10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jill Elaine Hughes1. She has naturally curly hair. 2. She’s visited more than 20 countries. 3. She absolutely hates mashed potatoes. (But baked potatoes and French fries are OK). 4. She’s dangerously allergic to bee stings. 5. She loves the Beatles and named her daughter after a Fleetwood Mac song. (Guess which one?) 6. She’s a Zen Buddhist. 7. She’s a distance runner, cyclist, and swimmer (in other words, a triathlete). Except right now with a small baby to take care of, she’s a somewhat out-of-shape triathlete.
8. Her favorite movie of all time is The Empire Strikes Back, though The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind are close runners-up.
9. Her favorite food is Muttar Paneer, a vegetarian Indian curry dish.
10. If she were trapped alone on a desert island and could only bring three things with her, they would be a) some soybeans; b) a scimitar; and c) a copy of Pride & Prejudice.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About TEMPLAND1. The author Jill Elaine Hughes wrote the book ten years ago during work breaks at — you guessed it — a temp job. 2. The book landed the author her first literary agent, circa 2004. Said agent shopped it all over the New York publishing houses, who liked it but turned it down because they said it lacked “shelf category” (i.e., there was no “New Adult” genre back then.) 3. The book was written before the Great Recession, but given the struggles today’s youth has with unemployment, underemployment, and a lack of good permanent jobs, TEMPLAND seems even more relevant today than when it was first written. 4. The author modeled the heroine Melanie’s grandfather on her own grandpa–or “Papaw,” as she likes to call him. 5. TEMPLAND contains a murder mystery subplot. 6. The heroine Melanie Evers’ sleazy ex-boyfriend Phil is fluent in Farsi. This is integral to the plot. 7. The book depicts many real locations and establishments in the city of Chicago, including the now-defunct Zephyr Ice Cream Restaurant. 8. The author had given up on getting TEMPLAND published until reader demand for New Adult titles about starting your career led her to give it new life through self-publishing — and reader interest has been amazing! 9. If you’ve never heard of Green River Soda before (a cult favorite in Illinois), you learn about it in this book. 10. Several of the wacky bosses and co-workers Melanie encounters on her temp assignments were inspired by real people the author met during her own temp-work stints.
***Interview with Jill Elaine Hughes***
Hi, I hope everyone is doing well. Thanks so much for having me here today.
2.What made you write Templand? (How did the story come in to your mind?)
I wrote it because I spent a lot of time working as a temporary and/or contract worker. Years, actually. And life as a temp can be very strange. You get saddled with weird work assignments in odd environments–the kinds of jobs that nobody else wants to do. You also meet a lot of quirky people, including some flat-out horrible bosses who rely on temps because they can’t keep anyone on staff for more than a month at a time since they’re so horrible to work for. The unique experiences and human contacts I made during my many years of temp work made for a writing gold mine of potential storylines, and I felt compelled to use it–-especially since there really aren’t any other books out there about it.
3.If you were a character (from your books) witch one would you be?
I’d say I’m pretty close to Melanie Evers–or at least, I was when I was her age.
Like Melanie, I too come from a working-class background and I was among the first in my family to graduate from college. A strong work ethic was instilled in me since childhood, and I struck out on my own very early. Since I had no other sources of income to fall back on as a young adult, I had no choice but to be creative about how to support myself–which is exactly what Melanie does. Several of her temp jobs are modeled on ones I myself held.
5.How did you became an author?
I’ve been writing stories since childhood, and I’ve written professionally since I was still in college. (I even did temporary writing jobs!) I’ve written for magazines and newspapers, too. I suppose becoming a book author was just a natural progression for me.
6.Who do you picture playing the roles of your characters if it were to become a movie?
That is a tough one. But if I had to choose, I’d pick Jennifer Lawrence to play Melanie Evers and Chris Pine to play Hoxwell IT Dave.
7.Is there anything about you that would surprise your readers?
I’m a Zen Buddhist who was originally born and raised Irish-Catholic! And my husband, who is Chinese, was raised Buddhist and converted to Catholicism. So we are like the inverse of each other! I call us the Ultimate Bizarro-World Couple.
8. It was nice to meet you, Jill. And now, some words for Romanian readers!
Nice to meet you as well! I am really flattered that the people of Romania have taken an interest in me and my work.
After another forty-five minutes of counting ceiling tiles, re-memorizing the pattern of the neutral carpeting, and peeling my cuticles with one of the emery boards that fell out of Kathy Kirkland’s purse, a guy about my age stepped off the elevator. He had on an Akron State T-shirt and khakis, stood about six-foot-one, and was very cute.
“Hi, are you the Temp?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m the Temp–I mean, I’m Melanie Evers. Heathlap sent me.”
“I’m Dave from Hoxwell IT. I’ve got your computer and your network password. If you’ll just follow me I’ll get you all set up. ‘Kay?”
Hoxwell IT Dave took a keycard from his pocket and got us past the magnetic security door. He led me down a series of nondescript halls until we stopped at an empty cubicle facing a large corner office. I glanced into the open office door and saw Kathy Kirkland sitting inside, staring out the floor-to-ceiling glass window. Her office had expensive-looking furniture and a framed Mark Rothko print. There were papers stacked everywhere, some of which looked positively ancient.
“Is this where I’ll be working?” I asked, looking around my empty cubicle.
“Yep,” said Hoxwell IT Dave. “I don’t know why Kathy Kirkland had you sit out there by yourself for so long. She could have had you wait at your cube for me to come set up your computer instead of having you wait outside counting ceiling tiles.”
“You noticed that?” I said with some embarrassment.
“Oh, all the temps do that around here. I even do it sometimes, when I’m bored. Did you know there are precisely 53 ceiling tiles in the lobbies on every floor?”
“No,” I said, laughing. “You know, Ms. Kirkland doesn’t seem to know anything about what I’m supposed to do here.”
Hoxwell IT Dave looked over his shoulder for a moment and then leaned in close to me. “That’s to be expected,” he near-whispered. “Kathy Kirkland is basically crazy. Crazy and lazy. She doesn’t do anything around here. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard, and from what I’ve seen, the rumors are true.”
“But isn’t she the CFO of Blood Accounting?” I thought anyone with such an important (if weird) title would be loaded with all kinds of work and important meetings, messages, and phone calls. Not to mention things to type, file, and otherwise take care of. I was the Temp–-isn’t that where I came in?
“You’ll find that there are a lot of people here that don’t really do anything,” Hoxwell IT Dave grumbled. “Chair-warmers, that’s all. Buncha fucking overpaid chair-warmers.”
I was a little stunned by this. “What do you do?”
“Not a whole lot–I guess you could say I’m a chair-warmer myself. General IT stuff. I finished my degree in Computer Technology last year and then I got this job through the job placement office at school. It’s a pretty easy gig. I get to set up people’s computers and assign passwords when they start a new job here. Sometimes I clean up virus attacks. But mostly I just sit up in the server room waiting for helpdesk calls.”
Hoxwell IT Dave ran his hands through his wavy brown hair–which was as shiny and tousled as any Calvin Klein model’s–and then began connecting and disconnecting wires on a PC sitting underneath my desk. He flipped a couple of switches and dusted off his hands. “There, you’re all set,” he said. “Since you’re just a temp I can’t assign you a real login and password. You’ll just have a temporary password for right now. How long are you supposed to be working here?”
“The agency said I could work here all summer until I go back to school.”
Hoxwell IT Dave lowered his voice again. “Um, Melanie, I don’t want to scare you or anything, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re only here a couple days. You might not even last here one day. Which is not a bad reflection on you or anything. But there’s been so many temps in and out of your job–-I can’t even remember how many anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“Basically, either Kathy will just fire you and send you back to your temp agency when you look at her the wrong way, or you’ll quit because she’s driving you completely out of your mind. That’s pretty much what’s happened to all the other temps they’ve sent to do this job.” Hoxwell IT Dave ran his fingers through his gorgeous Calvin Klein hair again. It was hard for me to keep from staring at him.
“How long has this been going on?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve been here about a year. They’ve had an average of three temps a week in and out of this job ever since I started, and I hear that the person who used to have this job permanently quit about two years before I started, way back when they were still in the old building, so I guess that there were two or three temps a week in and out of here for at least a year before I started. So, basically, a long time.”
Okay, so now I was petrified. Was this why Rhinestone Glasses Lady said my start date was flexible? “What am I supposed to be doing?”
“Nobody told you?”
“Well, the lady at the temp agency said it was just basic secretarial work, you know, typing and filing and answering the phone kind of stuff.” I mean, how hard could that possibly be?
Hoxwell IT Dave raised his eyebrows. “That’s what they said, huh?”
“Is something wrong? I mean, is there something more to this work? Nobody’s even given me any instructions.”
“Melanie. That’s your name, right? I’ll just tell you this. As an IT person, I get to see a lot of stuff that’s stored on the computers here. Including salaries. So let’s just say that Kathy Kirkland gets paid $112,000 a year to come in late and sit on her ass staring out the window when she’s supposed to be in charge of tracking all the blood and plasma coming in and out of this place. She doesn’t do anything she’s supposed to do, but yet somehow the work still gets done so she gets to keep her job. Who do you think does everything for her?”
He scribbled something down onto a pad and then tore off the sheet. Hoxwell IT Dave handed me the slip of paper, gave me a wink, and then disappeared down the hall.
I glanced at the slip of paper: