What inspired you to write about human trafficking and sexual exploitation?
Many years ago, Rob Morris, co-founder of Love146, a non-profit international organization that fights child sex trafficking, spoke at my church. What he said struck a chord in me; I couldn’t believe how in this day and age, children were put on display to purchase for one’s sick perversion. When I decided to write my novel, I wanted to bring attention to this awful epidemic that is occurring in other parts of the world. Once I started researching, I learned that it was happening just as much here in the United States, in our own backyard!
What research did you have to undertake before writing the book? How did you go about that and what was entailed?
I spent months reading books, magazine articles, and anything else I could get my hands on which spoke about child sex trafficking. As I began my research, one factor stood out: child sex trafficking happens in all types of neighborhoods – from the inner city to the suburbs, and it can happen to the “girl next door” just as easily as it can to the delinquent runaway.
Can you describe the storyline of your current novel?
My novel, St. Agnes’ Place, deals with the lives of those affected by child sex trafficking in the United States. It also addresses the pain of betrayal and learning how to love again. It is told through the eyes of Shawnsy Stevens, a newly-divorced thirty-something who finds herself accepting a job at St. Agnes’; a place of hope and recovery for young women who are trying to leave the street life. There she meets Leelee, Keisha, Amy, Vicky and Rain. Each of these women has a story to tell, as they struggle to fight their own personal demons. As the story unfolds, Shawnsy develops a strong camaraderie with the girls while falling in love with the handsome and charismatic Detective McDermott. His sole mission is to rescue trafficked girls from the streets. Each of these women encounters unexpected news and setbacks, but ultimately recognizes the healing power of forgiveness. In a climactic end, they make choices that set the course for the rest of their lives.
Although the novel may sound very heavy, it is really quite uplifting as the girls come into their own, shedding their guilt and shame. Many book clubs are reading it, as well as a lot of moms and their tween/teen daughters.
What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
Writing has always been a passion of mine since I was a little girl and started reading books by Judy Blume. I have a degree in literature, but never took it seriously because I was busy raising my two sons who are now teenagers. Now that they are older, and less dependent on me, I can finally pursue my passion.
How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit it in writing among other commitments?
I don’t write every day. I write when the spirit moves me. Most of my ideas and thoughts come to me at the oddest times, usually late at night when I’m in bed. When an idea comes to me, I’m off and running. I find it best to write in seclusion, when I know everything that needs to be done is completed and there are no commitments on my plate.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
Contemporary literature is the most fulfilling for me to write. When I do research for a novel, I love learning something that I never knew before, as was the case in my research for my debut novel, St. Agnes’ Place. My novel originally was supposed to be about child sex trafficking abroad, and then to my surprise, through my research I found that it’s just as prevalent here in the United States.
What draws you to write in that genre?
I’m drawn to that genre because I’m driven to write about things that aren’t out in the open, with characters that are people just like you and me.
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
I am very excited about my current novel entitled, At This Moment. It’s about how six lives intertwine and come together from a gang member, a dancer, an ambitious builder, a home-wrecker, a suburban housewife and a blind child. It’s due to be released this year.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I am planning on writing a sequel to St. Agnes’ Place. I have always thought about writing a children’s series, so that is something I would also love to venture into.
Where can people find out more about you?
You can find out more about me by going to my website www.jillstarlingnovels.com. My books are available to purchase through this site, and you can also leave me a message in the guest book as well. I also have a Jill Starling Facebook page, and I would love for everyone to check it out.
Recommended websites/books/films etc:
The documentary film, Very Young Girls, is an excellent film, which exposes the commercial sexual exploitation of girls in New York City, as they are snared by pimps into the horrifying world of prostitution. This film presents the incredible outreach that Rachel Lloyd, founder of GEMS: Girls Educational & Mentoring Services does to save these young women.
This film also shines light on the sad fact that many young girls are treated as criminals, as opposed to victims. Thankfully, since this film was released, the Safe Harbor Law has been passed in many states, which protects the young victims from being charged with prostitution.