by | Oct 10, 2023

The writing life means not always staying in the same lane. Jill MacLean has moved from romance novels, exquisite poetry and writing successful, award-winning contemporary novels for middle-grade and YA readers. And now, for that last few years she has challenged herself by crafting an adult historical novel, The Arrows of Mercy.

 “I think I ran out of energy for writing for young people. I lost the urgency. I worried about falling into a rut. I needed a new challenge.”

She has always been fascinated in the medieval period. “I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Cloisters in NYC, Cluny in Paris and Chartres Cathedral outside Paris, on various trips to England. I was born in the county where The Arrows of Mercy is set.” 

Originally she thought she was writing a YA novel but she soon realized she did not want constrictions and began writing with an adult audience in mind. She read/researched for a solid year to prepare for The Arrows of Mercy, knowing that ,“Research feeds plot, plot feeds research.”. She travelled with son Colin to explore Berkshire, eventually finding location for Edmond’s story.

There were challenges. Jill was able to capture the essence of medieval language while making sure it was intelligible to today’s reader. Paring down and revising a manuscript of about 160,000 words to 110,000 was the biggest hurtle to overcome. She had to cut beloved characters and plot lines until she found the heart of the story. It took years and the help of a number of outside editors, some being more valuable to her than others. Once Jill decided to self publish the novel, these hired editors were key to the story’s development. Having published all her other books more traditionally with various publishing companies, where inside editing and marketing were part of the process, Jill has developed even more of an appreciation for all the work they do. Self-publishing is possible but you have to be prepared to do the work.

Now in her early 80’s, does she envision herself ever stopping writing? Not really. She loves words and sentences too much. She enjoys the satisfaction of crafting a perfect phrase and saying to herself, “Wow, I wrote that!”

For more about Jill and her books:

Writers Jill admires:

Marilynne Robinson – the poetic prose in Housekeeping

Colm McCann – Irish – Apeirogon, This Side of Brightness

The authenticity of Death is Hard Work by Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa

Acclaimed German writer, Jenny Erpenbeck – Go Went Gone

Harold Pinter for the play Betrayal