Interview with Jill Hall

Jill Hall

1) What was your inspiration to write the Black Velvet Coat? 

I tried on a coat at a yard sale, loved it, but thinking it was too fancy passed on it. That night I dreamt about it and early the next morning I knocked on the neighbor’s door and then it was mine. Shortly thereafter it showed up on my writing practice pages with Anne, an artist character buying it in a thrift shop and The Black Velvet Coat was born. I wear the coat all the time, even with jeans and a photo of it is also featured on my book cover.

2) You were willing to go deep and explore some wonderful and complex themes.  What was that process like?

After leaving an over twenty-year career as a public school educator I turned to writing. I thought perhaps I’d create a children’s book or maybe even a memoir about teaching in the inner-city black coatclassroom, but that’s not what happened at all. I began to attend a weekly drop-in writing group, Tuesday Brown Bag with Judy Reeves that offered prompts with timed-sessions. Writing in community helped my pen stay on the page and continue going even when I wanted to stop. A few months later, characters and settings appeared in my writing as if from nowhere. And then they kept showing up week after week, time and again as if they were haunting me to tell their stories. I saw them everywhere including in my dreams. Soon I was hooked. At home to develope my daily writing practice I began using Judy’s A Writer’s Book of Days for guidance and inspiration. I signed up for workshops, classes and writing marathons and just kept on going.

A couple of years later I had a stack of journals and joined a read and critique group led by Amy Wallen of Moon Pies and Movie Stars. I read through my journals and put stickies on the scenes I liked. It wasn’t until then that I even started to type up the pages. Using the group deadlines for motivation I kept sharing chapters with the group for feedback. That first typed draft I didn’t know what I was doing. It was all out of sequence and a mess. But Amy and the other members were very patient and encouraged me to continue and helped me hone my craft. After that full draft I was able to put it in some kind of order and low and behold I did have a story. In fact two that correlated into one book. I joined another group, did another draft, then more rewrites, editors, more rewrites, submissions, working with a publisher and now after over ten years The Black Velvet Coat is coming out into the world!

3) Do you have any thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

This is a great time to be a writer because there are so many avenues available for sharing our work. I’ve had many poems published in on-line journals and enjoy writing my blog. For my novel I’m not self publishing or traditionally publishing but working with a hybrid publisher, She Writes Press. They are mission driven to help women authors and have been just wonderful to work with. We have monthly group phone calls with Brooke Warner, the publisher and communicate on-line with our other She Writes Sisters to share ideas and support each other. I look forward to meeting many of them in person on our upcoming SWP group book tour.

Unlike self-publishing platforms that publish whatever comes through regardless of quality, SWP only publishes manuscripts that they deem to be publish-ready, based purely on the merit of the writing and not on author platform or other subjective measures. They also provide editing services as needed. Unlike traditional publishing houses, which buy the majority stake in your book but often don’t deliver when it comes to providing the consistent editorial and marketing help you need, SWP gives authors a traditional house experience, complete with traditional distribution and an experienced production team, while allowing you to retain full ownership of your project. SWP also allows and encourages their authors to give creative input on book cover designs and editorial final choices.

4) Any tips for writers just starting out?

Yes, find your community of other writers who can support you along the way and help nourish your work. Take classes and workshops, go to drop-in writing sessions, and when ready join a read and critique group with expert facilitators. We are very lucky to have San Diego Writers, Ink here locally. Even if you live in a rural area there are now many on-line writing options one can use to develop your own community.

5) How can we order the book and or connect with you?

The Black Velvet Coat is available on Amazon, your favorite indie store and wherever books are sold. I love to hear from readers and am now in the process of scheduling book talk events at organizations and in personal homes. I can be reached at, Facebook at Jill G. Hall, Author. I’m also on Twitter and Pinterest. My first signing is scheduled for Sunday, October 11 at Warwick’s in La Jolla. Come on over and wish me luck! It would be great to see you there.

Jill G Hall’s first novel, The Black Velvet Coat, will be released on October 6. Many of her poems have been published in a variety of anthologies and her routine blog postings share thoughts about the art of practicing a creative lifestyle. As a visual artist, Jill fashions mosaics and dabbles in mixed media collage. The creativity workshops she facilitates are for artists of all types. She also enjoys curating art shows at Inspirations Gallery and currently chairs the Creative Catalyst Program at the San Diego Foundation. She resides in San Diego with her husband, Jerry and beagle-bassett, Lucy.