Jill Orr lives in Columbia, MO, and is the author of the Riley Ellison Mystery Series. The series follows millennial Riley Ellison as she falls into the role of amateur sleuth while balancing her career and love life in the small town of Tuttle Corner, Virginia. The series started off with “The Good Byline,” followed by “The Bad Break,” and the third in the series, “The Ugly Truth,” was just released this summer. I recently emailed some questions to Jill about her books and she was kind enough to take time out of her schedule to write back some answers.
Jill Orr: I think each book has its own pleasures and challenges, so I don’t really know if any one is easier or harder than another as much as it’s just different. That being said, when writing “The Ugly Truth,” I did end up discovering a plot hole that required a hefty rewrite just weeks before my deadline. That was definitely not fun!
DBRL: Are there any aspects of Columbia, MO, that have influenced the creation of the fictional town Tuttle Corner, VA, in the series?
Orr: Yes! I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, so was not at all acquainted with life in a small(ish) town until I moved to Columbia. So in that regard, you could say that everything I know about small town life, I learned from living in CoMo. I should point out that Tuttle Corner is much smaller than Columbia, though, which means the townspeople know more about each other’s lives than folks here do and their lives are necessarily more enmeshed. But there are a lot of similarities too — quirky characters, unique town traditions, beloved restaurants — those are all aspects of life in our small community that I wanted to transfer to Tuttle Corner. (As nice of a place as it is, however, I’m not sure you’d want to live there what with the strangely high murder rate and all … )
DBRL: Each book in the series has included some comic relief with the main character interacting with a “romance concierge” or “life coach” through email. How have you developed the writing voice for these “online” characters?
Orr: Regina H, Personal Romance Concierge, popped into my head fully formed, so I can’t really say how I developed her voice. (That almost never happens, and I consider it a gift from the writing gods! Thank you!) In creating Jenna B, Millennial Life Coach, I actually did quite a bit of research into real millennial life coaches to get a feel for how they communicate with their clients, what services they offer, and how they structure their business models. And then I tried to take that real-life information to its most ridiculous end point to create the comedy! It’s been really fun to see how readers have enjoyed these characters — I’ve even had one reader ask if Regina H would be available to help with her love life!!!
DBRL: Read anything good lately that you’d like to recommend?
Orr: Always! I recently finished “The Wolf Wants In” by local writer and friend, Laura McHugh, which is deliciously dark and suspenseful, not to mention beautifully written. This summer I read “Match Making for Beginners” by Maddie Dawson and “The Overdue Life of Amy Byler” by Kelly Harms — both were light and fun and perfect summer reads. I also recently read “The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton, which was one of the most original thrillers/mysteries that I’ve read in a long, long time. I absolutely loved it!
DBRL: Where can readers get a copy of your book?