Updated: Jan 19, 2021
The Firebrand Chronicles
Jill Hackman is a married mom of two who lives in the mountains of central Pennsylvania and writes under the pen name J.M. Hackman. She writes fantasy, science fantasy, fairytale retellings, and rom-coms. Her YA portal fantasy series The Firebrand Chronicles just released as a boxset!
Why do you write? Like, give us the reason that drives you.
Mostly because I can’t help it—lol! I love everything about the writing process, even the revising. And writing helps get the characters out of my head and onto the page so I can have some peace.
Are there any common themes or tropes that seem to find their way into your work over and over again?
Themes that often come up are good vs. evil, second chances, and how everyone has a purpose, a reason for being on this earth at this time. I love C.S. Lewis’ quote, “There are no ordinary people.”
What was your first story idea as a child?
My first story was a short story about ice cream-making elves that lived in a tree. I totally blame Keebler.
"...my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD while I was writing [the first book in The Firebrand Chronicles] Spark. Learning so much about neurodiversity (and the lack of representation in the fantasy genre) caused me to create [protagonist] Brenna with inattentive ADHD..."
How do you choose names for your characters?
Choosing names is always a blast! I’ll try to pick one country of origin for the names (The Firebrand Chronicles used mostly Hebrew and Latin names), then scour websites for meanings so their names either match their circumstances or personality. For example, Baldwin (the main male character in The Firebrand Chronicles) means “bold friend.”
What is this week’s featured book about? Tell us a little about it!
(While the entire boxed set has recently been released, Spark is the first book in the Firebrand Chronicles.) Brenna James is just a normal teen. Going to school, hanging out with friends, shooting fire from her bare hands…um, what? When her mother disappears, Brenna will do anything to find her. Even travel through a portal. But life on the other side involves intimidating griffins, cryptic prophecies, and elusive enemies. With the help of her new friend Baldwin, Brenna must choose wisely who to trust or lose everything.
What are your all-time favorite tropes? What are your least favorite ones?
I love the Chosen One (who wouldn’t want to be able to save the world?), Soul Mates (again, who wouldn’t want to find the partner perfect for them?), and Secret Royalty (no excuse here. I just love the idea). I hate (with all the hates) Love Triangles. Never have I ever met someone who has this problem and can’t decide between the two love interests. Good Grief, just pick someone already!
What author do you fangirl over?
I can only pick one?!? Really? Madeline L’Engle, since my favorite novel is A Wrinkle in Time. But I also will geek out over anything by Mary Pearson, Rae Carson, Sarah Addison Allen, Mary Weber, and C.S. Lewis.
"I feel 'What if...?' is one of the best questions someone can ask..."
If you can share, what is the project you’re most looking forward to writing one day, even if you don’t currently have plans for it? I’m talking that dream project that’s always on your mind!
I’d love to delve into magical realism (like Sarah Addison Allen), but I need a really good, juicy plot to attempt that genre. Now that the Firebrand Chronicles is finished, I have a long list of ideas! My current WIP is a science fantasy Snow White retelling, and I’ve already thought up two or three sequels that will follow. I’ve also got ideas for a fae series of novellas and a rom-com series with added fantasy elements...
What drives/motivates/inspires your life, and how does that flow into your writing?
My family is my heart and motivates me. As someone who initially wasn’t sure she wanted kids, I now can’t imagine my life without them and my husband. (We’ve been married for 26 years this June. :-) ) As a result, events in my life sometimes find their way into my stories. For example, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD while I was writing Spark. Learning so much about neurodiversity (and the lack of representation in the fantasy genre) caused me to create Brenna with inattentive ADHD to help readers understand this condition.
To you, what is the value of imagination?
Imagination causes travelers to explore, scientists to discover cures, and writers to write. I feel “What if...?” is one of the best questions someone can ask—usually it’s the one I ask before I begin plotting.