Today, I’m happy to present an interview with New York Times Bestselling Author J.A. Jance. This is the first in a series where I will interview a different author each week.
1. First, please tell me a bit about yourself. What would you like readers to know about you?
J.A. – I’ve been writing murder mysteries for more than thirty years—long enough that some of the early Beaumonts probably qualify as “historical fiction.” But writing is what I always wanted to do, and although that dream was put on hold for a while, it’s still a job I love.
2. In the About Me section on your website, you mention facing some initial discouragement about pursuing your writing career. How has that experience affected your growth as a writer?
J.A. – I was not allowed to enroll in a university level Creative Writing class in 1964 on account of being a “girl.” I married a man who was allowed in the class that was closed to me. He never published anything and told me in 1968 that there would only be “one writer in our family.” I didn’t sit down to write my first mystery until two years after I divorced him. As for not being allowed in the class? It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. They would have tried to stuff me into a literary fiction box. Trust me, it wouldn’t have been a good fit!
3. Can you tell me about your current project?
J.A. – Two days ago I finished the final editing of Man Overboard the upcoming Ali Reynolds book, and I’ll be going back to work on J.P. Beaumont # 22 later today.
4. Where do you get the inspiration that sparks your story ideas?
J.A. – I’m a sponge, forever gathering ideas. Yesterday my grandson asked me if I ever put random people I meet into my books. The answer is yes. Sometimes I don’t even have to meet them. Years ago, in a restaurant while my husband conducted a business meeting, I observed an older gentleman arrive with a young trophy wife on his arm. They were there to meet with a real estate agent. The trophy wife wanted to buy a new house—preferably the best one on the block. The man knew how much he made, how much he owed in alimony and child support, and how much the new house would cost. His misery was so apparent that I went straight home and wrote him into the book I was writing at the time. I never even knew his name.
5. How did you develop the characters of J. P. Beaumont, Joanna Brady, and Ali Reynolds?
J.A. – Those characters have developed over time. I’ve gotten to know them along the way. I did not outline them years in advance of writing the stories. I know that J.K. Rowling outlined all the Harry Potter books before she ever wrote a word of the stories. I am NOT J.K. Rowling. I met outlining in my 6th grade geography class. I hated it then and nothing in the intervening decades has changed my mind on that score.
6. How did you discover your love of writing?
J.A. – I discovered my love of writing by loving reading. I read the Wizard of Oz in second grade. From the moment I realized that someone had put the words on those pages, that’s what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be—a writer.
7. What is your favorite part of being a writer?
J.A. – Learning how my stories have touched someone else. Just this week, I heard from a gentleman who saw himself in J.P. Beaumont’s struggles with sobriety and got himself into treatment.
8. What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
J.A. – Maintaining the pacing.
9. How do you find inspiration and motivation to write when you feel stuck?
J.A. – Knowing I have a looming deadline is a real motivator for me. Writers who don’t have deadlines imposed from the outside need to give themselves their own deadlines and then meet them.
10. What’s your favorite way to take a break from writing?
J.A. – For the last two years, I’ve been walking 10,000 steps a day. I’ve also lost 70 pounds. So when I get stuck, it’s time to get up and walk for a few laps.
11. What’s one piece of advice that you would give to aspiring or new authors?
J.A. – When I bought my first computer, the guy who installed my word processing program fixed it so that, whenever I booted up in the morning, these are the words that flashed across the screen: A writer is someone who has written today. Those words were a real gift to me when I was an unpublished writer, and they still are.
If you would like to learn more about J.A. Jance and her work, you can find her blog here: http://www.jajance.com/jajance.com/blog.html
The next author I feature will be Brenda Donelan, author of the University Mystery series.
To stay tuned for more interviews and other updates, you can sign up for my newsletter using the form below.