10 Questions with J. A. Jance
1. Ms. Jance, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your next thriller, Deadly Stakes, comes out today. Tell us a bit more about this work.
Ali Reynolds is someone who is incapable of minding her own business. I had thought for a while that she would be a sworn police officer, but that didn’t work out. So now she’s the closest thing I have to an amateur sleuth. Think Miss Marple, twenty years younger and armed with an iPad.
2. Who is Ali Reynolds and how did you go about creating her character?
At a point in my writing career, I found myself tired of all my characters. When my editor told me to go ahead and write something else. Giving a writer that kind of freedom of action is a sure trip to writer’s block, and I came down with a bad case of it. I was in Tucson and dealing with the ailment in my customary way by compulsively watching the news. One afternoon my favorite newscaster, Patti Weiss, was missing in action. It turned out that after being at the local NBC affiliate for thirty some years the new thirty-something news director had deemed her too old and sent her packing. To say that annoyed me would be putting it mildly. Within days, I found myself writing about Ali Reynolds being booted off her newscasting beat in the same fashion, and the rest is history.
3. How does a prolific writer like you keep track of all the characters and all the events in your series, to avoid repeating previous plots?
Each of my characters is different. They have different locales, different families, and different ways of looking at the world. Each story is a separate entity. I don’t know HOW I keep them separate, but I do. It’s my job.
4. Why do you write?
I wanted to be a writer from the time I was in the second grade. And the truth about writers is—they write. I write mysteries because I always read mysteries. But I also write a blog which gives me a chance to comment on the world around me and which gives my fans a window on my world. But the truth is, I have always written. When I went to Europe while I was in college, I traveled with a friend—a Journalism major—who negotiated a deal with her local newspaper to publish her periodic reports. While she was writing her articles, I was writing letters home to my parents. My mother took the letters to the local newspaper, the Bisbee Daily Review, where they were published for FREE. But the truth is, I have always been a writer, regardless of whether I was being paid for what was written. Bottom line? I write because I love to write.
5. A word of advice for new writers?
When I bought my first computer—a dual floppy Eagle with 128 K of memory in 1983, the guy who installed my word processing program, appropriately named SpellBinder, fixed it so that each morning, when I booted up, these were the words that flashed across the screen: A writer is someone who has written today. Those were words I could cling during the time I thought I was a writer but no one else agreed with me. And those are words I still remember today. Answering e-mail doesn’t count as writing.
6. What is your typical writing day?
Get up, have coffee, answer e-mail, read the news, go to work.
7. What are your favorite pastimes?
Reading other people’s books, books where I don’t have to worry about plot or characters or punctuation.
8. What other books are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just sent in the new Beaumont book Second Watch, which is due out in August, and I’m starting thinking about the next Ali book. Books take about 600 hours of thinking and 300 hours of typing.
9. What do you like to read and what are you reading now?
I read mysteries. I’m currently reading Hugh Laurie’s The Gunseller.
10. What can readers expect to find in Deadly Stakes?
They’ll find Ali Reynolds being Ali.