A Conversation with Jill

In case you hadn’t heard, our very own Jill Buteyn, who co-authored Just Show Up with Kara, is also a fiction writer! Her second novel, Her Texas Family, came out in paperback on April 19 and comes out in ebook on May 1. We are planning an online book release party slash celebration slash excuse to hang out with our Mundane Faithfulness community in the comfort of our jammies at home! It is going to be super fun! Mark your calendar for May 4, 6-7pm (mountain time)! Hop on over to the event page on Facebook for the details and to rsvp.

When I read Jill’s first novel, Falling for Texas, last year, I was struck by a few things: the humor, the realness and humanity of her characters, and the redemption. It was, in a word, delightful. As is Her Texas Family. But since Falling for Texas came out, Just Show Up came out, and I was struck by how well Jill writes fiction AND nonfiction. She is amazingly talented and equally humble, which is why I’m not showing this to her before I post…But she is. So beautifully talented. And articulate. Funny. Kind. Encouraging. Godly. I could go on.

But let’s get down to biz: check out this conversation I had with Jill about Her Texas Family.

Blythe: What do you want the reader to experience when they read your fiction?

Jill:       Honestly, the first thing I think of is an escape. Pure enjoyment. That’s not to say I don’t hope that maybe something touches them or even helps them through something they are processing—stories, after all, are the stuff life is made of. But when I pick up a fiction book, I want to enter that world and feel the emotions with the characters. I want the big sigh when I finish. Like a dessert without calories. And so that’s what I hope for anyone reading a book I’ve written. To fly away, for just a little bit, from all of life’s troubles and hardship.

B:        Your first book, Falling for Texas, is fiction; why did you decide to write a nonfiction book with Kara, and was that a daunting task?

J:         Going way back to the beginning of when I started writing, I had originally been torn between fiction and non-fiction. But after attending a conference and seeking God’s guidance, I ended up focusing on fiction. After Falling for Texas, I wrote Her Texas Family. After that, Kara and I started writing Just Show Up. Yes, it was daunting. Kara was perfectly confident that God would make the book happen. But I am far more of a detail person, and I wasn’t sure how the concept of our idea was going to make it to the pages and grow up to be a book. 

Our conversation sounded a little like this:

Kara: This is what we should do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me: Okay. For real? I don’t know if I can.

Kara: You can. We can. Let’s do it!

And…a book was born. Lol. I’m having some fun here, but there’s more truth to it than anything else. And Kara was right. So much prayer went into Just Show Up. To this day, I’m always amazed it exists.

B:        Are fans who have found you through reading Just Show Up ever surprised to discover you are snarky and delightfully irreverent in your fiction (and real life!)?

J:         I mean, really. I’m probably the most pious Christian you’ve ever met, so I don’t even know how to answer this question. Ha!

I definitely showed my serious side in Just Show Up, but I think pieces of my humor and snark came through. I am not sure if it will really surprise anyone to find out that my fiction characters tend to be snarky, stubborn, and sarcastic.

B:        Everyone is wondering: how much, if any, of yourself and your husband Terry have you written into your novels?

J:         My husband and I joke around and laugh a lot. A lot. I know this tends to come through in the characters I write.

I think there are always some pieces of me or even my hubby in the characters. For instance, when I’m figuring out the spiritual thread of a character’s story, I often take something I struggle with—Olivia struggled with guilt and letting go. I am a professional at guilt. Lucy struggles with accepting help. I talked about how I struggle with that very thing in Just Show Up. But then the key is to take that and tweak it to that character’s personality and their back story. So I’m not telling my story, I’m telling theirs.

As for my husband, I have noticed that my male characters usually have good guy friendships. And I think that’s because my husband has great friends. They have a lot of fun, but they’d be there for each other in a minute if something was needed.

B:        Tell us about your relationship to your characters. How do you dream them up? Are they based on real people? Do they become real to you?

J:         I love my characters—but not always at the beginning. The more I write and they take shape, the more I like them. I’m always thinking, plotting, and trying to figure out who they are. I do a lot of brainstorming while cooking dinner or driving kids around. Right now, Lucy in Her Texas Family is my favorite. But that will probably change as the next book comes along. I absolutely think my characters are real! It’s pretty hysterical, but true. But I never base a character on a real person. I don’t write about people I know. I usually take a personality test as my character (thinking with their mindset), and that helps me figure out who they are going to be.

B:        I haven’t read the 50 Shades books, but a big difference that I know must exist between your books and those is that yours are wholesome and redemptive. Your characters are not perfect, nor are they obnoxious caricatures of the ideal Christians. They are flawed! And yet, their stories lead to something bigger than self satisfaction. Can you talk about the process of writing love stories that are flawed but redemptive?

J:         Each of us is exactly that—flawed and redeemed. My characters are often messy in their lives. They make mistakes and stupid decisions, but grace comes along and rescues them, sometimes from themselves. I often learn from reading fiction. From seeing someone else struggle along in a story the way I might. For me, the redeeming factor always comes back to the way God loves us. No matter what we’ve done to him, no matter what he has to forgive us for, his love is always consistent.

B:        What is the most romantic thing Terry has done for you? Or you have done for him?

J:         When Terry and I first started dating, I went on a trip. When I came back, he’d had the oil changed in my car, washed/cleaned it, and had flowers sitting in the driver’s seat. I already knew he was a keeper, but I’ll never forget him doing that. Her Texas Family has a lot about cars in it—Graham is a fanatic about keeping his car clean—and that is based on my husband. Some of the conversations about floor mats and dash protectant are based on our real conversations. So I think it’s interesting that one of the first gestures he made revolved around my car!

B:        What is something readers don’t know about you?

J:         When I was little, I used to mix words and phrases around. I would call the shoulder of the road the elbow. My forehead was a headfore. I know there’s more like this and my mom would remember each and every one. Now, every day, I get to play with the words I used to twist around. For that, I’m very grateful!

Please join us for the release party for Her Texas Family on May 4, 6-7pm (mountain time). We will have games and conversation and other fun stuff!

Click here for the details and to rsvp.