Today is a big day for TTS! We are very honored to have J.A. Jance on the blog today! Many of you know her for her J.P. Beaumont or Joanna Brady novels. I had the pleasure of reading her newest J.P. Beaumont novella, RING IN THE DEAD and I’ll be posting the review later on today. For now though, I hope you enjoy this interview! Please show her a warm welcome and leave a comment!
TTS: What helped you take that step from wanting to be a writer to actually doing it?
J.A. Jance: In 1982, I was working in the insurance business and had signed up to take the Dale Carnegie Course in hopes of becoming a better saleswoman. When I arrived at the first class and discovered it was a course in public speaking, I tried to get my money back but they wouldn’t give it to me, so I stayed on for the course. Part of the class involved giving a series of talks, one of which was supposed to be about something that changed the course of our lives. I ended up talking about a time in 1970 when my first husband and I crossed paths with a serial killer. When my talk was over, one of my classmates said, “Someone should write a book about that.” Years earlier, my then husband had told me there was only going to be one writer in our family, and he was it.” He never published anything, but since I wanted to be married to the man I put my writing ambitions on side for a dozen or so years, but on that Thursday night in March of 1982, when my Dale Carnegie classmate made that comment, my life had changed. My first thought was, “I’m divorced. What have I got to lose?” I started writing my first never published novel on Saturday of that week.
TTS: What is a normal day for J.A. Jance?
J.A. Jance: Get up, make the coffee, answer e-mail, read my newspapers on line, and then go to work. (Work means working on a book with words showing up on the screen. Work does not include reading the papers or playing solitaire.) I spend most of the day at the computer.
TTS: What inspired you to write this kind of series?
J.A. Jance: I loved John D. McDonald’s Travis Magee.
TTS: Where did you get the ideas for the different cases? They’re so wild! Girl being found in a 50 gallon drum of grease, another seems to have been strangled with her own shirt.
J.A. Jance: Those come out of my head. I try to stay away from real cases because real cases affect real people. The friends and family members who lose a loved one in a homicide case have their lives changed forever, and I don’t want to bring that pain back to them in a work of fiction. Sometimes, my stories inadvertently mimic the circumstances in a real case, but I try to avoid that whenever possible.
TTS: It says on your website that you go into the task of writing with the understanding that your characters are people first and police officers second. Have you ever had moments where it felt like the police officer’s part of it was taking more precedence? If so how do you rein it in?
J.A. Jance: I don’t remember that happening. Once I get inside a story, I’m too busy following it to its conclusion that I don’t worry about one part or the other taking precedence.
TTS: RING IN THE DEAD was my first experience with the J.P. Beaumont series. I felt it was a great introduction for those that have heard great things about the series but wanted a taste rather than just reading the first book. Actually after I read it, I read the sample of SECOND WATCH and then went back and started UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY! Did you intend for it to be that way?
J.A. Jance: Because I started out in original paperback, my books were “under the literary radar” for a long time. When I’m looking at books, I’m always reluctant to start series in midstream. Now that I’ve established a reputation and an audience, I think RING IN THE DEAD and SECOND WATCH both will give readers an idea of what was going on with Beaumont in his early years. And if I’ve done a good job of it, lots of new readers are going to do just what you have done–they’ll go back to UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY (UPG as we call it in our family) and start from the beginning.
TTS: Are there any books in the series that just should be read in order?
J.A. Jance: There are no rules as such because new readers often come into the series with some new book that shows up in a display at the front of a store or on a website. It’s important that those new readers have a complete book. I need to tell enough about the various characters’ back stories that new readers don’t feel lost, but I can’t include so much that longtime readers are bored to tears. In other words, it’s a lot like walking a tight rope. All that being said, my preference would be for readers to read in order simply because that makes it more fun to watch as the characters’ lives and circumstances change over time–and that’s true for all four of my series–the Beaumonts, the Bradys, the Ali Reynolds, and the Walkers.
TTS: Why did you wait 20 books in to write this novella? Was this incident in J.P.’s past hinted at in previous books? Did fans know this was coming?
J.A. Jance: I hadn’t been asked to write a novella until I was asked to write RING IN THE DEAD. Since my mind works in a linear fashion, I wrote a story where some of the action takes place AFTER the action in Second Watch, and some of the action takes place BEFORE some of the action in Second Watch. In other words, in reading these two stories my readers are in for a bit of literary time travel even though this isn’t science fiction. Now that I wrote that sentence I realize that literary time travel is the only kind of time travel that exists at the moment.
TTS: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
J.A. Jance: Up next will be the next Ali Reynolds book, Moving Target, which is Ali # 9. I’m hard at work on a so-far unnamed Joanna book, # 16.
TTS: Lastly, I have a lot of aspiring writers who visit my blog. Do you have any words of advice to them? Maybe something you wish you would have known when you started?
J.A. Jance: When I bought my first computer in 1983, the guy who installed my word processing program fixed it so that every morning when I booted up, these are the words that appeared on the screen: A writer is someone who has written TODAY. So far today I don’t qualify.
TTS: Thank you for visiting The Top Shelf! We loved having you! Perhaps you could come back for a guest blog or something when Second Watch is released!
J.A. Jance: I’ll be happy to, but in the meantime, I post a blog every week, usually on Friday, which is either a window on my life as a writer or else an autobiography delivered in weekly installments, take your pick. It’s available on my Facebook author page and also on my website, www.jajance.com
Synopsis: J. P. Beaumont may be an old homicide hand now, but back when he was a rookie working with his first partner, Milton Gurkey—a.k.a. Pickles—things took a turn for the worse . . .
One day, at the end of Beaumont and Pickles’s shift, a stop at the Doghouse restaurant quickly turns deadly. Not feeling well, Pickles steps out into the parking lot for a breath of fresh air and stumbles into a crime in progress. Suffering from a heart attack, he is found unconscious, with a dead woman on the ground nearby and the murder weapon in his hand.
With Pickles under investigation from Internal Affairs, it’s up to the new kid on the block, J. P. Beaumont, and his friends on the force to find out the truth.
A voracious reader, J. A. Jance knew she wanted to be a writer from the moment she read her first Wizard of Oz book in second grade. Always drawn to mysteries, from Nancy Drew right through John D. McDonald’s Travis Magee series, it was only natural that when she tried her hand at writing her first book, it would be a mystery as well.
J. A. Jance went on to become the New York Times bestselling author of the J. P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, three interrelated thrillers featuring the Walker family, and Edge of Evil. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.
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