Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Mystery author J.A. Jance. J.A. will be joining us for a one hour Zoom event tomorrow, Saturday, July 11th at 2:00 PM, so don’t miss it! Details are on Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester’s Facebook Events page.
I asked her to tell us about herself and her writing, and how she wanted us to introduce her, and this was her wonderful response!
Please introduce me as J.A. Jance. My name is Judith Ann, but when my first publisher realized I was writing first-person police procedurals, they decided no one would read a book like that written by someone named Judy.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
My books are in stores and libraries all over the world.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I have a weekly blog that is published on my website, http://www.jajance.com, each Friday. The blog provides a window on my world and often deals with the complexities of writing and living.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from your work?
I write murder mysteries, usually with a distinct sense of place. The Joanna Brady books are set in southeastern Arizona where I grew up. The Walker Family books reflect what I learned during the years I worked as a school librarian on the Tohono O’odham reservation west of Tucson. The Beaumonts span the nearly forty years I’ve made my home in Seattle, with some of the early ones—written in the mid-eighties—now considered historical fiction. The Ali Reynolds books are usually set tin and around Sedona, Arizona, one of my favorite places on the planet.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
Because the intended murder victim in this book is an archbishop in the Catholic Church and because I am NOT a Catholic, I had to do a good deal of research. I was surprised to learn that there are no eulogies in Catholic funerals. I also discovered that non Catholics are allowed the sacrament of confession.
What was the inspiration for Credible Threat? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
Archbishop Francis Gillespie has been a character in the background of the Ali Reynolds books since book number five. This is Ali # 15. The only way to find more about him was for me to write a book about him. It turns out he’s exactly the kind of straight-arrow guy I always thought he was.
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out Credible Threat? How did you overcome that challenge?
The biggest challenge was finishing that book on a tight deadline in order to write the next Joanna on an equally tight deadline, something that was made more difficult by one of our little dogs severely injuring her back and spending the better part of a month as a paraplegic with me as her primary care giver. Then Coronavirus came along and both of those deadlines became meaningless as pub dates were delayed.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
The character I love most is always the one I’m writing about next as opposed to the one I’m writing about NOW!
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I’ve always loved mysteries and it was only natural that I would write them. I think readers like to enter a world where the bad guys really do get what’s coming to them.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
One of my favorite parts is going on the road and meeting my readers. Meeting my readers is also why I answer all my own e-mail. I like to know how what I have written has been received. I’ve heard from readers who have told me that Beau’s struggle with alcohol has helped them with their own sobriety issues. And I have always LOVED going on book tours. I’m saddened that, for now at least, book tours and speaking to large venues of any kind are activities that are off the table.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
When I purchased my first computer the guy who sold it to me fixed it so that when I booted up in the morning, these are the words that flashed across the screen: A WRITER IS SOMEONE WHO HAS WRITTEN TODAY. Those are words that inspired me when I was still and unpublished writer, and they are words that inspire me now.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
I like to write about places I know and I’ve spent very little time there. And my goal in writing the Walker Books was to bring reservation life alive to people who would never set foot in Arizona. That said, a character from Great Barrington, Massachusetts plays an important role on one of my Joanna Brady books, Remains of Innocence.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask you, and what would the answer be?
Question: What would be your dream job?
Answer: Being a writer has always been my dream job and I’m so fortunate that I get to live my dream.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m working on the next Ali Reynolds book right now. Being in lockdown hasn’t fueled my creativity, but I’m gradually thinking my way into my book. In my experience, writing books takes more thinking time than it takes writing time.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
Four years and a half years ago, I weighed in at 265 and wore size 26 pants. That year at our annual physical our doctor said that unless my husband started walking, he’d be in an electric cart within two years. Knowing he would regard a cart as tantamount to a death sentence, we started walking the next day. It took time to work my way up to 10,000 steps (around five miles) but I did it, and I walk those steps almost every day. According to the pedometer on my phone, as of today, I’ve walked 7,542,739 steps. I’ve also lost 60 pounds and am wearing size 16 pants. Not bad for someone who didn’t start exercising until half-past her 71st birthday.
What are some of your writing-related hobbies, crafts, addictions?
Addiction? I’d have to say walking.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
I am more than six feet tall. I have long legs and long thighs. My office is my laptop on my lap. Right now, I’m working in the family room. If it were warmer, I’d be out on the back porch, preferably with a long-haired dachshund pressed against my leg. In our family I write the books; my husband writes the checks. In other words, he handles the business end of the business, but the truth is, I couldn’t do what I do if I had to do what he does as well.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
They’re always surprised by how tall I am. “You don’t look that tall on your book covers,” they tell me. That’s because, on book covers, I’m usually sitting down.
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
Last year at an event in Newport News, Virginia, I got to meet one of my idols, Lt. Joe Kenda of Homicide Hunter. It has been an incredible blessing to get to know Joe and his wonderful wife, Kathy, and for the four of us to become friends.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
When I’m writing I have to listen to classical music. If I’m doing easy listening music, even if there are no lyrics on the air, the lyrics to all those old songs are stuck in my head, and they get in the way of my being able to write dialogue.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
My companions are a pair of long-haired miniature dachshunds, Mary and Jojo. Jojo is happy to tuck herself into the chair beside me and snooze away. Mary, on the other hand, does NOT like electronic devices of any kind. She will come up to me and literally move my fingers off the keyboard, all they while delivering reproachful looks.
Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?
COFFEE, always black and never decaffienated!
What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?
Starting a book. How do I get over it? I keep writing.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
If I can start a book, I can finish it.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
Sisters in Crime is an organization that has addressed and continues to address the still remaining disparities in the reviewing of female authors’ works as opposed to male authors’ works. With over sixty books in print, and despite the fact that I’ve made the New York Times Bestsellers List countless times, I’ve been reviewed by them one time only.
Thanks so much for taking so much time out of your busy writing day to answer all of our questions, J. A. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!