Jillian Medoff on How To Get Your Book In Foreign Markets + Why She’s Not a Fan of Outlines

jillian medoff-photoName: Jillian Medoff
Author’s Website , Facebook
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Based In: Brooklyn, NY
Education: BA, Barnard College, MFA, New York University
Briefly: I’ve published three novels: I Couldn’t Love You More, 2012; Good Girls Gone Bad, 2002; Hunger Point, 1997.
Favorite Read: Ever? Too many to name. Favorite reads include Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison), the Rabbit series (John Updike), American Pastoral and Patrimony (Philip Roth), Anywhere But Here (Mona Simpson), anything by Richard Ford, May We Be Forgiven (A.M. Homes).
Author Crush: Richard Ford—and vice versa, I believe.
Fiction How-To Book You’d Recommend: The Art of Fiction, On Becoming a Novelist, both by John Gardener.
Pet Peeves: People who scream into their cellphones, actually cellphones in general are beyond annoying.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…A homicide detective or an FBI agent a la Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs.
What You Have Lined Up Next: working on the last 100 pages of my fourth novel.

At which point in your life did you realize that, “Wow, I’m a pretty talented writer?”

I have yet to have this realization but hope for it every time I sit down to work.

Critics marveled over you characterization of Frannie Hunter in Hunger Point. Did you base her on a real person?

No, Frannie was a complete construction, although I did take liberties with my and my sisters’ personality quirks.

If you were writing your first book now, what would you have done differently?

Hmmm, that’s a great question. I think I would have streamlined it, excised all the baggy scenes and tightened the plotting.

Do you have to be in a certain mood and in a certain place to write?

No. Well, yes, I prefer to be inspired and comfortable but if I’m uninspired and wearing tight pants, I still force myself to sit down and do my work. I have such limited time and I’m on such a regimented schedule, I can’t indulge myself at all.

Was “I Couldn’t Love You More” inspired by the singer Sade’s song?

No, I didn’t realize there was a song by Sade. Oh! I wonder if her song was inspired by my novel. Probably not, right?

In an interview you did with She Writes, you stated that you’re not exactly a fan of outlines! Some authors swear by them.

I prefer to let the chips fall where they may. In general, I just sit down and start writing and eventually—after many long miserable sessions—a novel starts to unfurl. I do recognize that it’s probably easier and less stressful to have some idea of where the novel is going, but I enjoy the discovery process. I guess “enjoy” isn’t the best word. I actually “hate it beyond all reality” but “endure it” because some of my best work has come from meandering. Over the years, I’ve started listing events that will happen, but I rarely adhere to them. I write the way I like to read; that is, I like to see the story reveal itself as I get to know the characters.

jillian medoff books

You’ve stated that you did not necessarily agree with how Good Girls Gone Bad was positioned?

The novel is a dark satire that was positioned as a funny romp, so it was jarring for readers to stumble upon suicide, addiction, clinical depression and other not-so-funny issues. Ultimately, funny ha-ha sells better than funny dark, so I certainly understood why my publisher did it, but I don’t think readers were prepared for the blistering turns the novel took.

Now, Good Girls Gone Bad has been translated into French, Spanish, Hebrew, Turkish, Hungarian, Polish and German. What advice do you have to offer to other authors about getting their books translated and getting them into those markets?

Actually, Good Girls has been translated into Hungarian, Turkish, Polish and Japanese. Hunger Point was translated into French, Spanish and Hebrew and I Couldn’t Love You More was translated into German. I have literary agents that oversee the subsidiary rights for all my novels, so my advice to other authors is to ensure that your representation is well-versed in translation rights and has a presence overseas, either via the agency or foreign sub-agents.

What do you do when you’re writing a manuscript and the plot is not going anywhere?

Normally I start to cry and start over, but now I’m thinking maybe I should write an outline!

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One thought on “Jillian Medoff on How To Get Your Book In Foreign Markets + Why She’s Not a Fan of Outlines

  1. Love Jillian Medoff’s take on outlines. I was beginning to think I was crazy; I don’t outline a story as I write, either. The funny thing is, I do an “outline” once the first draft is done, partly to make sure the timeline is accurate and also to tie up loose ends I might have missed. I’m with Jillian…I prefer to let my characters take me where they want to go.

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