By Deena Adams
I hope you enjoy meeting J.M. (Jill) Hackman this week. Jill writes YA Clean Fantasy, and the overarching theme of her series is “There’s place for every person in God’s plan.“
She’s offering a free print book to a domestic winner or an ebook to an international winner. Simply comment on this post by March 2 for your chance to win! Be sure to provide your email address when you comment.
Welcome Jill! Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I live in the mountains of Pennsylvania with my husband of 25 years and my two girls (ages 20 and 15). I like to read, write (obviously!), sew, and do other crafts, usually with paper or polymer clay. I have way too many craft supplies, but my husband’s very understanding.
I’ve done my share of crafting as well so I understand! What inspired you to write Fantasy fiction?
I’ve always read fantasy, romance, and magical realism. After the birth of my daughters, I read the Harry Potter series. While not Christian fiction, the series explored wonderful themes of bravery, self-sacrifice, and loyalty. I found myself drawn to write a story similar to that but with a Christian worldview.
What unique challenges do you face writing in this specific genre?
Two words—world building. While I love the creating, it’s a lot of work to not only craft amazing characters and an interesting plot, but to also build a fantastic, awe-inspiring world.
I can’t imagine the challenge of building an unknown world. How many hours a day to you spend writing?
I used to get in 3-4 hours. When the pandemic occurred, my husband began working from home and my daughters began a combination of virtual and in-person schooling. Now, it’s difficult to find a block of time to write. I’m still figuring out a new routine.
Yes, the pandemic has provided lots of new experiences, right? Speaking of experiences, are any of your stories inspired by true events or personal history?
The main character of the Firebrand Chronicles, Brenna, has ADHD. When my youngest daughter was diagnosed, I noticed there were very few fantasy novels containing neurodiverse characters. I chose to write a story where she could read about a character like herself.
I’m sure your daughter, and others, are glad you did! Tell me how you incorporate Christ and hope into your writing?
There’s always a God-figure, a fight against evil, and a higher purpose in my stories. I added a quote from C.S. Lewis at the beginning of book one, Spark—“There are no ordinary people.” The main character, Brenna James, feels like she isn’t good enough or strong enough to make a difference. Sometimes she makes huge mistakes, but she tries again. Neurodiverse people suffer with self-esteem issues more than their peers. I wanted to showcase how God created every person and can use them for great things, regardless of differences.
That’s a wonderful truth for our young people to hear today. What did God teach you through the writing of the Firebrand Chronicles?
I learned to trust Him and be obedient even when it was hard and there was no direction. I’m a planner but many times I felt clueless. So I’d pray, “What now?” And He always said, “Just write the book.”
As a planner myself, I totally get that. What do you hope your readers take away from the book?
I want them to understand neurodiversity (which includes dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and others) is a real diagnosis, but it doesn’t mean “broken.” God created these ADHD individuals to be different, to process the world differently. They are the creatives, the out-of-the-box thinkers, the inventors. The world needs them.
Different, but not broken. I love that! Which character in the Firebrand Chronicles presented the biggest challenge and why?
Brenna James, the main character, was the biggest challenge. I don’t have ADHD, but my daughter does. I wanted to get it right, to share what it’s like to live in a world with so much mental noise and distraction.
Which character was the easiest to write?
Arvandus, the mutant griffin, is the main character’s sidekick/best friend. He was fun and easy to write because his wisdom is the perfect foil for Brenna’s teen snarkiness and impulsivity.
Sounds like you incorporated fun along with the real issues in your books. How many unpublished and unfinished manuscripts do you have?
Three finished and two partially finished Christian rom-coms, and my current WIP which I’m revising. My first manuscript will NEVER see the light of day—lol! But I’m playing with the idea of revising and publishing the romantic comedies. They were fun to write!
LOL! Lots of authors say their first manuscript will never be published. What’s next from you?
I’m working on a series of retellings, fairytales with a science fantasy twist. Book one is Snow White set in a Star Wars-type world. I’ve also started working on a prequel novella set in the same solar system that’s inspired by the story of Ruth and Boaz. Although it’s not a fairy tale, it’s such a good story!
Such creative ideas! Besides posting comments on your website, how can your readers and fans support you?
Read and review Spark, Flare, and Burn, and/or sign up for my newsletter and my Facebook group, the Pyromaniacs, where we talk about chocolate, current projects, and books. But not necessarily in that order. And if they email me with questions or comments, I’ll write back. I love connecting with readers!
Awesome. Any last words for your readers?
If you’ve read any of the Firebrand Chronicles, thank you. And if you’ve left a review, thank you again! So much of my heart went into the Firebrand Chronicles—it’s encouraging to learn of readers who appreciate the theme of an ordinary, imperfect person who discovers she’s enough.
Thanks so much for the interview, Jill. It’s been fun learning more about YA Fantasy since it’s not a genre I’ve read. Blessings on your writing!
Join the conversation. Have you or you children ever read fantasy fiction? Do you enjoy the creative worlds authors build in them? What fairytale would you like to see depicted in a fantasy novel? Your comment or question enters you for a chance to win one of Jill’s books!
The Firebrand Chronicles by J.M. Hackman
Click on the series photo for purchase link.
Brenna James went from having no idea what firebrands or alternities were to being trained as Linneah’s foremost firebrand. (And she’s gotta admit, fire powers are freaking awesome.) Pair that with bonding with a griffin and her mother becoming queen, and things need to slow down real quick.
Thanks to her many missions across her new alternity, she makes new friends and experiences the deadly Silvastamen forest, travel portals, Starfall, and more. Brenna finds herself growing in ways she never expected.
And now her deadliest enemy, Rune, is determined to kill her and take all power for himself. Can she burn like the firebrand she is and take him down? Or will she burn out?
Award winning author J. M. Hackman loves thunderstorms, bookstores, and happy endings. She’s never met a reading nook she didn’t like and prefers soul talk to small talk. When she’s not writing or reading, she spends quality time with her greatest fans—her family.
She’s written Spark, Flare, and Burn (her YA fantasy series the Firebrand Chronicles) and has had her stories published in several anthologies.
She spends her days writing stories, consuming massive quantities of dark chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
Please share this post on social media to help spread the word about J.M.’s books.
If you missed last week’s interview with Susan Byrde, find it here.