularly drawn to projects which will move readers or leave them thinking, which make provocative arguments or share interesting research, or which offer useful, new advice.
Tell us a little bit about your background, education, and experience as an agent.
I have always loved reading and great books. I started working in a literary agency when I was a senior in high school and later went to work at a publishing house in New York. I then got a law degree and practiced law for a few years.
This helped me have a strong background for contracts and contract negotiations. But my main love is agenting-reading and editing manuscripts, helping writers formulate ideas and structure proposals, pitching them to publishers.
I worked at the Dijsktra Literary Agency for eight years and then in 2009, left with Kevan Lyon to found the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, and over the years have had the opportunity to work with terrific writers- from debut to New York Times bestsellers.
When did you fall in love with the literary world? Was there a magic moment? Did a certain book or author inspire you?
I remember being in 7th grade English class and our teacher Mrs. Browne always read to us after lunch to calm the class before starting lessons. One of the books (The Phantom Tollbooth, I believe) had a scene where the characters were sitting in a car or some type of vehicle, and one of them said “be quiet because it goes without saying,” and I remember thinking that was such a great word play, and I was hooked.
Are you a fiction or nonfiction girl?
Both– fiction, non-fiction- all types of books and subjects.
Favorite childhood book?
Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books
What’s your favorite romance genre? Romance book/series?
Contemporary and historical, though I love most romance genres. It’s the only genre I know where you are guaranteed the HEA.
Favorite romantic spot to visit?
Watching a sunset on the beach with chocolate covered strawberries.
Good Will Hunting
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“So many books, so little time.”
If you could go back in time, is there any moment in your life you’d change? One you’d relive?
In college my senior year, I got very sick and had to go home and missed over a month. I would love to go back and have that time and the experiences that I missed.
Tell us what advantages/disadvantages you see in self-publishing versus traditional publishing.
I think self-publishing allows authors to publish books that traditional publishers might be hesitant to take on and so authors are less constrained by rules, genres, or publishers’ conceptions of “what will work on the market.” Self-published authors can try new and risky things, often to great success.
On the flip side, editors at traditional houses have terrific experience, know the market well, have a sense of what has worked and what hasn’t, and can offer invaluable feedback in shaping a manuscript. Further, for many authors without a platform or experience in marketing, the self-publishing route can be challenging, and it may be difficult to break out and find your audience. How will readers learn about your book? How will you make it stand out on the market? Traditional publishers have experienced marketing, sales, and P.R. people who can help authors reach a broad audience and take you to the next level.
Also, for authors who want to be in a brick and mortar store, the distribution that traditional publishers offer is not currently available for self-published authors.
What are the top three things you look for in a story when a new author submits a manuscript for possible representation?
The three top things would be great “hook”, interesting characters, and strong/distinct voice.
Any advice for new authors?
Write what you love and are passionate about. Read in the genre so you know what is working on the market. Have others read and critique your work so that you get an “objective” read of your book, and then edit, edit, edit. And don’t give up! It is a very subjective business, and there are so many stories of NYT bestselling authors who received tons of rejections before getting “the call”- do everything you can to make your work as strong as possible and then keep trying.
Thanks for visiting with us today, Jill, and for providing such great advice.
Where to find Ms. Marsal…
And the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency…
Don’t miss out on the third book in the Blind Series…
Evidence of her past sacrifices stained the ground. The gods preferred larger beasts, but birds were acceptable sacrifices from a virgin. A fortnight ago, she’d offered up a dove. If she had another, she’d repeat her effort tonight. Begging Odin to reveal her future had proven unfruitful. Allfather never answered inquiries about her fate. Did his silence signify early death? Or indifference? She’d convinced herself her future remained undecided. Maybe she should run away and find her destiny.
Kara sat cross-legged on the grass and gazed sadly across the water. Dozens of torches illuminated the west wall of the keep. Patrols passed by often and she could see their shadowy forms now. What most captured her attention was the cloudless sky. The stars captivated her more than a skald’s tale. She gazed at Thor’s fiery chariot and Thjazi’s eyes in the heavens, mapping the constellations in her mind. Sighing, she heard something splashing in the water. A large bird or fish? She leaned forward and squinted—watching. It moved closer.
After dealing with Jarl Erik yesterday, Aaron needed some time alone. Upon his arrival at the steading, he’d noticed a lake along the back side of the house. It was a perfect night for a swim. He disrobed, leaving his boots, shirt, and weapon belt in the sand. No one would seek him at this time of night. He wanted to explore the islet. Reaching shore, he spotted a boat and prayed no one else was here. Very much in the mood for a fight still, he feared if he met one of Erik’s foul mouthed guards, he’d kill him out of sheer pleasure.
Something or someone ducked behind the trees. Did wildlings inhabit this place? Curiosity gripped him as he chased the shadow. A well-used footpath took him deep into the woods. The moon provided the light he needed to pick his way along the narrow trail. A few minutes later, feminine laughter stopped him dead in his tracks. A chill spiraled down his spine. There was something unnatural about this place. Spirits? Gods? He advanced slowly, finally reaching a clearing. A woman clad in white was standing in the middle of the field with her back facing him. Her silhouette looked ghostly against the pitch. She stared heavenward and he followed her gaze. Thousands of stars glittered overhead.
“The heavens are ablaze,” she whispered.
No voice had ever sounded so enchanting, so potent. Could this be a walking dream? The spirit-woman turned. Christ’s blood, the last person he wished to see again, Erik’s daughter. Bright blue eyes pierced him the same way they had in the hall.
Here in the moonlight, dressed in little more than a shift, she resembled a goddess. Their gazes met. Fire fueled fire. Although he wanted to touch her, he feared what would happen. He’d never be able to stop.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
Her words pulled him out of his dark thoughts. “I have no answer,” he admitted. “Something tempted me to swim across that lake. Or someone.” For a moment, the world spun slowly around him. Everything he’d ever wanted stared him in the face. The peace of nightfall, trees, water, and a fiery temptress who didn’t know when to shut up.
“Tempted?” she scoffed. “Perhaps my father outwitted you again and you came here to lick your wounds in private.”
What he’d give to be able to crawl back into that lake and swim out of Kara’s life forever. There was a better chance of Odin splitting his skull in half. “Who have you been talking to, lass? The tides have turned—your father no longer opposes me. And this chance meeting has nothing to do with your sire.”
“Oh?” She looked sharply at him. “Do you think I’ve been waiting for you?”
He shook his head. “The thought never crossed my mind,” he said. “Were you?”
“No. I come here to pray.”
“It’s a beautiful spot.”
“Aye,” she agreed. “Frequented by my mother, and now me.”
“You weren’t praying when I arrived.”
“No,” she said. “I enjoy the stars almost as much as the gods.”
“Odin’s universe is vast.”
“Odin’s?” she asked. “Don’t you mean God’s?”
“Whoever created the heavens,” he quickly corrected himself. “I often find myself mystified by its beauty.”
“What else interests you, milord? War? Politics?”
She cocked her head. “Are you a negotiator for the king or a soldier?”
“My responsibilities require many skills.”
“Including intimidating my father?”
He scooted closer. “Unfortunately, milady, your father threatened me first. I am a principled man, slow to temper, but protective of my honor.”
“Why does my sire mistrust you?”
“Who am I to know your father’s mind?” She asked too many questions. Questions he wasn’t ready to answer. Maybe someday.
“Why does your father dress you in armor and train you to fight?”
She laughed. “For the same reason you held a dagger to my brother’s throat last night. For the sake of honor.”
He looked at her more closely. Endless beauty met his gaze, but there was something different about her. A quiet confidence. And her eyes.
Warm excitement flowed through him. He gazed heavenward again. “Look.”
“A shooting star,” she said excitedly.
“From your prophets or Allfather?”
Aaron rested his right hand on her arm. “Why credit anyone?”
“You prefer mystery?”
“I prefer you,” he said.
She closed her eyes and placed her tiny hand over his. “I can’t stop thinking about you.”
It took a moment for her words to sink in. By Odin, she’d declared her feelings. Only he wished she hadn’t. Every inch of his body screamed to get closer. “I’m trying very hard to control myself.”
A smile lifted the corners of her mouth as she opened her eyes. “What if I don’t want you to?” Heat and lust sparked between them.