Interview with Jill Snider Lum

Jill Snider Lum’s story, The Sweet Realm, appears in the Summer 2007 issue of Shimmer. To learn more about Jill, drop her an email here!


Where did the idea come from?
he life of Blackbeard interested me, because the more I read about him, the more I wondered why he had such a reputation for being merciless and bloodthirsty. Then, for reasons I don’t understand, I imagined him encountering a particular sea-monster from an illustration by Hicaru Tanaka. The Lobster is quite different from that sea-monster, of course, but I picture the Lobster with similar claws, and a similar expression on its face.

How did the story change as you developed it?
Initially it was more like a series of vignettes, and it included scenes from Blackbeard’s life in which he talks with the Lobster, which no one else can see. As a story it was pretty wretched, but I wasn’t certain why. The Cecil Street Writers’ Group helped me identify specific problems with it, and from there I was able to re-write it, minus the wretchedness.

You know the advice “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” Was there a scene or line that it really hurt to cut, but cutting it made the story stronger?

Believe me, you don’t want to read the previous version. It needed killin’.

How is this story like your other work? How is it different?
I’ve never written about pirates before, nor about a historical person, so that’s different. But as with most other things I’ve written, the characters made their impression on me before their story did, and that impression was a little… strange. I find it difficult to write stories in which all the main characters are normal.

Questions About Writing:

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
As soon as I knew what one was.

Who do you write for? Yourself or someone else?

I really prefer to like what I’m writing and enjoy the process; it seems to help me produce better work. But I definitely write for the audience. If I were the last person left on earth, I wouldn’t bother.

Who’s your favorite living author?

Barbara Michaels/Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters. Especially when she writes under her first two incarnations.

Favorite book read when you were a child?

The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart. Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome.

Random Questions:

What is your darkest secret?
If I tell you, it won’t be a secret anymore…

Do you believe in ghosts or the supernatural? Why?
I believe in unexplained phenomena, because people witness them occurring. But I’m not sure I believe they’re supernatural. They may be just currently unexplained. In a sense, I’d like there to be real ghosts… but then they’d scare me to death, and I’d worry about becoming one after I died.

Favorite restaurant?

Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, also called “The Nose”, on Queen Street East in downtown Toronto. The food is great, there are lots of different wines, and the sign for the restaurant is just this big three-dimensional nose sticking out over the door.

Do you have a secret skill that you never get to show off?
I can say rude things in Latin. Not sure if that’s really a skill.

Watch much TV? What’s good these days?
Don’t watch much, but when I do, I like ‘Numb3rs’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Lost’, and documentaries about ancient history, particularly Egyptian. And old black-and-white movies, especially with Vincent Price in them.

Do you check your horoscope?
Not with any seriousness. It usually just gives me lectures, anyway.

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