Procrastination holds back most people, but Jill Winters's dilatoriness
in the face of pressing business helped her land a book deal. In
2001, when Winters was more than halfway through a master's program
in history at Northeastern University, the New Jersey native pushed
off work on her thesis by writing a lighthearted love story about
Lonnie Kelley, a twenty-something office temp in the midst of both
a job-related murder mystery and a steamy affair with a dreamy Web
developer. Although Winters initially intended her fiction to be
a "fun" distraction from her schoolwork, the sideline ballooned
into Plum Girl, a 300-plus-page narrative that Winters eventually
mailed to major publishers. "I did this in a very grassroots way,"
she says one afternoon in Brookline, Massachusetts, while in the
Boston area for a reading. "I finished the manuscript, printed it
out, and got one of those how-to-get-published books." Penguin Putnam
purchased Plum Girl right away, signing the Phi Beta Kappan
to a two-book deal. The thesis, as it happens, never got done.
Two years later, the 26-year-old romance writer has an agent in
New York, a second novel called Blushing Pink slated for
June 2003 release ("it's about a graduate student [who] works with
a professor who's a total tyrant"), and a third story line in progress.
Winters says her characters are entirely fictitious, but she clearly
writes what she knows. Winters herself temped in various junior-grade
office positions before her Northeastern stint; she, like Lonnie,
found the work "thankless." The setting for both Plum Girl
and Winters's third book, Raspberry Crush, is Boston; Reese,
the heroine of Blushing Pink, is a Boston College alumna.
Winters has three sisters and describes their relationship as "extremely
close"; all three tales feature at least one em supporting sister
A youthful and peppy woman with an unabashedly gleeful giggle, Winters
now divides her time between Boston and New Jersey, but admits that
her profession has her mostly living in her head. "I create
a whole world that I would like to be in, in addition to the one
I'm in now," she says. In such a world, the tyrannical boss
is named "Beauregard Twit," a young girl goes by the moniker
"Peach," and everybody finds true love.
Camille Dodero is a freelance writer based in Boston.
Romance novelist Jill Winters '98. By Gary Wayne Gilbert