Judith Jance (aka J. A. Jance) interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Sep 3, 2016 5:09:07 PM
Judith Jance (aka J. A. Jance) interview with David Alan Binder
Shortened bio from her website (caveat; I left a lot in this bio since there is much for all of us learn from this wonderful woman and her persistence and perseverance):
Graduated in 1966 with a degree in English and Secondary Education. In 1970 I received my M. Ed. in Library Science. ﾠI taught high school English at Tucson’s Pueblo High School for two years and was a K-12 librarian at Indian Oasis School District in Sells, Arizona for five years.
My ambitions to become a writer were frustrated in college and later, first because the professor who taught creative writing at the University of Arizona in those days thought girls "ought to be teachers or nurses" rather than writers. After he refused me admission to the program, I did the next best thing: I married a man who was allowed in the program that was closed to me. My first husband imitated Faulkner and Hemingway primarily by drinking too much and writing too little. Despite the fact that he was allowed in the creative writing program, he never had anything published either prior to or after his death from chronic alcoholism at age forty-two. That didn’t keep him from telling me, however, that there would be only one writer in our family, and he was it.
My husband made that statement in 1968 after I had received a favorable letter from an editor in New York who was interested in publishing a children’s story I had written. Because I was a newlywed wife who was interested in staying married, I put my writing ambitions on hold. Other than writing poetry in the dark of night when my husband was asleep (see After the Fire), I did nothing more about writing fiction until eleven years later when I was a single, divorced mother with two children and no child support as well as a full time job selling life insurance. My first three books were written between four a.m. and seven a.m. At seven, I would wake my children and send them off to school. ﾠ After that, I would get myself ready to go sell life insurance.
I started writing in the middle of March of 1982. The first book I wrote, a slightly fictionalized version of a series of murders that happened in Tucson in 1970, was never published. For one thing, it was twelve hundred pages long. Since I was never allowed in the creative writing classes, no one had ever told me there were some things I needed to leave out. For another, the editors who turned it down said that the parts that were real were totally unbelievable, and the parts that were fiction were fine.
My agent finally sat me down and told me that she thought I was a better writer of fiction than I was of non-fiction. Why, she suggested, didn’t I try my hand at a novel?
The result of that conversation was the first Detective Beaumont book, Until Proven Guilty. Since 1985 when that was published, there have been 21 more Beau books. My work also includes 17 Joanna Brady books set in southeastern Arizona where I grew up, 11 Ali Reynolds books, set in Sedona, AZ, and five novellas. In addition, there are five thrillers, starting with Hour of the Hunter and Kiss of the Bees, that reflect what I learned during the years when I was teaching on the Tohono O'Odham reservation west of Tucson, Arizona.
The week before Until Proven Guilty was published, I did a poetry reading of After the Fire at a widowed retreat sponsored by a group called WICS (Widowed Information Consultation Services) of King County. By June of 1985, it was five years after my divorce in 1980 and two years after my former husband’s death. I went to the retreat feeling as though I hadn’t quite had my ticket punched and didn’t deserve to be there. After all, the other people there were all still married when their spouses died. I was divorced. At the retreat I met a man whose wife had died of breast cancer two years to the day and within a matter of minutes of the time my husband died. We struck up a conversation based on that coincidence. Six months later we got married.
When my second husband and I first married, he supported all of us–his kids and mine as well as the two of us. It was a long time before my income from writing was anything more than fun money–the Improbable Cause trip to Walt Disney World; the Minor in Possession memorial powder room; the Payment in Kind memorial hot tub. Eventually, however, the worm turned. My husband was able to retire at age 54 and took up golf and oil painting.
One of the wonderful things about being a writer is that everything–even the bad stuff–is usable. The eighteen years I spent while married to an alcoholic have helped shape the experience and character of Detective J. P. Beaumont. My experiences as a single parent have gone into the background for Joanna Brady–including her first tentative steps toward a new life after the devastation of losing her husband in Desert Heat. ﾠ And then there’s the evil creative writing professor in Hour of the Hunter and Kiss of the Bees, but that’s another story.
1. How do you pronounce your name?
JAJ: Jance like Dance.
2. Where are you currently?
JAJ: I have homes in both Washington State and Arizona.
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
JAJ: If I can start writing a book, I can finish it.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
JAJ: I don’t outline. Have always hated outlining.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
JAJ: I have two “legacy publishers—HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster. Both are located in New York City.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
JAJ: E-books have been terrific for me because new readers can go back and collect the books and read them in order.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
AJ: Keep writing.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
JAJ: I was referred to a publisher by a consultant I had paid to read my first manuscript. The agent didn’t sell that first book, but she’s sold every book since. Some beginning authors, disappointed by having an agent who can’t sell their first book, make a serious mistake in firing the agent and keeping the manuscript. I did the opposite.
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
JAJ: Attending writers conferences are good ways of meeting editors and agents.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
JAJ: Being creative is hard work.
11. How many books have you written?
JAJ: Fifty-something, but who’s counting?
12. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
JAJ: In the beginning, I read dialogue aloud to make sure it sounded like people talking rather than like people giving speeches.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
JAJ: Sometimes the best twists are the ones that surprise me
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
JAJ: People read to exercise their emotions. A stand out book should make the reader laugh and cry both!
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
JAJ: Maintaining a blog; replying to all e-mails personally; doing two book tours a year.
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
JAJ: I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’ve been writing for more than thirty years. All steps are necessary; no steps may be skipped.
17. What saying or mantra do you live by?
JAJ: A writer is someone who has written TODAY!!!