Interview with Jill Orr, Author of The Good Byline

Jill Orr talks with us about her debut, The Good Byline:

Please describe what the book is about.

A young woman uncovers corruption, murder, and suspicious taco trucks while writing her best friend’s obituary.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

So far my plan to change my life was not going well. I’d vomited on my first first date in over seven years, and instead of reconnecting with my old friend, I was writing her obituary. I told myself that if there was anything good to be found in the wake of Jordan’s death, it was a reminder that life was fragile, fleeting, and a gift not to be wasted. Her dying the way she had both strengthened my resolve to fix my life and terrified me because if a woman like Jordan James couldn’t make it in this life, what hope was there for a girl like me?

What do you want people to know about your book?

It’s a light, fun read similar in tone to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

That I hear voices in my head – and that’s not always a bad thing!

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

Two years (one year to write, a few months to get an agent and publisher, then a year till release date).

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

Definitely drafting characters! I am a people person and an observer by nature, so I like to take what I see out in the world –the good, the bad and the bizarre – and use it while building my characters.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I was reading an article on how there is a subset of people who just love reading obituaries (even when they don’t know the deceased) and I thought that would be a great quirk for a protagonist. And obviously, with an obituary, death is implied – so it’s a natural fit for a murder mystery!

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Always in the morning, often while driving, which is terribly inconvenient. I’ve learned to use the voice memo feature on my phone to “jot down” ideas while I’m driving.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I spent the weekend at the same vacation lake house as Oprah and Stedman when I was thirteen-years-old.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

“Good writing reflects clear thinking.” That was day one of Journalism school and I’ve never forgotten it. If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, you won’t be able to say it well.

What’s next?

I’m working on book two in my Riley Ellison mystery series! It’ll be out next April, with the third installment coming the April after that.

The good people of Tuttle Corner have unofficially changed Riley Ellison’s name to Riley Bless-Her-Heart. Reeling from heartbreak and adrift professionally, Riley is in a self-imposed purgatory waiting for her life to begin. When she learns her childhood BFF has suddenly committed suicide, Riley agrees to write her obituary as a way to learn why this dynamic young woman would suddenly opt out. Riley eventually becomes convinced that Jordan’s death was no suicide, and is led down a dangerous path toward organized crime, secret lovers, and suspicious taco trucks. Will writing this obituary be the death of her?