Our interview this week is with inspiring multimedia literary innovator, novelist, screenwriter and professor, Jillian Abbott.
Jillian is currently working on using her most recent award winning multimedia short story, Air Quality to support communities of smokers give up their addictions. She is an Australian ex-pat living in Queens, NY.
You can learn more about Jillian here.
Q: What are you currently working on?
The main thing I am working on at the moment is developing a smoking cessation program based around an interactive book I adapted from an award winning short story that I had written, Air Quality. It was inspired by my father trying to stop smoking; seeing how difficult it was for him to stop even though he had emphysema. When I had finished it, people started writing in and telling me about their loved ones going through the same thing. But I couldn’t see how I could use the book systematically to help. Then I realized, “I am a professor, I know how to use books for learning.” So I put together a set of discussion questions and I put together little groups. The idea being that the discussion about the character, sounds, images would focus participants so they could gain insight into their own smoking habits and think about quitting (smoking). I have started working with the YMCA, Churches and a couple of colleges. I am trying to get a program together to support the book so that is has social value. So it is doing good. That is really taking a lot of my time.
Q: Do you have any other projects you would like to tell us about?
Apart from that I have a couple of completed novels and one always hopes that you’ll get a call saying it has sold! And of course my op-eds, I’m still a fairly regular op-ed columnist. I am working on a sitcom, which was meant to be my second interactive book. I have written a script for an entire episode, which could be interactive like my first book, or could be made like a script. One of the novels I had finished, I realized would make a really good episodic television series. I am really excited about everything I am doing. I have a lot of things on my plate. Technology has really changed things and it’s really up to the individual to decide how you want to use the opportunities technology has brought. I think it’s as dramatic a change as when the printing press was invented.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who has had an impact on you and your work?
George Orwell is a BIG influence. He really explains the world in a way I understand and he is always relevant.
Q: What keeps you motivated as an artist?
To be an artist you are almost intrinsically motivated. It’s soothing to me it’s something that is part of who I am. I don’t really have a choice.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
I think it’s to do with the iBook. For many years I imagined things like that. I was using teaching software that allowed you to combine multimedia, prose and things like that and I thought, “whoa” this is exactly how I want to tell my stories. My being one of the people at the beginning of doing it, that was really exciting to me.
Q: What is one accomplishment are you most proud of?
That’s hard to say because I have three children whom I am very proud of. Everything else pales before them. I am really proud of my iBook, the novels I have written, the screenplay I have completed.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
I would really like to make a feature film or a T.V series myself. In fact, I think I will end up doing that. Because technology, the internet, has changed the game, and I don’t really think there are as many barriers to entry now.
Q. What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
I read. I meditate. I do a lot of exercise. I swim. Just that process seems to be very good. I have also been doing Feldenkrais exercises, they are supposed to be for posture, but I find them wonderful for creativity.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
A lot of self-defeating self-talk. Letting go of self-doubt is what I think it is.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
Golly, I don’t know, there are too many to pick… A painting by the most famous Australian painter, Frederick McCubbin called, The Pioneer.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
I think that’s George Orwell again.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
I think it would be if I could show people something and they could think about it in a way that they had never thought about it before, that would be amazing.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Television. “Binge” watching on Netflix or HBO. Binge watching T.V.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
Just do it
Q: Where would you most like to live?
Well, I like NYC very, very much. But I would like to live in London also.
Q: What is your idea of success?
The absence of worry about money and the ability to really enjoy your family, to continue to have your family go on into the future. Grand children are success. They are the reward for all of your hard work.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Being true to your self. Having integrity and doing what you know is the right thing
Q: Final thoughts?
So many people don’t have time to spend with their families. I think grandchildren and the absence of fear are the same things because once you have grandchildren the future of your family is secure.