Monday, January 24, 2011

Scene of the Crime: J.A. Jance

Book blogs can be wonderful things, especially if what you've got to say leads to authors contacting you from time to time. I've long wanted to have a regular series of posts featuring some of my favorite authors, and although I'd love to see where they do their writing, that would be altogether too reminiscent of another feature on Kittling: Books. So... I thought a short interview might be nice, and thus Scene of the Crime was born.

I was thrilled when J.A. Jance was the first to respond to my request. This New York Times bestselling author has four excellent series that she writes: the Joanna Brady series set in Bisbee, Arizona; the J.P. Beaumont series set in Seattle, Washington; the Walker Family books set in Tucson, Arizona; and the Ali Reynolds series set in Sedona, Arizona. Each series (and setting) comes from her own personal experience.

Judy's latest book, Fatal Error, is the sixth in the Ali Reynolds series, and will be on booksellers' shelves on February 1.

Book synopsis:
Ali Reynolds begins the summer thinking her most difficult challenge will be surviving a six-week- long course as the lone forty-something female at the Arizona Police Academy—not to mention taking over the 6:00 AM shift at her family’s restaurant while her parents enjoy a long overdue Caribbean cruise. However, when Brenda Riley, a colleague from Ali’s old news broadcasting days in California, shows up in town with an alcohol problem and an unlikely story about a missing fiancĂ©, Ali reluctantly agrees to help. 

The man posing as Brenda’s fiancĂ© is revealed to be Richard Lowensdale, a cyber-sociopath who has left a trail of broken hearts in his virtual wake. When he is viciously murdered, the women he once victimized are considered suspects. The police soon focus their investigation on Brenda, who is already known to have broken into Richard’s home and computer before vanishing without a trace. Attempting to clear her friend’s name, Ali is quickly drawn into a web of online intrigue that may lead to a real-world fatal error.

Those of us in the Phoenix area are very lucky indeed, since Judy will be here February 1-5 promoting Fatal Error, and Bella will be accompanying her. (Bella is her purse dog, and wouldn't you love to see a photo of her?) If you'd like to see where she will be appearing, check her tour schedule on her website. Folks in the Tucson and Bisbee areas will be happy to note that Judy will be visiting them after February 5.

J.A. Jance at The Poisoned Pen

One of the reasons why I enjoy J.A. Jance's novels so much is the strong sense of place; Seattle, Sedona, Tucson, and Bisbee are all places I know well. In fact, Judy Jance is the major reason why I know Bisbee at all. In reading her Joanna Brady novels which are set in that old mining town, I fell in love with the place.

When Denis and I were married on January 24, 2002, we already knew that we were going to Virginia the following month, but we still wanted to spend a few days someplace special. Since Denis had already begun reading the Brady series, he readily agreed to a trip down to Bisbee, staying in the historic Copper Queen Hotel. Since that first visit, we've wandered all over Bisbee and Cochise County-- largely encouraged by the writing of Judy Jance.

You can see why I was thrilled that she responded to my request so quickly... and why her interview is the inaugural Scene of the Crime posted not only on my ninth wedding anniversary, but on my birthday as well! Let's see what Judy has to say in response to my questions, shall we?

J.A. Jance

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

The Wizard of Oz.  Second grade.  Mrs. Spangler had the whole Frank Baum series sitting on a bookshelf under the window. If you finished work early, you got to read.  I always finished work early!!  Some kids read the Oz books and see the wizard behind the curtains.  I saw Frank Baum behind the words, and decided that's what I wanted to be and do.

Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?

I play golf.  Badly.

If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)

If you're in the Bisbee area and into hiking, you might climb the steep hill outside of Warren that we always called Geronimo.  If you're in Old Bisbee, looking down over the dump, you'll see a not-quite mountain the top of which resembles the top of a valentine.  That's Geronimo.  And if you climb it, you'll find one of those sky-island landscapes, including cacti that grow there and nowhere else in the Bisbee area.

Bisbee is such a small town, yet it is the setting for two of my favorite mystery series-- yours and Betsy Thornton's. Why do you think Bisbee and Cochise County make such a wonderful setting for mysteries?

In a way, what goes on in and around Bisbee is a microcosm of what's going on along the entire border.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

Travis McGee, although I keep wishing he'd start learning from his mistakes.

Before your very first published mystery, what else had you written (short stories, articles, unpublished manuscripts)?

My first husband was allowed in a creative writing program in college that was closed to me because I was a girl.  When we married, he told me there would only be one writer in our family and he was it.  So while I was married to him and wasn't supposed to be writing, I wrote poetry under the dark of night when he was sound asleep.  That poetry, After the Fire, is currently published by the University of Arizona Press.  It's poetry, but it's also my autobiography, telling the story of that first difficult marriage.

What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore?

I was astonished.  And very grateful.

I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?

At the grand reopening of the Smoky Point Safeway, a young man came up to me, waving a brochure from the parking lot.  "Are you the lady who writes mysteries?" he asked.  I told him, "Yes."  "Well," he continued, "I've just been acquitted of murdering seven people.  Do you want to write my book?"

No.  I did not want to write his book!!!

The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author?

E-books have a place in the world.  I don't see them becoming the ONLY book place in the world, but I think they're an important part of the market.

J.A. Jance at Tohono O'odam Village

Judy Jance, a little girl who saw behind the curtain to the story's creator, decided that's exactly what she wanted to be.

I, for one, am very glad she made that dream come true. If you'd like more information about Judy and her books, here are some links:

As a special treat, for those of you who may be interested in downloading some of her short stories, you can go to iPulp for the details.

Thank you so much, Judy, for taking the time for this interview. I hope to be healed up enough to come see you when you're appearing at The Poisoned Pen.

Next Monday stop by for an all-new Scene of the Crime featuring another author with strong ties to Arizona-- Elizabeth Gunn.


  1. Awesome start to a fabulous new feature. J.A. Jance is a favorite of mine too. I love the AZ mysteries. I lived in Prescott for three years (many moons ago), and I enjoy revisiting the state through books. And I also lived in the Pacific NW (Oregon) and my younger brother and his family live in Seattle, so the Beaumount mysteries also appeal.

    J.A. (I just can't think of her as Judy!) drives home the importance of having a good teacher who encourages the love of reading in his or her students.

  2. I love this interview! I would have been shaking in my boots if that guy who was acquitted of murder had come up to me!

  3. Oh my goodness! I was in Arizona recently and saw JA Jance books EVERYWHERE! It's been a while since I've read a good mystery but I didn't know where to start (since I haven't read any of her books). I want to read them so please tell me which series to begin (because I have a feeling I'll be reading them all). What a wonderful first guest for Scene of the Crime.

    Also I love the new look of your blog, Cathy :-)

  4. You may remember that Jance is a big favorite of mine, and I loved this interview. Writers like me who haven't made it big, just love knowing more about those who have. I know Phoenix, Prescott, and Flagstaff, and have been to Sedona, but for some reason haven't been to Bisbee. It's certainly on my wish list since I began reading your blog.

  5. What a wonderful interview! She sounds like a lovely person as well as a great author. thanks!

  6. Beth-- I thought you might like Jance due to the Arizona Connection. I'm glad you like this new feature.

    Kathy-- I might've thought he was a lunatic, and since I once worked in a mental hospital, I don't think I would've batted an eye. Something tells me Judy didn't either! LOL

    Mary-- My own personal preference is the Joanna Brady series set in Bisbee. The first book in the series is Desert Heat. I'm glad you like the new look!

    Barbara-- Jerome and Bisbee have many similarities, but my heart belongs to Bisbee. :)

    Sharon-- You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  7. I was fortunate to hear Jance speak last year and it was wonderful. She is such a captivating speaker!

  8. I recently read a J.A. Jance book after years off. I used to read her a lot.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the book. The comments here mean that this book goes on by TBR list too.

  9. A very happy birthday and anniversary to you, Cathy!

    And what a fine start to your new series! Great to get an impression of Judy and her settings.

  10. I am going to love this feature so much, Cathy!! So excited.'ve started with an author that I have read for years and years. I've only read the Joanna Brady and Ali Reynolds books, but I loved them. So excited to read FATAL ERROR and wish I could get to the Poisoned Pen to participate in Ms. Jance's visit.

    By the way, Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday, and thanks so much for thinking up this great feature!

  11. Looks like another winner of a feature!

  12. LuAnn-- I've also heard that she's been known to break into song!

    Joe-- I hope you enjoy the book!

    Dorte-- Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the inaugural, and I hope you enjoy the other authors I'm lining up.

    Kay-- You're so welcome! I'm really excited about the authors I'm lining up so far.

    Elizabeth-- Thanks!

  13. What a great start to a new feature on your blog Cathy! Jance is one of my favorite authors too, so I was happy to see appear.

  14. Kris-- Great, I'm glad you enjoyed this!


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!